Founder’s Letter: The Benefits of Being a B Corp
There are exactly 14 Benefit Corporations in all of Pakistan. One of those was among the exhibitors who recently took part in our New York show.
Karachi-based denim mill and jean factory AGI attained its B Corp certification in May 2022 and Kingpins applauds the company’s accomplishment. To put things into the denim and jeans industry perspective, there is not a single jeans-specific B Corp in China, India, Turkey, Bangladesh, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico or the USA. You need to read the last sentence more than once to understand and appreciate AGI’s intent and accomplishment.
What is a B Corp?
According to B Lab, the nonprofit behind B Corps (emphasis is mine):
“Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.”
Many people describe B Corp certification as analogous to Fair Trade certification for coffee or USDA Organic certification for milk.
In short, B Corps are companies that undergo a rigorous certification process to improve their social and environmental performance. They don’t just say that they’re good businesses or socially responsible businesses (as so many other businesses do). They’re committed to using business as a force for good – and they’re willing to have their practices be independently vetted by a third-party and to make their results transparent. You can see the score of any B Corp on the B Corp directory.
The idea of using business as a force of good is an interesting concept in these (possibly recessionary?) times. Once again, cancellations are wildly rampant and jeans factories are being forced to make thousands of workers redundant and suffer massive financial stress holding stock for brands and retailers who ordered merchandise and now won’t take it. We’re hearing stories of worker layoffs at sewing facilities and brand executives fired because of cancellations. Businesses, on the whole, are far away from being forces of good. They are, in fact, quite the opposite.
Fact is, if buyers cared about the workers that produced their goods or are employed by their companies, they would take responsibility for their cancellations and consider that cost as part of their business expenses — not something they pass off on others.
AGI – The Interview
I had an opportunity to ask the Javed brothers, Ahmed and Hasan, about their B Corp initiative:
AMO: Why did you apply for the B Corp Status?
AJ & HJ: Since we started our operations, becoming socially conscious has been of crucial importance to us. We applied for this status because it is a coveted certification that would cement how serious we are about becoming more conscious. B Corps worldwide are recognized for their extensive focus on the purpose behind how they conduct business. As this aligns with our corporate strategy, it only made sense that we would want to be part of this global collective
AMO: How long did it take for you to get it?
AJ & HJ: It was a three-year process. We started the process in 2019 and were under review in 2021 and the first half of 2022. We finally received the certification in the middle of 2022.
AMO: What other denim mills or jean factories have this status besides you and or Saitex?
AJ & HJ: Other than Saitex and us, no other denim manufacturers have this certification.
AMO: Why wouldn’t others obtain it?
AJ & HJ: For a company to become B Corp certified, it must go through a rigorous policymaking and benchmarking process to bring about change to create an equitable and regenerative workplace. This includes every single leg of production, even third-party suppliers we source from.
Our CSR policy inspires us to become better for communities. AGI Denim provides a percentage of its revenue as charitable donations to uplift the communities in our neighborhood. All our employees are encouraged to spend some time from their work in volunteer activities for community wellbeing.
Our sustainability teams continuously work with our suppliers to educate them on environmental issues and motivate them to work on their environmental performance by using conscious materials to measure their carbon emissions. We ensure that our suppliers follow our code of conduct to ensure transparency across our supply chain, which other companies may not prefer doing.
It is a difficult process from a holistic standpoint, but not an impossible one. We encourage our denim counterparts to get this certification as it will uplift their brand image into one working in the service of people, communities and the planet because in the long haul, that matters most.
AMO: What message does getting B Corp certification send to your customers?
AJ & HJ: Having a B Corp certification shows our customers that we are a credible organization that has worked hard to put purpose over profit.
It not only shows them that we are ethical in our products but are working to become increasingly transparent and honest with our stakeholders. Our vision parallels other B Corps working to make business a force for good through intelligent, impactful decisions. This certification proves that having us as a supplier means they have a unique strategic advantage by being in business with a company that is conscious at its heart.
A few thoughts about my discussion with the Javeds and the impact of becoming a B Corp:
There are few options when it comes to claims suppliers make to customers: Statements made with fact and third-party verifications; statements made with fact and no third-party verifications; and statements with neither. Obviously the B Corp certification relies on third parties to verify claims.
I can never say this often enough: third-party accreditation from a reputable source is a key element to support sustainability claims.
The Javeds’ experience getting certified as a B Corp is similar to what I have heard from friends that went through this arduous exercise. All of them let out a huge “PHEW” when it was over and the certification arrived. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
Still, I have no idea why other companies won’t go through this process. I can only think that the best companies assume their customers already find them credible and for the rest, they “hope” their messaging creates confidence.
When you search for B Corporations and type in the word “fashion,” only 182 companies appear. Of those, there are just two that I would describe as exclusively jeans brands: Mud Jeans International and Unspun.
It is shocking to me that NO other jeans factories and NO other denim mills are certified but countless mills claim they do a lot for good. Who is credible and who is not? AGI has publicly demonstrated they are undoubtedly credible. One would hope others follow their path.
There is a lot of room for improvement but today we wish to congratulate AGI for being one of the early examples of utter excellence and a devotion to doing the right thing.