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Fair Trade: The B Corp Standard is at Risk

We, the undersigned Certified B Corps have joined together—with the support of certification watchdog, Fair World Project —because we believe the very mission of B Lab and the integrity and relevance of B Corp Certification is at risk.

As brands, we are Certified as B Corps because progressive social impact and environmental stewardship are core to our approach to business. We believe that B Lab and the broader community of B Corp Certified brands are an important force in transitioning our economy away from extractive practices and towards economic models that truly benefit people and the planet. Because we value this community and deeply believe in what it means to be a Certified B Corp, it is imperative that we speak up now to protect the B Corp Certification and the movement it represents.

We are united in our concern about Nespresso’s recent Certification as a B Corp. Collectively, we envision a world where B Corp values can scale to include companies of any size, but this must not happen in a way that dilutes the integrity of the movement the certification stands for. Without a structurally higher certification bar and a mechanism for enforced accountability within the B Impact Assessment or certification process, we are concerned that corporations will do the bare minimum to ‘greenwash’ themselves as B Corps.

The fair trade movement was born decades ago to address the exploitative and unethical human rights abuses involved in coffee bean farming and coffee supply chains. While distinct from and broader than a fair trade certification, the B Corp Certification should nevertheless structurally build on the fair trade principle of centering human rights, and rule out historically exploitative companies who have not put remediation and restorative structures in place to benefit the people in their supply chains.

Although Nespresso has achieved the minimum currently required for certification, scoring 84 out of 200 points, Nespresso’s abysmal track record on human rights from child labor and wage theft to abuse of factory workers is well documented by the media and NGOs.  Indeed, Nespresso’s extractive business model is publicly known to be fundamentally at odds with the ethical and just future B Corps want to build and should have structurally been a barrier to Nespresso’s B Corp Certification. Structural barriers in the certification process could be improved through a more informed and thorough review of Risk Factors taking fair trade movement history and NGO expertise into account.

Nespresso’s size certainly provides additional complexity and challenges for traceability and transparency throughout its supply chains—but size must not be permission for potential child labor, worker abuse, or wage theft for large B Corps. Instead, the fact that Nespresso can achieve a score that allows them to be Certified as a B Corp and use the Certification to greenwash its business model and practices demonstrates that the B Impact Assessment scoring system and certification process is in serious need of repair.

As part of the certification announcement Nespresso expressed they intend “all viable farms to reach a living wage by 2030,” and to “improve our global approach on human rights due diligence and create a scalable Child Labour risk mapping and remediation process plan.”   However, there is currently no way for the B Impact Assessment (BIA) or certification process to measure or hold Nespresso to these self-imposed commitments. Thus, in addition to strengthening the minimum criteria for certification, B Lab must develop a protocol for holding B Corps to improve Risk Factor areas over time or face losing their B Corp Certification. 

Many of our brands have participated in the multi-year public feedback process B Lab has facilitated regarding potential updates to the B Corp Standard and voiced the need for changes. Yet we have not seen changes to the standard that sufficiently raises the bar, nor have we received a response to our suggestions or offers to engage more deeply.

Summarized here are key areas where we believe the B Impact Assessment and Certification process must improve if B Corp Certification is to maintain integrity and relevance going forward:

  • Rather than a minimum total score, there must be minimum scores per Impact Business Model and per applicable Score Area.
  • The B Corp Standard must center human rights in the Supply Chain Impact Business Model and reference the UN Guiding Principles on Business Human Rights framework, including a company’s responsibility to respect human rights and provide remedy and remediation for harms.
  • Unless there is demonstrated evidence of remedy and remediation for harms, and course correction to prevent future harm, human rights abuses should be a non-negotiable Disqualification Factor preventing certification.
  • Sourcing a majority of raw materials from non-fair trade certified supply chains, CAFOs, or industrial farming systems should be added as a Risk Factors for consumer goods companies, requiring documented improvement over time.
  • Risk Factors must be reflected in scores, monitored closely over time for required improvement, and re-certification should be contingent on demonstrated improvement. If Risk Factors are not corrected over time, re-certification should be withheld.

B Lab has said it is up to the “influential community” of consumers and companies like ours to hold other companies accountable. However, we could not prevent Nespresso from certifying, and we cannot take away Nespresso’s B Corp Certification if they fail to improve—only B Lab can do that, and only if the certification requirements and process change.

As businesses dedicated to social good, we stand in solidarity with social and environmental organizations and with those most negatively impacted by Nespresso. In the interest of the movement to ‘use business as a force for good,’ we hope to see these critical improvements to the B Impact Assessment and B Corp Certification process. In turn we hope these changes can help hold Nespresso and other companies—including ourselves—accountable over time as we build an economy that is inclusive, regenerative, and just for all.


All Good Products
A Stellar Co
Better apc
Cooperative Coffees
Dr. Bronner’s
Elvis & Kresse
Endiro Coffee
Exilior Coffee
Fair World Project
Green Element
Grove Collaborative
LOACOM Social Purpose Corporation
LAUDE the Label
Lotus Foods, Inc.
Modern Species
Peace Coffee
Thanksgiving Coffee Company