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Canadian supplement firm cements values with B Corp certification

By Hank Schultz , 27-Feb-2013
Last updated on 27-Feb-2013 at 17:37 GMT

A portion of the B Corps statement of values.
A portion of the B Corps statement of values.

Genuine Health, a Toronto-based developer and marketer of dietary supplements, has achieved B Corp status, the company announced recently.  This designation as a “benefit corporation” is not just a statement of values, said founder and CEO Stewart Brown, but is also a tool for continuous improvement of the company.

By going throught the certification process, and comparing Genuine Health’s practices with those of other B Corps, “It gave a pathway of how to be an even better company,” Brown told NutraIngredinets-USA.

B Corps are certified by a nonprofit called B Labs. The group’s mission statement says, in part: “We envision a new sector of the economy that harnesses the power of private enterprise to create public benefit.”  A B Corp, the declaration states, would be managed in such a way as to create benefit “for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.”

The group assesses potential B Corp members via a detailed questionnaire, Brown said, and backs that up by auditing 10% of the B Corp ranks every year to gauge compliance with the group’s goals. 

The questionnaire assesses a company both internally and externally, Brown said.  How employees are treated, and how well they are paid relative to the executive suite, is one of the bases for inclusion.  The process seeks to assess the company’s impact on its employees, suppliers, community, and the environment.

Certification with heft

In a sector awash in certifications—non-GMO, organic, Fair Trade—and deafened with buzzwords like “green” or “sustainability,” the B Corps certification has heft, Brown said.  According to Brown, Genuine Health is the first natural nutritional supplement company to receive this designation.

“You could certified fair trade coffee but you could be paying your staff minimum wages,” Brown said.

Getting the certification didn’t mean changing much about how Genuine Health does its business, Brown said.  The company has always had a philosophy of considering social and environmental implications of its. Brown said the B Corp certification standardizes and identifies Genuine Health’s values and actions to it’s customers and consumers, differentiating it from pretenders and those who rely on “green washing.”

The certification, Brown said, is “a good way to separate yourself, the wheat from the chaff.”

“To me it’s always been something I’ve believed in.  You should be treating your staff well, you should be sharing information. I feel that we’ve always operated that way,” Brown said.

Positive feedback

Although Brown was confident about the values of Genuine Health and how the company does its business, he did approach the certification process with some trepidation.

“Being Canadian, I was worried about overstating what we were doing,” he said.

“I was always afraid of how we would shape up.  To me what was nice was doing this and was getting the acknowledgement that we were doing the right things. We had a very high rating. It was very nice to get that feedback,” Brown said.

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