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B Corp standards ‘at risk’ following Nespresso certification, says ethical trade advocate

A group of B Corp-certified coffee companies led by US ethical trade advocate Fair World Project has called for stronger B Lab assessment criteria following Nespresso’s recent certification

Twenty-three B Corp-certified companies called on B Lab Global to strengthen standards in order maintain the integrity and relevance of B Corp certification | Photo credit: via shutterstock


 

A group of coffee and ethical products companies led by US fair trade advocacy organisation Fair World Project has warned the integrity of the B Corp movement is ‘at risk’ following Nespresso’s certification in May 2022. 


An open letter signed by 23 B Corp-certified companies called on B Lab Global, which administers the audit process, to strengthen standards in order maintain the integrity and relevance of the certification. 


To certify as a B Corp, businesses must attain a minimum score of 80 across five business criteria: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers. Globally, over 4,900 companies have been certified so far. 


In April 2022, B Lab Global certified Nespresso as a B Corp, with the Nestlé-owned coffee capsule maker achieving an overall score of 84 – attaining 80 points across its North America, South America and Asia Pacific divisions, 83 in Europe and 93 for its headquarters and factory operations. 


However, the letter, signed by coffee brands including Peace Coffee, Exilior Coffee and Cooperative Coffees, raised concerns about reported human rights violations on farms that grow Nespresso coffee, including child labour, wage theft and abuse of factory workers.  


“There’s a long history of certifications getting co-opted by corporations as they reach the mainstream. We’ve seen it with fair trade certification as well as with organics. Unfortunately, Nespresso’s certification suggests that B Corp Certification is heading that way as well,” said Dana Geffner, Executive Director, Fair World Project. 
 

The letter also questions the environmental impacts of Nespresso’s operations, highlighting the single-use nature of its products. 


Other prominent B Corp coffee brands, including Sustainable HarvestCounter Culture CoffeeCaravela CoffeeOriginCoffee Collective, Stumptown Coffee Roasters and illycaffè, were not among signatories to the letter. 


Recommending changes to the B Lab audit process, Fair World Project said minimum scores per Impact Business Model and per applicable Score Area should apply. The joint letter also urges that B Corp certification must reference the UN Guiding Principles on Business Human Rights framework, and that companies must provide remedy and remediation where violations occur. 


B Lab Global recently announced plans to tighten audit requirements for financial services companies with revenues greater than $1bn seeking B Corp certification.
 

The move could pave the way for a similar revision of standards for larger coffee companies. 


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