What Is a B Corporation and Why Does It Matter for Kombucha?

B Corporations strive to improve conditions for workers, the community and the environment. See why your next sip of kombucha should come from a B Corp.

Trust is the most essential currency in today's business world. We can see it in how corporations across all industries are shifting their focus to return customers rather than just new leads, and we can see it in the growing power of values-based marketing. But nowhere is it more clear than directly in revenue reports and customer surveys. Deloitte reports that:

  • A trustworthy company can outperform an untrustworthy one by 2.5x.
  • Customers use trust to determine if they'll make another purchase from the same brand—and 88% of customers will return to a brand they trust.

That same report notes that this level of trust has to be earned by a company with trustworthy actions, not just good marketing. Personal data protection, accountability, setting and achieving environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals—all these factors and more matter. 

When an organization becomes a certified B Corporation, they take major steps towards trustworthiness. But many consumers don't know what a B Corporation is, the standard of sustainability or ethics a B Corporation commits to maintain, or why shopping from B corporations can help enact real change in how the business world operates. These qualities are even more crucial in today's food and beverage industry—and we think for kombucha companies, in particular. 

What Is a Certified B Corporation?

B Corporations are certified organizations that meet high standards of accountability, transparency, and positive change regarding key economic areas. For example, certified B Corporations might:

  • Build a transparent supply chain that prioritizes fair trade and humane worker treatment at every stage
  • Choose sustainable production and manufacturing processes
  • Choose packaging and materials processes that limit environmental damage or waste
  • Establish high standards for employee benefits

The value for stakeholders is found in the genuine commitment required to meet B Corp standards. Promises and goals aren't enough to be registered as a B Corporation. Instead, certified companies must maintain a high score on a specific evaluation, called a B Impact Assessment score, and provide a full breakdown of their performance on the B Lab website. This level of accountability to the real numbers and the impact of a company's actions is what makes B Corporation certification such a powerful tool for stakeholders who want to work for or buy from true agents of change.

The B Impact Assessment

In order to be certified, a company must receive a score of 80 or higher in the B Impact Assessment—a standardized assessment that evaluates fairness and ethical performance in these key areas:

  • Governance: for example, are ESG goals part of directors' or C-suite officers' performance reviews?
  • Workers: for example, is enough of the company owned by full-time employees?
  • Community: for example, are minority or previously excluded populations fairly represented in the workforce?
  • Environment: for example, does the organization diligently maintain records of waste and consumption?
  • Customers: for example, to what extent is customer feedback recorded and addressed?

After taking this assessment, organizations can compare their results to others and set goals for improvement in areas where it's needed. The assessment focuses on insights, not the goals themselves—authentic change relies on having a reliable baseline and clear monitoring or recording processes.

Transparency: See How Companies Measure Up on B Lab

Consumers, investors, and anyone else interested in the sustainability or ethics of a company can see their results on the B Lab website. They can view an organization's overall score and compare it to the median score of businesses in general. The website records the scores over time and performance in specific areas, such as building a toxin reduction/remediation plan or a  commitment to an Impact Business Model. These records are freely available and allow people to find companies that share a commitment to their values.

Accountability: Stakeholders vs. Shareholders

Businesses have debated their commitment to stakeholders vs. shareholders for decades. Milton Friedman's "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits" was published in 1970. Friedman argued that a company's only responsibility was making money for shareholders. Since then, companies have evolved and see the importance of focusing on stakeholders overall: employees, customers, the environment, the surrounding community, and, yes, shareholders. 

This critical perspective shift has increased worker conditions, highlighted corporate responsibility for environmental impact, and fostered a more ethical market. When companies shift to focusing on stakeholders, especially through a B Corp lens, everyone sees benefits.

Related: We’re Proud to be B-Corp Certified

Kombucha and B Corp: A Natural Synergy

Kombucha comes with laidback energy. Consumers view it as an alternative to standard coffees and teas, a delicious, healthy beverage offering both energy and probiotic advantages. As markets expand to include mushroom coffees, natural energy drinks and elixirs, and all fermented foods, many consumers see kombucha as the iconic product representing the movement.

The emphasis on purported health benefits and all-natural ingredients means that these corporations have an additional obligation to be transparent and accountable. This aligns with the core initiatives of B Corporation certification, as sustainability, wellness, and environmental preservation take center stage in the Venn diagram between what people want from B Corporations and what customers want from kombucha brands. Let's take a closer look at how these concepts should align.

Sustainability First

Environmentalism matters for both B Corp certification and the best kombucha companies. The former expressly requires sustainable environmental behaviors: the assessment has criteria for environmental management, air and climate, water, land, and life. Along similar lines, kombucha companies often develop brands that highlight nature, wholesomeness, and cleanliness.

Behind the scenes, however, kombucha companies—just like all other companies—can pose a significant environmental challenge if they don't make a strong commitment to these values. Individual bottles and packaging may lead to vast amounts of waste if organizations don't choose the right materials. Tea and SCOBY processing can overwhelm the local water supply without proper filtration and waste management

Fermentation processes can even introduce toxins and harsh chemical imbalances to environments that can't handle a sudden surge of pH levels in the drainage. (This isn't unique to kombucha companies—yogurt, kefir, and cheese companies also generate specific types of waste from fermentation.) Seeing a bottle with the B Corporation logo can indicate to consumers that the organization is actively managing waste and limiting harm to its local water systems.

Microbiome: Science vs. Advertising

The consumable wellness industry has come under fire for toeing the line between trends and hard science. Fad diets, nutraceuticals, and unregulated pharmaceuticals have led to simultaneous collections of fervent fans and fed-up skeptics. So many companies are touting wellness benefits with unprotected language, leaving consumers to parse through the research themselves. 

Nowhere has this trend been sharper than in the developing studies of microbiomes. Fermentation, active bacteria, prebiotics and probiotics: the growing studies are unquestionably beneficial to our understanding of how food—and fermented food in particular—affects us. But while there are valuable nutritional and health discoveries to be made regarding microbiomes, marketing and misleading statements are harmful to both consumers and legitimate scientific breakthroughs.

Kombucha companies, supplement manufacturers, and everyone else in the prebiotic and probiotic domain must exercise extreme care regarding their business strategies and the social and wellness impacts that result. While consumers and regulatory agencies must do their due diligence, earnest companies that commit to B Corp certification standards put words into trustworthy actions by committing to only the highest standards of transparency in their corporate actions.

 Related: The Connection Between Kombucha and Gut Health: What You Should Know

Why More Food and Beverage Companies Need to Be B Corporations

There are dozens of reasons why organizations in any industry should become B Corporations—or actively strive for the certification. Improving employee conditions, ensuring equitable representation, minimizing environmental harm and holding executives accountable for bad policies or implementation matters in every market. 

But it's especially crucial that manufacturers of consumable goods adhere to strict ethical standards. Consumers can purchase goods with greater trust in the safety and wellness benefits of the product. The environmental damage of process waste goes down. Consumers can know that workers aren't suffering in dangerous conditions or with limited financial opportunities. The water is safer, animals are protected, and people see more opportunities. 

These are vital reasons why food and beverage producers should move toward B Corporation certification. It's also why Brew Dr. Kombucha commits to being a certified B corp, with an Overall B Impact Score of 94.2. We are proud to be one of the first kombucha companies with B Corp certification, and we hope others continue to join us! It's our mission to create the delicious, healthy, fermented kombucha our customers love—the right way. Visit us online to learn more about what we're doing to be ethical, accountable, and a strong force for good.

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