Since B Lab began conferring B Corp status to private companies in 2006, over 4,000 companies globally have successfully completed the thorough assessment and committed themselves to a more equitable economy. With around a 3.5% pass rate, many more have failed.
The central tenet of the B Corp philosophy is to work against ‘shareholder primacy’: the premise that a company’s main objective is to create profit for its shareholders. B Corp contends this approach ignores the interdependence of things, and as such, fails to consider the the broader stakeholders within its community.
By now, we are all familiar with some of the larger names that have converted to B Corp status – think Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s and Brewdog – and indeed, even some of the world’s largest capitalist conglomerates such as Coca-Cola and Nestle number among the do-gooders. As consumers and investors push for higher environmental and ethical standards, B Corp status has become the go-to ESG label.
UK startups are also getting involved, baking sustainability into their disruptive business models from the word go. Here, we profile some of the most promising businesses that have achieved B Corp status.
London-based Oxwash is the UK’s first sustainable, on-demand laundry and wet-cleaning startup. The company recently announced it had raised £10M in its latest funding round as it sets out to grow its nationwide footprint. Brainchild of ex-NASA scientist, Dr Kyle Grant and engineer Tom de Wilton in 2017, the startup also unveils its global certification of B Corporation status alongside its sizeable investment, the only laundry company to have successfully completed the procedure.
The convenient service uses next-gen ozone technology to deodorise and sanitise fabrics at lower temperatures, biodegradable chemistry formulations processes to achieve higher than medical-grade disinfection. Oxwash uses a combination of electric cargo bikes as well as its own fleet of electric vans and DPDs electric vehicle service for a nationwide zero-emission logistics footprint. It also champions an innovative ‘wet cleaning’ technique which offers a sustainable, chemical-free alternative to harmful dry cleaning.
Founded in 2016 by Emilie Vanpoperinghe and Deepak Ravindran, Oddbox, the startup that offers sustainable fruit and vegetable box delivery service is beloved for rescuing the “too-wonky” and “too-many” direct from farmers to doorsteps all around London & the South East.
Like many featured on this list, Oddbox has sustainability running through its veins: they help the community make a difference to the planet each week – fighting food waste at farm-level, avoiding CO2 and saving water along the way.
To date, they’ve rescued over 14,000,000 kg of fruit & veg, donating surplus fruit & veg to charities that combat food poverty. They have been B Corp certified since 2020.
The Cheeky Panda® is an example of the innovative disruptor concept – taking the world’s fastest growing plant Bamboo and turning it into tissue.
They provide a truly sustainable alternative to one of the biggest environmental concerns of the present-day deforestation. The company is built on our passion for environmental and social responsibility, their products are a catalyst for change and they are a deliverer of truly innovative products that are making the world a better place.
The B Corp has saved 140,000 trees through its business operations – as well as reducing plastic use and balancing carbon emissions. Headquartered in the UK, the company now operates in China, France, Ireland and the United States. It has been B Corp certified since 2019.
Too good to go
One third of all food produced for human consumption never makes it to our plate, and this is massive problem for the planet. Too Good To Go offers customers a “magic” box of groceries containing products that would otherwise end up as such waste.
After choosing a store and paying through the app, users are given a time slot for when they can collect their items. Switching one meal a day for a week with a Too Good To Go option could save a customer over £100, the company claims. It also suggests each meal purchased prevents 2.5 kg of CO2e emissions that would otherwise be caused by food waste.
To date, the startup claims to have saved 65.1m meals. “This translates into 162,500 tons of CO2 emissions saved,” says Mette Lykke, CEO of Too Good To Go, which has been B Corp certified since 2019. As well as within the UK, the app is also available in 14 European countries and, as of 2020, the United States.
Mindful Chef aims to make healthy eating easy. In essence, it is a recipe box company that delivers nutritionally balanced recipes using ingredients from ethical suppliers to your door, striving to minimise their environmental impact from farm to fork. The recipes are all free from gluten, dairy, refined carbs, refined sugars because Mindful Chef believes this is food as it should be.
The London-based startup are also proud to give meals to school children in need, through their ‘One Feeds Two’ initiative. More than 13,000,000 meals have been donated.
If you’re interested in becoming a B Corp but don’t quite feel ready to tackle the assessment, Hopper recommends using the free B Corp Impact Assessment Tool. “It means you can benchmark where your company sits now and highlight the areas you might need to improve in when you do decide to certify,” he said, discussing the companies journey earlier this year.
Y.O.U underwear makes organic cotton underwear for men, women and girls that aims to do good with every purchase. The underwear brand’s mission is to improve access to education for women and girls by donating underwear: they have a buy-one-give-two promise in partnership with Smalls for All, a Scottish charity that collects and distributes underwear to vulnerable women and children in Africa and the UK.
Visiting the company’s website, it is notable that they have wholly embraced ethical marketing, and actively promote body positivity through their brand imagery and marketing strategies for both men and women.
In November 2021, the Oxford-based brand certified as B Corp with a record-breaking 160.5 points in the B Impact Assessment, the highest score in the UK. With only 3 employees at the time, this success is all the more relevant for other small businesses approaching certification. You can read an interview discussing the B Corp process with the brand’s founder here.
Although not technically now a startup, we wanted to include KeepCup as an example of an early environmental innovator that later transferred to B Corp status.
Now a stalwart for anyone with a caffeine habit, KeepCup was the world’s first barista standard reusable cup, designed for people on the go. Launched in 2009 KeepCup is now embraced all over the world and re-users divert millions of single-use cups daily, saving more than an estimated 8 billion single-use cups from landfill each year.
Carrying a KeepCup has become a symbol of the difference individual action can make. KeepCup is in business for better, leading the charge to ensure the world no longer needs, wants or uses single-use cups. Certified as a B Corp since 2014, the brand is also a member of 1% for the Planet, donating at least 1% of global revenue to environmental causes.
Packfleet are a new London-based same day delivery company, who – in their words – are ‘on a mission to empower independent businesses across the UK to offer the best deliveries on Earth’. Tristan Thomas, their CEO, wants to bring tech to the world of ecommerce delivery and give it ‘an Uber-style’ wake-up call.
They now ship regularly for businesses all over London and are quickly expanding their fleet of fully electric vans beyond the capital. Packfleet can predict delivery times within the minute. It recently raised an £8M seed round from leading investors including Creandum – early backers of Spotify – and General Catalyst, who helped fund Airbnb and Deliveroo.
They’re a pending B Corp with a focus on carbon saving: their vans are electric, and they’ve got a unique routing algorithm that means every driver is on the most efficient route possible. On top of this, they plant a tree for every parcel they deliver – leading them to claim they are ‘one of the greenest delivery companies out there’.
TENZING created the ‘Natural Energy’ category in 2016, and continues to lead the way with its plant-based recipe in a market which has built itself an unhealthy reputation over the years.
TENZING caters for a new generation of energy-seekers who are no longer willing to compromise on health or their impact on the planet. The brand is pioneering sustainability, and are the world’s first soft drink to introduce carbon labelling, and to be carbon negative: taking more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than they emit. They became certified last year.
As their founder, Huib Van Bockel, told us in a recent QFQ, ‘at TENZING we exist to inspire people to drink, experience, and protect the power of nature. It’s why we create plant-based energy drinks that are big on energy and low on impact. From being carbon negative, to cleaning up Everest, we take action to protect our planet. Because we believe that nothing beats the thrill of climbing clean mountains, surfing pristine oceans and running through fresh air.’