Amsterdam, November 3, 2023 – Ten years ago, B Lab Europe, the European branch of the nonprofit organization behind the B Corp movement, was founded to plant the seeds for an impact-driven business landscape in Europe. Today, with over 7,600 businesses certified as B Corps worldwide and over 3,200 in Europe (including the UK), the movement is gaining momentum and harnessing its strength in numbers to reach its shared vision: a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system for all. To turn this vision into reality for the European continent, B Lab Europe is working with local partners in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Nordics, Spain, and Switzerland. These teams on the ground are working towards a better economy by:
To ensure progress toward B Lab’s shared vision and lay out a strategic path for the next year, B Lab Europe and local partners meet annually. This year, in 2023, the European Network Retreat gathered 100 B Lab members in the beautiful French countryside, just outside of Lyon, for four days of strategic planning, alignment, and thought-provoking discussion. However, more than just a strategic meeting, it was a testament to the power of human connection, collaboration, and resilience in the face of daunting global challenges. The coming together of 100 like-minded individuals showcased the heart and soul of an organization dedicated to rewriting the rules of business for a better world.
Members of B Lab Europe and its local partners at the 2023 European Network Retreat
Embracing slow and sustainable traveling, our teams from different corners of Europe arrived at the retreat by train, bus, bike, and even kayak. For some of our members, this was the first time to meet their European colleagues in person. An especially warm welcome was given to the newly formed teams of B Lab Italy and B Lab Ireland who will lead the B Corp movement in their respective countries.
When defining a strategic path for the future, it is crucial to take a moment and reflect on what brought B Lab and the B Corp movement to where it is today. Behind us lies a decade full of impact, courageous pioneers, and a growing movement. Ahead, lies the opportunity to change the entire economic system for the better.
Nille Skalts, Executive Director of B Lab Nordics shared her reflections on the previous decade: “I have seen the B Corp movement in Europe evolve from the beginning. We were a bunch of idealistic pioneers, in a time, where we stood alone with the conviction that business should help people, society and the planet flourish. The entrepreneurial genesis of the movement and the extensive energy of voluntarism were primordial for the ability to mobilize followship from a broad range of courageous business leaders, all determined to change the role of business in society. The limited funds and resources led us to be creative and engage with other actors equally determined. The last 10 years have brought exponential growth in the number of Certified B Corporations across Europe, extended the B Corp community to larger companies and even multinationals, several countries have passed benefit corporation legislation, the Beauty Coalition has emerged, the Interdependence Coalition massively impacted the EU legislation, and we are strong in numbers and competences. That is amazing, as it is proof of concept, proof that the first prototypes of ‘business as a force for good’ have served as trailblazers for others to follow, that our tools and methods are attractive, and that our vision of an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economic system resonates across the continent.”
During the retreat, B Lab Europe presented its three-year strategy for 2024 and beyond which represents a roadmap for our organization to propel the European economy inevitably towards impact. The goal: changing the behavior of business, then the culture of business, and ultimately the systems governing business. Workshops, panel talks, and breakout sessions helped refine this roadmap and align teams. Over the course of four days, all participants from across Europe had the chance to share thoughts, ask questions, and engage in in-depth discussions about the collective path forward.
Besides strategic alignment, team bonding and exchange were equally important to the retreat’s success. Speaking different languages and having diverse cultural backgrounds, the 100 retreat participants bonded over their shared passion for people and the planet as well as the precious time spent together during the retreat.
Joint yoga sessions, meditations, and silent walks – kindly facilitated by volunteering team members – offered a moment of stillness in between workshops. The creatives among us decompressed from the intensive and complex discussion during those sessions dedicated to music, arts, and crafts. Team sports, runs, and wild swimming left us re-energized for our shared dinners that were filled with laughter and meaningful conversations.
Irene Rits, Senior Communications Coordinator for B Lab Benelux, who recently joined B Lab Benelux, reflected on her days at the retreat: “I really enjoyed the optional workshops, as it gave us an opportunity to gain more insight into the topics that are closest to our interests. I chose to attend the workshop on AI and regeneration, which were both very beneficial to integrate into my daily work. I enjoyed the invigorating discussions that were held amongst colleagues, which brought new perspectives to light and encouraged us to be open and as engaged as possible. In our free time, a small group of colleagues and I took a silent walk in nature to reflect on our learnings of the day. It was great to let thoughts settle and allow for a meditative moment.”
Chloe Healy, Community Coordinator for B Lab Ireland, described a memorable moment during the retreat: “a fun and unique quiz night activity that allowed colleagues to connect in a lighthearted yet meaningful way. It exemplified the strong sense of camaraderie that exists within the B Lab network.”
As the retreat came to a close, participants looked to the future with enthusiasm.
James McManus, Managing Director of B Lab Ireland shared, “The next 10 years are pivotal for not only B Lab but all people and the planet. The dream is the benefits of our standards and governance model will transcend our current echo chamber and truly penetrate mainstream capitalistic business thinking. It’s a huge challenge but I have no doubt that B Lab and the amazing B Corps in our community can rise to the challenge and be an example of what is possible.”
Andrew Green, Executive Director of B Lab Germany, expressed his excitement and commitment to leading the B Corp movement in Germany for the next decade. “I’m inspired by B Lab’s mission of creating an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system for all because I actually believe it’s possible to achieve. The next decade for B Lab, and reshaping our economy, is make or break. It’s going to be uncomfortable at times, but so is anything that’s worthwhile achieving. But that doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun. So I’m looking forward to a decade of new partnerships, surprising collaborations, groundbreaking political change, expanding our team to work in new sustainable ways, and swelling the B Corp community into an unstoppable force for good.”
The 2023 European Network Retreat marked a significant milestone in the progress toward B Lab’s shared vision of a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system for all. It brought together passionate individuals from different countries and showcased the buzzing heart and soul of an organization dedicated to rewriting the rules of business for a better world.
As B Lab and the B Corp movement in Europe celebrate its first decade, we stand on the precipice of a new era, where positive change is not just a goal but a shared commitment. The retreat exemplified the strength of the B Corp movement and our collective power to transform the economic system. Thank you to all colleagues and participants of the European Network Retreat for coming together in the spirit of interdependence and for your ongoing, committed work towards change.
Finally, the retreat was made even more special thanks to the generous contribution of French B Corps. Maison Le Breton, Chateau Maris, Hecht Bannier, Maison Mirabeau, Omie, and Archibald Distillerie, sponsored beverages allowed us to shine a spotlight on the French B Corp community and businesses that are grounded in sustainability, regenerative agriculture, and a commitment to the environment. Additional goodies from 900.care and Ecotone France, and L’Occitane, which exemplify the B Corp principles, contributed to the retreat’s wonderful atmosphere. Thank you!