The country has 31 certified businesses that balance profit with purpose, which is more than any other country Asia.
In Taiwan, like many other countries in the world, large enterprises are required by law, to publish annual Corporate Social Responsibility Reports (CSR), which detail their impact upon society and the environment. CSR programs are often dismissed as greenwashing or virtue signaling. However, a growing number businesses are adopting the B Corporation movement to get third-party recognition of their efforts to do the right things.
Since 2006, more than 4,300 companies in 77 countries have received B Corp (the B stands as benefit) status. These businesses operate in 153 industries and, according bcorporation.net they meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit with purpose. This is a global movement of people using business to drive change.
Taiwan-based companies that are interested in becoming B Corp certified can be guided by B Lab Taiwan, an organization established in 2016 to serve as the movement’s first base in Asia.
Photo courtesy B Lab Taiwan
B Lab Taiwan’s Web site (blab.tw), explains that a B Corp is not set up to generate profit, but to address environmental or social issues. While B Corps may not set out to achieve specific goals, they are determined to create an inclusive and sustainable economic environment. [and]To have a positive effect on the social environment, they can use their own business models.
According to Victoria Wang ()According to B Lab Taiwan’s marketing director, there has not yet been a comprehensive study to determine how many local businesses might be interested pursuing B Corp status. She says that most people she has spoken to are open to the idea of being measured in order for them to make progress towards ESG (environmental social governance) goals.
Photo: Chang Ching-ya, Taipei Times
Wang said that Taiwan’s B Corps are a mixture of companies that are newer and those that have been around for a while but are now trying to operate in a more sustainable way. Sometimes, this is because control has passed on to a younger generation with a less traditional outlook.
Wang expresses gratitude for the positive attention received by local B Corps from central and local government officials, including Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang ()Peter Dernbach, who is a member of the board of B Lab Taiwans, also echoed this sentiment.
Robin Winkler founded Winkler Partners in Taiwan, and Dernbach is the coordinating partner. After a summit on CSR organized by the American Chamber of Commerce Taiwan, Dernbach began his B Corp journey. This summit featured presentations from Greenvines, a local pioneer in B Corp, and DOMI Earth, which said it is developing the products, platforms, and services that make effective climate action possible.
Photo courtesy Winkler Partners
We discovered that many aspects of B Corp certification are things we’ve been doing for some time, Dernbach said.
Winkler Partners decided in September 2016 to apply for B Corp status. It received certification in February 2016.
Enterprises must score at most 80 points out 200 to be eligible. Dernbach explains that the assessment helps businesses identify areas where they can improve. According to Dernbach, the firm has increased the amount it purchases for employees in terms of accident and medical insurance, and extended paternity leaves.
Photo courtesy Winkler Partners
B Corps must also pay an annual certificate fee of US$500 for companies that have a lower annual turnover than US$150,000.
Dernbach said that going through the certification process highlighted how important it was to formalize some of our practices by including these into our work rules. This would show that they are binding commitments from the firms’ part. He says that none of these steps was particularly difficult or costly.
When Dernbach is asked if local laws or regulations might affect B Corps certification, Dernbach replies that Taiwan-licensed lawyers and those licensed in other countries can form partnerships and that only Taiwan-licensed attorneys and those with permits to practice in Taiwan can be partners.
Family Mart photo
He says that this is difficult to reconcile with the emphasis placed by the B Corp movement on employee ownership through representation on boards or stock options. He adds that Taiwan is not the only place where law and accounting firms are restricted in such a way.
He says that Taiwan’s mandatory universal health care, statutory paid time off, and other benefits make Taiwan a top-ranked country for these areas.
He points out that healthcare provision and annual leaves are not guaranteed in certain countries, such as the US.
Photo by Lee Chinghui, Taipei Times
Businesses must recertify every three-years to maintain their B Corp status. It is normal for companies to improve over time. Dernbach observed that certain standards, such as those relating to paid parental leaves, had been raised when Winkler Partners recertified last.
The additional questions asked about indirect and direct emissions were added to the questionnaire, which was not required when we first certified in 2017. He says that the disclosure questionnaire section has been updated to provide more information about the types of clients and businesses we work with.
TOP IN ASIA
Taiwan has 31 certified B corps, more than any other country. Dernbach admits that none of them are household brands on a level with B Corps from other countries, such as Patagonia or Ben & Jerrys ice cream.
He is optimistic that Taiwanese consumers will make a choice and support B Corps by choosing products that are better for society.
Dernbach believes that Winkler Partners B Corp Certification has been a great business decision.
Numerous clients have made it clear that B Corp status is an important metric when choosing counsel. B Corp certification is an important metric for companies who want partners who are committed to a cause. He says that B Corp status adds credibility and transparency to a company.
Ooh Cha Cha, a Taipei-based vegan restaurant, is a B Corp member since August last year.
Mai Bach, founder, said that the pre-assessment questionnaire took her and her team approximately two months to complete. The key assessment phase was completed by the team. They submitted evidence and answers for six to seven months, even though it wasn’t necessary to change their operating procedures.
There are so many spreadsheets! She recalls.
Bach states that Ooh Cha Chas customers don’t expect certification from Ooh Cha Chas because B Corps awareness isn’t widespread yet. Neither does the company expect it from their suppliers.
We look for certain factors depending on the industry and the ingredient. We care about quality, pesticide use and seasonality. We are also concerned with the environment of workers when we produce our ingredients. There is no single certification that suits all situations. She says that the B Corp certification is the most comprehensive certification available.
Bach says that Taipeis B Lab works tirelessly to make sure the public understands what this certification means and to find unique opportunities for B Corps. People have reached out to us via the B Corp directory to learn more about our company. Social entrepreneurs face unique pressures, and have to deal with difficult problems. It is worth having a supportive community.
Steven Crook, author or co-author, of four books about Taiwan has been following environmental issues ever since he arrived here in 1991. He drives a hybrid car and has his own chopsticks. These are his views.
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