B-ing Brave – 6 Tips to Help You Survive Your B Corp Audit
By Polina Pinchevsky | February 26, 2015
“Audit” is a term that inspires many feelings including fear, dread and even panic. I know that’s how I felt when B Lab, the organization that certifies and oversees B Corporations (B Corps), notified us that RoundPeg had been selected for an audit.
Audits are standard operating procedure for B Lab since they audit 10% of B Corps every year. They help ensure that organizations rocking the B Corp seal operate in accordance with the values they commit to when they join the community. B Corp audits also create an opportunity for B Corps to track their progress toward their social goals, and find new ways to use business as a force for good.
Even with that knowledge, apprehension prevailed and we prepared for the worst. We soon realized that the worry was unfounded. Aside from pulling together many, many reports it was actually kind of fun. So, to help you avoid unnecessary angst, here are our six tips for surviving – and learning from – your first B Corp audit.
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TIP #1: Get Familiar with the Process
The B Corp audit consists of three parts: On-site Document Review, Facilities Tour and Employee Interviews. Here’s a quick run-down of what each phase entailed for RoundPeg, though you should expect your experience to vary based on your business.
On-site Document Review
This part entailed the most prep time: we had to answer 17 questions and nine of them required additional documents. Our bookkeeper Robin was the MVP for this part of the audit– she compiled data to help us answer questions like: “What percentage of your company’s expenses (excluding labor) was spent with independent suppliers located within 200 miles of the company’s headquarters or main production facilities?”
Since our office space is located inside a business incubator, many of the elements that B Lab reviews are outside of our control. Nevertheless, we highlighted the items we could—renovated restrooms with low-flow toilets, recycling facilities and up-to-date wage requirements posters.
Since we’re not a manufacturing facility, many of the questions in this section didn’t apply. In fact, our employee interviews took only 10 minutes each! It was easy for me to answer the questions honestly and I think most businesses in this space will find the same is true for them. Questions included “Is overtime work for hourly workers voluntary, not compulsory?” (Yes!) and “Does the company provide clean drinking water to employees at all times?” (Yes! Would you like a glass?)
TIP #2: B Prepared
Schedule plenty of time to prepare for the audit by reviewing relevant documents, discussing them with key staff and allowing time to complete reports. More thorough preparation means a quicker audit and less follow-up.
TIP #3: Enjoy your time with the B Lab Auditors
It’s rare to have undivided attention from B Lab staffers since they tend to stay busy changing the world. Make the most of your time with them by preparing good questions. We talked frankly about our business, its challenges and rewards, and our plans for doing good in the future. Our auditors weren’t only attentive and genuinely interested, they offered helpful suggestions and some much-appreciated encouragement.
TIP #4: Review your initial B Corp assessment
Before your audit, familiarize yourself with the details of your initial B Corp assessment. We were certified just 13 months prior to our audit notification. I took a few hours to go over the details of our initial assessment, and I’m really glad I did. It helped me prepare for the audit and served as an inspiring reminder of how far RoundPeg came in just over a year.
TIP #5: Advocate for your business
Carefully read all follow up documents as some of the information may have been misunderstood or misinterpreted by the auditors. Correcting a mistake can earn your business valuable B Score points. During our follow up period we advocated for ourselves and as a result, our total B Score was adjusted from 90 to 111 points.
TIP #6: Schedule time for change
The audit process will uncover weak spots in your business and that’s okay. Recognize the audit as a tool for change. We’ve carefully reviewed B Lab’s “Recommendations for Improving Your Impact” and are incorporating them into our daily operations. It feels good to know that these efforts will grow our business and improve our B Impact!
In retrospect, our audit experience wasn’t nearly as painful as we imagined it would be. Throughout the audit, I felt like the representatives from B Lab were on my side, cheering me on and helping me to succeed. I hope that this recap will help others selected for B Corp audits make the most out of what is, at its core, no more than a [mildly terrifying] opportunity to expand your capacity use your business as a force for good.
Want to know more about how we did? Check out B Lab’s report on RoundPeg. Want to know more about the audit? I’m happy to share more specific details about our experience – email me at [email protected] or submit a comment or question below.