Is B-Corp Compromised?
Erewhon, the uber-expensive Los Angeles grocery chain, has found itself in hot water over videos showing staff verbally and physically abusing customers.
While the videos are shocking, the biggest head-scratching bit for me is that Erewhon is a B-Corp Certified company. Ethics play a huge role in the certification regime and last time I checked abuse usually runs counter to ethical practices. This got me wondering whether the store is just using B-Corp as a channel for greenwashing, which then led me down a rabbit hole exploring how often B-Corp Certification is just a front for bad behaviour.
B-Corp has done an amazing job, with over 3,500 companies in 80+ countries certified. On one side you have the likes of Patagonia, Aesop, and Toms: truly sustainable, ethical companies. But then on the other are organisations that aren't so sustainable.
One of the biggest companies to get certified that made people say hang on a minute was Nespresso in 2022. Beyond just the negative environmental impact all those little coffee pods have, Nespresso has also come under fire for having human rights violations - like child labour and wage theft - in its supply chain.
Then there's Chloe, the first fashion house to get B-Corp Certified. But when it comes to being sustainable, experts have ranked Chloe as being "not good enough," and on the Fashion Transparency Index they score less than 20%.
Of course, you also have Coke, Nestle, and Danone all certified.
I've worked on B-Corp Certifications for my clients and it is a hellish, arduous process. The issue is that once a company is certified, there's very little B-Corp does to ensure they're: a) meeting their obligations; and/or, b) improving or being better. They re-certify every 3 years, but that's a long time for a company to get away with greenwashing.
Plus, it takes a lot to pull a company's certification. The most recent example was Brew Dog, who had their status pulled less than 2 years after receiving it. Why? Their public support of the questionable Qatar World Cup and a BBC expose of a very abusive workplace culture.
Perhaps with these videos coming out, B-Corp will start to tighten its processes. Maybe, too, Erewhon will have its status revoked for ethics violations and the crime against humanity that is the $20 Hailey Bieber smoothie.