B-Corp Impact Assessment And Data Privacy

As consumers demand that businesses take more responsibility for their social and environmental impact, more businesses are striving to achieve that positive effect.

Jan 5, 2021
How to create positive impact for your customers via transparency
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As consumers demand that businesses take more responsibility for their social and environmental impact, more businesses are striving to have a positive effect on their customers, employees, and the environment.

One way of demonstrating a business’s commitment to higher values is to seek certification as a “B Corporation.” Certified B-Corps have demonstrated positive impacts on “workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.”

Respect for data privacy is increasingly a field in which companies can demonstrate a positive impact on consumers and others. Moreover, consumers today are looking to the companies with which they do business to lead on this issue, and not simply do the minimum required. According to a recent a KPMG survey:

91% of surveyed consumers stated that data privacy cannot be dealt with only by the government or individuals themselves and that corporations should play the leading role to establish corporate data responsibility.

48% demand clear information on how a business collects and uses its data.

44% of respondents want increased visibility into the use of their data.

56% want businesses to prioritize giving consumers more control over their data.

Acknowledging that consumers want businesses to take a more active role for privacy and they expect more transparency, B-Corp has decided to include “Privacy and Usage of Data” as criteria in its B-Corp Certification assessment.

So what is a B-Corporation Certificate?

B-Corporation certification is bestowed upon businesses by a private, non-profit organization called the B-Lab. The B-Corp certification verifies that a business meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Businesses seek B-Corp certification to demonstrate their commitment to doing good things for society. The process starts with a questionnaire before proceeding to a verification stage for companies whose self-reported scores are high enough.

In broad terms, the B-Corp criteria look at a business’s benefits to customers, community, workers, and the environment, as well as a corporation’s governance practices, transparency, and accountability.

And B-Lab has recently introduced data privacy as an explicit criterion for judging a business’s impact on customers.

This new question in the assessment is as follows:

Does the company have any of the following to address data usage and privacy issues?

In giving answers to this question, a business should investigate whether it satisfied the below conditions:

  • The company has a formal publicly available data and privacy policy
  • The company makes all users aware of the information collected, the length of time it is preserved, how it’s used, and whether and how it is shared with other entities (public or private)
  • Customers have the option to decide how their data can be used

In other words, B-Lab now acknowledges that giving customers more control over their data and providing them with visibility into the processing of their data are key aspects of corporate social responsibility toward their customers.

This question encourages businesses to enlighten customers about the lifecycle of data from collection to deletion. More specifically, businesses should be able to pinpoint who exactly accesses personal data and in which particular ways this data is used.

It also encourages businesses to empower customers to make decisions about the use of their data and provide them with more control over their data.

When a business claims that it takes social responsibilities seriously, only 9% of consumers believe them. Approximately 75% of consumers express their skepticism of large corporations’ good intentions when donating money and instead report seeing such actions as self-serving.

But taking your customers’ data privacy seriously is a genuine opportunity to secure a win-win: Lowering barriers to your customers’ access to their data improves their experience, their trust in you--and the quality of your data. It genuinely is a social good that is good for business--when it is done right.

If your customers have to overcome multiple bureaucratic barriers to learn about what data you hold about them, the positive impact would be reduced. Or, if you provide inaccurate information about the types of data you collected or fail to provide a full list of third parties who accessed data, the positive impact creation would be undermined as well.

While some businesses initially feel nervous about being truly transparent, this trust, once extended, is reciprocated, building a stronger relationship between your business and your customers. It also happens to be the right thing to do. The premise behind B-Corporations and other “good business” certification programs is that businesses can do well by doing good. The recognition of “corporate data responsibility” as an element of this is long overdue.