Companies Protest B Lab Certification of Nespresso

June 16, 2022
If the Nestle unit buys coffee from farms with human rights violations, what happens to the integrity and relevance of B Corp Certification?

A handful of member companies and a watchdog organization sent a letter to B Lab questioning the propriety of granting B Corp status to Nestle’s Nespresso business because of concerns over human rights violations on farms that grow its coffee.

Fair trade advocacy group Fair World Project and nine small companies, half of them coffee companies, signed on to an open letter to B Lab Global calling on the organization “to strengthen standards to maintain integrity and relevance of the certification.” It came in response to Nespresso, which makes single-serve coffee capsules, getting B Corp certification in May.

The letter cited “a recent history of human rights violations on farms that grow their coffee including child labor, wage theft and abuse of factory workers.” It added: “The fact that Nespresso can achieve a score that allows them to be certified as a B Corp and use the certification to greenwash its business model and practices demonstrates that the B Impact Assessment scoring system and certification process is in serious need of repair.”

B Lab manages an evaluation process that certifies its members as public benefit corporations, a relatively new form of incorporation in the business world that legally requires companies to balance shareholders’ financial interests with the benefits they bring to people, the planet and broader society. Every B Corp is a public benefit corporation but not every public benefit corporation is a B Corp. Public benefit corporations self-report their performance, while B Corps must prove their performance to B Lab.

Besides Fair World Project, signatories were Cooperative Coffees, Exilior Coffee, Peace Coffee, Thanksgiving Coffee Co., All Good Products, Dr. Bronner’s, Grove Collaborative, Laude the Label and Lotus Foods Inc.

“B Lab … awards the B Corp certification to for-profit companies that voluntarily meet certain standards of transparency, accountability, sustainability, and performance, with an aim to ‘Be a Force for Good’ in the business community and create value for society beyond shareholder profits,” the letter continued. “Alarmed by Nespresso’s certification, Fair World Project and the concerned Certified B Corp brands want greater accountability and higher standards to avoid ‘greenwashing’ by the certification and are calling on the greater Certified B Corp community to demand the same.”

That “greater Certified B Corp community” includes Amy’s Kitchen, Ben & Jerry’s, Cabot Creamery, Lake Front Brewery, Stonyfield/Lactalis, Tillamook County Creamery, Wyandot and several units of Danone. None of them signed the letter.

“There’s a long history of certifications getting co-opted by corporations as they reach the mainstream,” says Dana Geffner, Executive Director of Fair World Project. “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.”

The full letter can be found at

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