In May 2021, Brewer Science proudly announced it was the first company in the semiconductor industry to become a Certified B Corporation™. Being a trailblazer to achieve the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability—we overcame many challenges along the journey to becoming a B Corp™. Brewer Science prides itself in providing specialized solutions to the specific problems their customers seek to solve with the technology the company manufactures. It was illustrated through the B Corp process that this attribute extends past the manufacturing side of the company and into every facet of the organization as we came together to achieve the B Corp certification.
What is a Certified B Corporation?
Certified B Corporations are for-profit companies that use the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. There are over 4,000 B Corps in 150 industries and 74 countries around the world. B Corps are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
Benefit corporations and Certified B Corporations are often confused. The B Corp Certification is a third-party certification administered by the non-profit B Lab™, based in part on a company’s verified performance on the B Impact Assessment. The benefit corporation is a legal structure for a business, like an LLC or a sole proprietorship. Benefit corporations are legally obligated to pursue positive stakeholder impact alongside profit. Some companies are both Certified B Corporations and benefit corporations, and the benefit corporation structure fulfills the legal accountability requirement of B Corp Certification. Missouri is one of the four US states that currently does not offer a benefit corporation business structure, which is one of the reasons Brewer Science pursued becoming a Certified B Corporation.
When did Brewer Science start its B Corp journey?
Brewer Science was founded with a B Corp mentality. In 1981, Dr. Terry Brewer started the company with the ambition of not only revolutionizing microelectronics manufacturing with his invention of anti-reflective coatings but also creating a company that values people and sustainable business practices. By creating opportunities for employees that span from hiring to retirement, Brewer Science’s focus on people at the core of the company makes it unique and competitive in the semiconductor industry.
In 2006, Brewer Science started externally reporting environmental, safety, and health performance every year through its annual Corporate Sustainability Report in an effort to be transparent with customers, suppliers, and employees.
In 2013, Brewer Science started looking for third-party certifications to accredit the efforts and commitment that was being placed on sustainability and inclusion. In 2016, Brewer Science became GreenCircle Certified Zero Waste to Landfill. This is an annual certification that Brewer Science has been achieving every year since then and encourages other companies to pursue the certification by publishing “How to” videos on the process.
In 2017, Brewer Science started pursuing the journey to becoming a Certified B Corporation, realizing the values upheld by the certification aligned with the values the company strives to embody. Typically, a company can complete the initial certification process within the same year, approximately six to nine months. However, it took Brewer Science a total of 14 months due to a recent significant increase in applications to B Lab.
Since Brewer Science was the first company in the semiconductor industry to apply to become a Certified B Corporation, B Lab had additional questions outside the traditional application in order to better understand what the company does and how it fits into the certification.
“Brewer Science has been externally reporting environmental, safety, and health performance every year since 2006. Earning the prestigious B Corp Certification recognizes the company’s and stakeholders’ efforts in not only being a world-class manufacturer but by having ethics and social responsibility in mind as we do it,” states Dr. Terry Brewer, CEO, and Founder of Brewer Science. “As a Certified B Corporation, we have data and statistics ensuring we are ‘walking the talk’ and achieving the highest standards of social responsibility.”
What challenges did Brewer Science face to become B Corp?
Every company faces unique challenges when pursuing B Corp certification. For Brewer Science, being the pioneer of the semiconductor industry to achieve B Corp brought about its own set of challenges. The B Impact Assessment requires benchmarking to other companies within the industry in areas of social concern, such as sustainability, inclusion, and diversity. Benchmarking was nearly impossible for Brewer Science since the company is highly competitive in being an innovator in these areas, and one of the few companies in the industry that places importance on them. Of the few companies who do emphasize social responsibility and were willing to share information, they were not comparable in size or business area and didn’t provide an appropriate comparison. Brewer Science had to overcome this challenge by thinking outside the box and collaborating with B Lab, understanding that we are the very first company in the semiconductor industry to strive for such certification. However, Brewer Science will provide a benchmark for itself in future certifications, as well as other companies who seek to achieve B Corp certification.
The highly specialized nature of the industry provided another challenge for Brewer Science. The B Impact Assessment looks for companies who support minority-owned, women owned or underprivileged businesses. However, Brewer Science utilizes a highly specialized supply chain, where there might be only one or two suppliers available for a certain material or product, and neither one is minority nor women-owned.
The B Corp certification process was insightful to business processes and held the company to very high standards. There are questions directly related to causes that the B Corp recognizes, such as making an impact on the local community. Brewer Science shared a specific instance regarding the impact area of local banking, or locally-owned banks. The headquarters of the bank that Brewer Science uses is local, but per B Lab’s standards, it was just a local branch of a larger, corporate bank and thus didn’t qualify to meet the criteria of banking locally. The thoroughness and seriousness that B Lab takes with the questionnaire are why the certification is held to such high standards.
“It’s a very extensive, but very rewarding process,” states Karen Brown, Project Manager at Brewer Science, also known as the ‘B Keeper’ by B Lab since she led the certification process within the company. “B Lab is very thorough with the process. They are detailed with what they mean and what the questions stand for. They are firm with their requests, which ensures that the certification is taken seriously.”
Brewer Science is excited to share its journey of becoming a Certified B Corporation in hopes it inspires other industry leaders to apply for certification. For more information about Certified B Corporations, and to get started on your company’s application, visit the Certified B Corporation website.