You’ve probably heard of B Corporations before: Companies who focus on positive social impact as well as profit. You may also know that in order to be certified as a B-Corp, a company is evaluated on their impact on their employees, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. But, did you know that B Corporations exist in Taiwan? According to bcorporation.net, there are currently 28 certified B Corporations in Taiwan. All Hands sat down with Mai Bach, co-owner of vegan eatery Ooh Cha Cha, to discuss her experience in getting her restaurant B-Corp certified in Taiwan.
Mai Bach, Co-Owner of Ooh Cha Cha
How long have you been running Ooh Cha Cha?
My partners and I have been running our vegan restaurant Ooh Cha Cha since 2013, when we realized that we felt both healthier and happier when we were eating a plant-based diet. We were also concerned with how much of an impact our diet and food systems contribute to global warming. We started Ooh Cha Cha with one location in the Guting area of Taipei, before also opening up our larger, flagship location near Technology Building MRT Station.
Why did Ooh Cha Cha choose to get B-Corp certified?
For us, there are two big benefits of the B-Corp certification. The first is the incredible community of like-minded and mission-driven entrepreneurs all working towards proving that the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit IS possible. The second huge benefit is the ability to quantify and communicate to our community the values we embody and work with everyday.
The B-Corp certification is one of the most comprehensive and well-established certifications for impactful companies. This was a good way for us to evaluate the whole company across all our operations holistically.
When did you begin the process of becoming B-Corp certified?
We began and completed the certification process in 2020.
What’s the time duration of becoming a B-Corp? Do any milestones take longer than others?
It took us about 9 months to go through the process. The average is usually about 17 months, with some companies taking up to 2 years. There’s essentially three phases:
An initial, pre-assessment questionnaire to gauge if the company qualifies for phase 2. This took us 2 months to get through.
The assessment – this is the longest phase. You go through all the categories of questions and submit answers and evidence. SO MANY SPREADSHEETS! You need to get 80 out of a possible 200 points. I don’t even know how many questions you have to answer, but some would get you just ¼ of a point, while some would be used to filter you to the proper point gaining questions. During this phase you are in contact with an analyst as you submit answers through an online platform. This phase took us 6 – 7 months.
Once you finish the assessment, you move on to the review and final point tally. You will get a new analyst and they will review your evidence, and they usually ask for further supporting documentation. It is normal to lose points during this stage, so they suggest scoring somewhere in the 90s in phase 2 before moving into phase 3. Phase 3 took us about a month. If you do not get 80 points during the allotted time of phase 3, you are placed in “improvement” and have a specified amount of time to improve. If you cannot improve during this period, you have to start the whole process again.
What were the certification costs like?
There’s no cost when starting the process. You only pay if you pass and get certified. To maintain your B-Corp certification, your company needs to pay an annual fee that is based on your company’s revenue.
Are there different categories? If so, can you choose to be certified in multiple categories?
There aren’t different siloed categories for different types of companies: each company is judged across multiple categories, and your total point tally must be above the threshold of 80 points. However, there are some points that are only available to certain industries. If anyone wants to see our final points tally across the evaluation categories, it’s all publicly visible on the B-Lab website.
Were you audited by a Taiwanese group or remotely by a group in the USA? Because of COVID, we were audited remotely. I was told that they normally do site visits.
How often do you need to recertify? Companies need to recertify every three years.
With only 28 B Corporations in Taiwan, do you think it is harder to become a B-Corp in Taiwan than in the USA or elsewhere?
I can’t say this definitively, but since the B-Lab certification organization originates from the USA, there is definitely an advantage to doing it in English. The B-Lab offices in each country offer services in that country’s native language in order to help facilitate the process. Since we are native English speakers, we were able to navigate this process by ourselves, whereas other Taiwanese companies will likely need to lean heavily on the local community and the local B-Lab office.
Ooh Cha Cha’s Technology Building location
Have you seen benefits since becoming a B corp? What are those benefits?
The local B-Lab office is very active in helping to find interesting and unique opportunities for B Corp companies, and they work tirelessly to help the general public understand what this certification means. As more people understand it, consumers also begin to understand the work and mission behind Ooh Cha Cha more deeply. Social entrepreneurs face a unique set of pressures and problems: Having a community to turn to for support is priceless.
We’ve had people find out about our company through the B- Corp directory and reach out to do projects or collaborations. The government in Taiwan works with the local BLab to offer financial support to the certified B Corps here.
How can other companies get started on the path of B-Corp certification?
Use the free assessment tool provided by B-Lab, the B-Corp certification body, in order to get started learning how ready your company already is.
If the person in your organization who will be responsible doesn’t have a great grasp of English, or is more comfortable in Mandarin, they might wish to connect with the local B-Lab office in Taipei.
In her downtime, you can often find Mai working on one of many socially impactful initiatives at a table in one of the Ooh Cha Cha locations. If you’re interested to hear more about Mai’s cooking (and other) adventures, check out her recent interviews on the Apex Language podcast and the Grrl Power podcast.