What does the B Corp Certification mean for retailers?

B Corp Certification

Sustainable, design-led underwear brand, Nudea has announced its certification as a B Corporation (or B Corp), joining a growing group of companies reinventing business by pursuing purpose as well as profit. Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with Nudea’s CEO and Founder, Priya Downes, about what the B Corp certification is and what it means for those in the retail industry.

Meet Nudea

Nudea is proud to be one of only three UK underwear brands to have met the rigorous social and environmental standards set by B Lab. Nudea is also taking the lead globally as one of the few brands providing technical bras and briefs to have achieved such status.

What is the B Corporation certification?

B Corp certification is designed to understand the ways that businesses work and highlight those that are committed to using their businesses as a force for good, benefiting people, communities and the planet.

What does the B Corp certification look at?

The B Corp certification addresses the entirety of a business’ operations and covers five key impact areas of Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers. The certification process is rigorous, with applicants required to reach a benchmark score of over 80 while providing evidence of socially and environmentally responsible practices relating to energy supplies, waste and water use, worker compensation, diversity and corporate transparency. To complete the certification, the company will legally embed their commitment to purpose beyond profit in their company articles.

Priya Downes, Nudea’s CEO and Founder, said: “We’re delighted to share this fantastic announcement of Nudea’s B Corp certification and to further our ‘CareMore’ commitment with an exemplary B Impact Score of 103*. B Corp is one of the most demanding certifications that evaluates brands’ social and environmental impact, with over 300 questions on governance, workers, communities and impact on the environment. It is the result of a collective work at Nudea that started in April 2021 and through 10 months of rigorous auditing and legals, we are proud to be part of the B Corp community.”

Priya Downes at Nudea shares her thoughts

We asked Priya Downes from Nudea for her thoughts on the B Corp certification and much more. Here’s what she had to say:

1. How important is it to consider social and environmental impact in retail?

People and our planet have gone through some big changes over the past few years, particularly with the pandemic and global policy changes made on climate change. It’s never been more important to care about all our individual actions and the planet we will leave behind for our future generations. Like businesses, individuals should evaluate their own impact continuously. 

The retail industry has created an unsustainable existence, one where it’s ok to follow trends and refresh your wardrobe regularly with new purchases, coupled with the means to access goods cheaply. This has led to a generation of shoppers who are used to a throwaway, single-use culture. We all need to reset, unlearn and relearn how to exist more sustainably. The fashion industry in particular has a huge part to play, almost every country in the world has a garment industry, there is no other industry that comes close to this breadth of impact, on people and the environment.

A small analogy I tell my own children is to imagine if everything we threw away ended up in our own garden, it would make you think twice about what you bought, what you consumed and what you threw away because you would need to live with it right in front of you. Landfills are out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind because ultimately it’s someone else’s garden so we should all care. 

Nudea products - B Corp Certification

2. Tell us more about Nudea’s B Corp certification and what it means to you.

We’re delighted about Nudea’s B Corp certification and to further our ‘CareMore’ commitment with an exemplary B Impact Score of 103. B Corp is one of the most demanding certifications that evaluates brands’ social and environmental impact, with over 300 questions on governance, workers, communities and impact on the environment. It is the result of a collective work at Nudea that started in April 2021 and through 10 months of rigorous auditing and legals, we are proud to be part of the B Corp community.

This certification offers Nudea a powerful framework to accelerate our ambitions to be a leader in this category. It also reinforces our commitment to improve and challenge ourselves to continuously do better, using our business as a force for good for the benefit of all people, communities, and the planet. 

3. Tell us more about your approaches to sustainable and ethical retail.

Manufacturing is a huge part of our carbon footprint and right from the outset, we’ve focused on better sourcing, for example recycled fabrics emit four times less carbon than virgin fabrics which is one of the main reasons why we have a relatively small carbon footprint. We are continuing to source our fabrics and componentry from recycled or naturally occurring sources within Europe, which doesn’t require any air transport. Whilst not ‘carbon perfect’, we believe that every step we take and change we make in our sustainability journey adds up to a greater overall impact.

Ahead of B Corp we audited our carbon footprint and this then naturally rolled into B Corp’s vigorous evaluation on this area.

On the other areas it’s equally comprehensive as it should be. There’s little point in being Carbon Zero or making things in environmentally friendly ways when little thought is given to people that make them or work for you.

As a small company still drafting HR policies, we are in a great position to adopt best practices from the start, BCorp has given us a best-in class boiler plate to start with. We sign up to good governance across the business, so we start on the right foot. Even our legal shareholder agreements are set up for triple bottom line commitments from our shareholders and manufacturers.

4. What have been your greatest challenges when introducing environmentally responsible practices and how have you overcome these?

We tackled the hardest part first – manufacturing and product. This is a challenge, particularly for bras which have over 20 components, sourcing responsibly is a big challenge and we certainly have a lot more work to do to source and deliver each component more responsibly. We started with fabrics as this is the least reusable part of the bra once worn (think about how your bra stretches or how often you wear your briefs, it’s not possible to donate used underwear the same way as other clothes) so finding better fabrics goes a long way. 

Consumer education about buying less and caring more. We have all experienced online purchasing in a big way over the pandemic, this leads to more packaging, lorries on the road and then returns. We invest in upfront fitting so customers can find their best fit upfront, so they aren’t buying multiple sizes and returning at a high rate. We also go to lengths to educate our customers on investing in quality and how to care for the product, providing a wash bag with every purchase and creating a care kit to prolong the life of your bra. 

Finally convincing our shareholders that a triple bottom line approach is not always easy, sometimes you are considering higher cost prices and new expensive technology that is still in the beta phase. Encouraging people to buy less and Care More, which goes against the grain of building volume sales. We are lucky that we have long term value building shareholders who understand that the prices that retailers historically paid were wrong and in 2 years time there will be penalties for not doing things more sustainably – so in the long term it’s the right thing to do for the business.

5. What are customers’ reactions to Nudea’s ongoing efforts in terms of social and environmental impact?

Our customers almost expect it as a given now that we pursue sustainable practices. I think any new brand that isn’t doing this is almost the anomaly. It’s likely that we’re ahead of the market in many ways and we will continue to do better each year. Examples of more product details that prolong longevity such as 4 hook and eye instead of 3 and a standard wash bag that comes with every purchase are the little touches that stand us apart. 

Sadly there is a lot of greenwashing, consumers are bombarded with green messages and it’s hard for them to know what’s really making a difference so the industry is actually making people more sceptical and at worse numb to it. We all need to be honest about what we do and what we don’t do, this is the only way we help consumers make the right decision.

This is another reason B Corp certification is great to have achieved, as it’s recognised by consumers and instantly understood (most of the time).

6. What would be your top tips for any brand looking to try crowdfunding?

Whilst looking for professional investors is generally like looking for a needle in a haystack, especially in today’s unpredictable retail environment following the pandemic, crowdfunding also comes with challenges. It’s therefore important to plan for success, not reaching your target is very public and this can be negative for future growth and further raises. 

  1. Decide whether you want to raise for equity or product. For brands selling B2C and are still in the conceptual stage, raising for product is a great way to get your business off the ground. 
  2. Prepare a strong pitch – video, deck and market summary. If professional investors skim your deck in 5 mins before making a decision, then your average retail customer on crowdcube needs a strong sell in even fewer minutes. Only 28% of investors get past your pitch summary and video and most people lose interest after 2 minutes. You need to sell to them quickly. Preparing a pitch takes time and rallying of your team, so you will need to devote time to it.
  3. Growth hack – most of the hard work happens behind the scenes, before you go live make sure you rally support from your customers, stakeholders, friends, professional networks and social groups. You need to create the FOMO and buzz that won’t magically happen when you go live. 
  4. Lastly, don’t just focus on the amounts received, part of crowdfunding is about building future loyalists and ambassadors, I would argue for a brand 100 x £10 investments can be more valuable than 1 x £1000 commitment. Focus on depth and breadth. 

7. Tell us more about Nudea’s future plans.

We’ve just completed a hugely successful crowdfund where we achieved 188% over the initial funding target and gained 671 new investors which has far exceeded any of my expectations. With fresh funding in place, I have a busy couple of years ahead scaling my startup through the post-pandemic era. It’s never been more unpredictable to be in retail but also, it’s very exciting to see how consumer behaviour will shift over the next few years in the backdrop of some big global changes. It’s a challenge I’m excited to jump into! 

Our online store www.nudea.com is our number one sales channel but as we scale we are branching out to more retailers. We now sell on JohnLewis.com and are also stocked in physical boutiques including The Pantry in London and Frillies, a boutique in Sheffield. As we emerge from the pandemic, we expect online will remain a strong sales driver for us, however we are continually thinking about innovative ways to reach our customers including physical stores and pop-ups. 

About Nudea

Nudea launched in 2019 and is a digital-first business disrupting the bra shopping experience from measurement to try on.  80% of women wear the wrong bra size because 75% haven’t been fitted in over three years. This is why Nudea has created its own custom fitting tools including the trademarked Fit Tape designed for accurate self-measurement at home. Nudea has already supported over 15,000 women to size up at home throughout lockdown and is reshaping underwear shopping for good.

Nudea founder, Priya Downes, was uninspired by the uncomfortable and old-fashioned bras that she found in her underwear drawer, so she decided to envision her own brand that was built around the modern woman and her lifestyle. With no overhyped technology, no simplifying design and no shortcuts, Nudea brings together the best of modern fabric and production techniques together with sustainability practices to engineer better underwear.

Nudea’s commitment to sustainability includes the carbon positive brand’s easy-to-use fitting tools to deliver on fit for conscious, responsible shopping, premium fabrics crafted from recycled yarns, a thoughtfully designed selection of styles made in partnership with responsible suppliers who pay fair living wages, produced in a GOTS and SLCP fully-certified factories and all delivered in recycled and recyclable packaging. 

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