B Corp Marketing Agency vs. Sustainability Marketing Agency

Marketing is an essential investment for any business aiming to grow and succeed. However, as the world gets smarter on sustainability and ethical practices, new types of marketing agencies are popping-up. 

Among these, sustainability marketing agencies and B Corp marketing agencies are two types at the vanguard of a more purposeful marketing movement. While they may appear similar, they’re more distinct than they might seem on first inspection. In this post, we’ll rummage through the distinctions between these two types of agencies, helping to sharpen their unique features into view.

What is B Corp Certification?

Before dissecting the differences, it’s crucial to understand what a B Corp certification is all about. B Corp is a certification granted by the nonprofit B Lab to companies meeting exceptional standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Businesses that achieve this certification are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.

B Corp certification is rigorous, requiring companies to complete the B Impact Assessment—a comprehensive evaluation of a company’s impact on all its stakeholders. Once certified, companies must continue to meet B Lab’s standards and recertify every three years. This certification is a mark of trust that strengthens a company’s commitment to ethical practices. Note that it’s often misstated that B Corp is short for Benefit Corporation but the two titles are in fact quite different and not interchangeable.

We’ve written a lot more about what B Corp certification is in this other blog post – including a breakdown of the advantages and also the disadvantages. Here’s a quick graphic summary.

B Corp criticisms and benefits infographic
Click for full version

Nevertheless, you must bear in mind that certification is evolving – and improving – all the time. Here’s a summary of some of the most recent updates.

B Corp Marketing Agencies: Champions of Ethical Standards

B Corp marketing agencies are those that have, guess what, achieved B Corp certification. These agencies are committed to maintaining high ethical standards and integrating sustainability into their business models. Yet, it’s important to note that while these agencies operate sustainably, their client base is not restricted to sustainable businesses alone.

A B Corp marketing agency might work with all sorts of clients, including those in industries that are not traditionally associated with sustainability. In fact, there’s a lot of controversy in the marketing sphere right now because some B Corp certified agencies are actively working with fossil fuel clients.

So, all considered, the core value of these agencies lies in their commitment to ethical practices, transparency, and accountability in their operations. Their certification communicates that they operate in a manner that is socially and environmentally responsible but it does not dictate that their clients must follow the lead.

Sustainability Marketing Agencies: Exclusively Dedicated to Sustainability

In contrast, sustainability marketing agencies are more dedicated to promoting sustainability. These agencies typically work exclusively with clients who are committed to sustainable practices – or on sustainability-focused projects. Their primary goal is to fuel the success of businesses that are working towards a more sustainable future.

Some sustainability marketing agencies may hold B Corp certification but this isn’t an obligation to fit the description. Generally speaking, they hold varied credentials and certifications that also validate their commitment to sustainability. The key distinction is that their operations and client selection are guided by a strict fit to sustainability principles.

For instance, in Akepa’s case we are ClimatePartner certified among other credentials that we hold.

Interested in knowing more about actual agencies? You can also read our curation of the planet’s best sustainability marketing agencies.

Difference 1: Credentials and Certifications: Mixed vs. Specific

Now let’s clarify a couple of the key differences so far.

A key subtlety between B Corp marketing agencies and sustainability marketing agencies lies in the certifications backing them up. B Corp marketing agencies have a single, comprehensive certification that attests to their overall ethical operations. This certification covers a comprehensive array of social and environmental factors, ensuring that the agency operates responsibly in all aspects of its business.

On the other hand, sustainability marketing agencies may have a variety of certifications that pertain to the purposes they hold most important (e.g. environmental sustainability). These agencies might possess a mix ‘n’ match of certifications that collectively demonstrate their commitments. For instance, they could be certified carbon-neutral, have fair trade certifications, or adhere to specific environmental standards like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

These certifications may not be as rigorous as B Corp certification alone. But taken together, they can be just as relevant and sometimes more pertinent. B Corp isn’t the be all and end all of sustainability, it should be said.

Interested in learning more about the spectrum of sustainability certifications? You can also read this post on the alternatives to B Corp certification – and this ‘ultimate guide’ to sustainability certifications.

Difference 2: Client Focus: Broad vs. Niche

The client focus of these agencies further highlights their differences. B Corp marketing agencies can have a broader client base and are not limited to working with sustainable businesses. They might serve clients from various industries, providing them with marketing services that are backed by ethical and responsible practices. The certification ascertains that the agency itself operates sustainably but does not mandate the sustainability of its clients.

In contrast, sustainability marketing agencies have a niche focus. They exclusively partner with clients who prioritize sustainability and environmental responsibility. These agencies are dedicated to promoting businesses that are making a positive impact on the planet, and their client selection reflects this commitment. Their marketing strategies are tailored to highlight the sustainable practices and values of their clients, reinforcing their dedication to a greener future. The niche focus may also mean a more masterful skill with promoting sustainability and avoiding pitfalls like greenwashing.

The intersection: B Corp sustainability marketing agencies

So far in this post, we’ve taken the two categories to be distinct – in order to demonstrate an important delineation in the developing market. That which sets apart a straightforward agency with a B Corp certification, from a sustainability marketing agency that isn’t B Corp certified.

Nevertheless, as we touched on earlier, it’s possible for an agency to be both things at the same time. There are examples of sustainability marketing agencies who’ve also attained B Corp status.

These marketing agencies focus on sustainable clients, while also backing up their operations with the B Corp certification. It’s a mix that’s becoming more common and  persuasive. With that in mind it’s important to remember that while we’re explaining the differences – it doesn’t always have to be one thing or the other.

B Corp Marketing Agency vs Sustainable Marketing Agency

Conclusion: Different Paths to Ethical Marketing

To be clear, while both B Corp marketing agencies and sustainability marketing agencies operate with a commitment to ethical practices, their focus and operations differ a tad. B Corp marketing agencies are upheld for their high standards of social and environmental performance but they are not exclusive to sustainable clients. Sustainability marketing agencies, on the other hand, are exclusively dedicated to promoting sustainability and work solely with clients who share this commitment.

Understanding these differences can help businesses (like yours?) choose the exact breed of marketing agency that aligns with their values and goals. Whether seeking broad ethical practices or a dedicated focus on sustainability, there is a marketing agency out there to meet every need.

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Akepa | Digital marketing agency for sustainable brands

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