What B Corp certification means, why we did it, how we got there, and where to next.
In becoming a certified B Corporation, Market Lane Coffee is excited to join a global movement of organisations, small and large, that are committed to using business as a force for good. Internationally, there are (at the time of writing) 5661 B Corp certified companies from 158 industries across 85 countries, all harnessing their organisations to engage in care, advocacy and action for the benefit of people and the planet, not just for profit.
This mission is a crucial one for us at Market Lane. In our own industry, within our company, we believe that good coffee should be good for everyone – from the individuals and communities that pick and process the coffee overseas through to the people who roast and pack the beans in our Melbourne headquarters, all the way to the customers who drink Market Lane coffee in our shops or brew and enjoy it in their kitchen.
It's therefore extremely meaningful for us to join a global community of likeminded businesses who are not just looking at their bottom line and doing whatever it takes to increase it, but instead using their organisation to lower poverty rates, protect and nurture our natural environment, reduce inequality, and offer employees support, dignity and, ideally, meaningful purpose.
These are massive, ongoing goals, and they are the reason we get out of bed in the morning (with the help of whatever beautiful coffees we have in our line-up that day)! It makes us so happy to know that while we are doing whatever we can to work towards and achieve these goals, so is a movement of other B Corp certified businesses. 5661 and counting…
What it means to be B Corp certified
B Corp is a comprehensive, globally recognised certification given to organisations that can measurably prove that they are using business as a force for good. The certification means many things:
Why we became a B Corp
A major reason we decided to embark on this process was for the process itself. Becoming a certified B Corporation requires an organisation to look at every single aspect of their operation, with full transparency and accountability, benchmarking every detail against the most ethical, responsible and sustainable businesses in the world.
Since Market Lane opened in 2009, we have endeavoured to make all our decisions in accordance with our four core values: exceptional quality, transparency, sustainability and community. We felt and believed that we were doing the right things, but the B Corp certification process gave us a verifiable framework through which to measure our positive impact, and make sure we are doing everything as ethically as possible. The process also helped us put in place structures, and define and set new goals, in order to continue to operate our business in the most sustainable, responsible and transparent ways.
Don’t get us wrong, we are of course thrilled to have achieved this certification! But it’s the application process itself that helped us grow, mature and understand ourselves better as a company that wants to continue to make a genuine, measurable positive impact on the world and in our communities.
How the certification works
The B Corp certification process is administered by an independent non-profit organisation called B Lab. The combination of a third-party assessment, public transparency and legal accountability helps B Corp certified organisations build value and trust with customers, clients and partners.
The certification process is necessarily thorough, rigorous and highly selective. It requires a lot of commitment and diligence on behalf of the applying organisation, in order to meet (or exceed) credible, comprehensive, transparent and independent standards of social and environmental performance. To achieve the certification, companies are measured across five areas of impact: Governance, Workers, Environment, Community, and Customers.
The assessment involves 300 questions that companies must answer, providing evidence of their positive impact in order to qualify. They must validate this by submitting extensive documentation to back up their claims. Companies then participate in a series of in-depth interviews before a final score is provided.
As part of the certification process, businesses amend their governance structure so that, by law, they can make decisions and implement practices that consider not just shareholder value, but the impact on all stakeholders, including employees, customers, society at large and the environment.
It’s been quite a journey!
We have aspired to be a certified B Corporation since we opened Market Lane in 2009. From the beginning, we’ve been developing and implementing our own framework for how to use our business for good, so many of the components of the B Corp impact assessment were already baked into our company’s DNA by the time we began the process.
For us, this process actually began in 2014, when we first undertook the B Corp assessment component. At that time, we found the assessment process motivating and illuminating; it showed us where we were at as a business, what we were doing well and what we could be doing better. We didn’t have the resources back then to be able to dedicate time to the documentation requirements for the B Corp certification (these were the good old days when Market Lane co-owners Fleur, Jason and Jenni were regularly found behind the register and bar, greeting customers, taking orders, making coffees and covering shifts at the last minute), so we didn’t undertake the certification process at that point, and instead focused our efforts on taking meaningful action and making concrete change based on what we’d learnt from the assessment.
In 2020, we finally decided to dedicate significant time to the assessment and certification processes, knowing that it would help us bring more structure to what we do, measure our performance and our impact, set goals for the future and hold ourselves accountable. The certification process took a lot of time – more than we anticipated, to be honest! – but we have learnt so, so much throughout, and we believe we’ve come out the other side of it a better business, with a stronger framework and a more developed and sound strategy moving forwards.
We achieved a first time B Impact Score of 96.8. For context, a business needs a minimum of 80 to qualify as a B Corporation, and the median score for ordinary businesses is 50.9. While the process of anxiously waiting for our score felt not unlike awaiting VCE results, we are thrilled with our assessment number!
Looking back & moving forwards
While some parts of our B Corp application process were very nuts-and-bolts practical (asking our milk suppliers Schulz Dairy to provide us with documentation of their organic certification, for example) and some parts were extremely nerve-wracking (our voices may have been shaking at the beginning of our first interview with a representative from B Lab!), it has also been an extremely emotional process. It has compelled us to reflect on why we started Market Lane, and our journey and achievements and the relationships we’ve forged in the 13 years since then, and it’s also encouraged us to envisage a future for this planet that we’d love to help create and protect for future generations.
These aren’t necessarily the usual things one gets to think about at length in the course of a busy workday, and we’re grateful that this in-depth process made us take the space and time to honestly reflect, interrogate, hope and dream. We’ve emerged more determined than ever to use Market Lane as a force for positive change and growth, and to offer support and partnership wherever we can to other companies, communities and individuals who want to do the same.
The beauty of B Corp is that you don’t have to take our word for any of this. The certification tells you we are working hard to enact positive change. And as our B Corp certification will be measured and audited by B Lab every three years, we must and will – and want to! – keep holding ourselves to the highest ethical standards, fostering and promoting a thoughtful and responsible ethos and culture that prioritises people and the planet, and actively working to create a future in which good coffee really is good for everyone.
A big thanks to our community
Our community is vast and diverse – it includes the people who produce our coffees, and our many other suppliers, partners and peers. It includes our customers, both in our shops and online; in Melbourne, interstate and overseas. It includes our front-of-house and back-of-house team members, both past and present. We couldn’t have got to where we are today, and we wouldn’t have been able to undertake this certification process, without the support, care, enthusiasm and camaraderie of our amazing community over the years.
Thank you for going on this journey with us, and thank you for reading this post and joining us in celebrating this B Corp certification milestone. It’s a single letter, but it’s a really big deal!
Love, Fleur, Jason, Jenni and the whole Market Lane team xox