The letter, supported by industry activist group Clean Creatives, also calls for B Lab to revise its criteria so B Corp agencies and PR firms can only receive certification if they are working with fossil fuel companies that “are not engaged in specific prohibited practices regarding extraction, lobbying, and financial incentives; have successfully transitioned their energy portfolio to be at least 50% carbon free; and have committed to make progress towards transitioning to a fully carbon-free portfolio within specified timeframes.”
That is the criteria for which fossil fuel companies themselves must adhere in order to be eligible for B Corp certification. The letter calls for the same to be applied to parent companies of B Corp status agencies.
These agencies want to see immediate action from B Lab, which had told Ad Age previously that it is reviewing Havas’ relationship with Shell as part of B Lab’s Public Complaint Process, which typically ends within 90 days of a complaint being filed. B Lab is also in the process of updating its B Impact Assessments criteria for 2025.
A B Lab spokesperson acknowledged the complaints it has received regarding Havas, MSQ and Tam-Tam\TBWA, noting that Havas is already under initial review that will likely wrap up in December, which is "the first stage of our Complaints Process. We will also conduct an initial review of MSQ and Tam-Tam\TBWA. We consider all complaints we receive as part of our review process." The spokesperson encouraged "folks with credible knowledge of a B Corp’s alleged misconduct or misrepresentation to file a complaint via this process.""To be clear, the initial review phase of our process is our preliminary research phase to understand whether a formal investigation is warranted. Initial reviews in our Complaint Process typically conclude within 90 days from the date our team received information about a complaint. This time frame allows us to review all the evidence available publicly as well as evidence shared directly with our team, liaise with the company, and request internal supporting documentation.We want to stress that we’re committed to following due process, which means that we’re not always able to make a quick decision when many would like us to. We ask for your patience during this time, and hope you can respect the established procedures we have in place."
As Ad Age reported in June, the current B Corp certification assessment allows companies to receive high scores in certain areas and low scores in others while still gaining certification. Changes to its 2024 criteria will work to eliminate those loopholes by requiring companies to show demonstrable progress in 10 impact areas including fighting climate change and taking action on issues related to paying a living wage.
Duncan Meisel, executive director of Clean Creatives, said his group is calling for the revised criteria for 2025 to prevent all agencies and PR firms working with fossil fuel companies from achieving certification.
They want B Lab to do something “in the short-term” though to address the situation with Havas and other certified shops that continue to work with fossil fuel companies, Meisel said. “The purpose of the complaint is to make sure that there is something that B Lab does between now and potentially up to 2025 when those new rules are in effect that addresses this issue, which is affecting people's interest and engagement with B Lab.”
The other B Corp certified agencies “will become more unbearable” if B Lab does not act immediately to take away certification from Havas’ four subsidiaries, as well as MSQ and Tam-Tam\TBWA, said Chris Norman, CEO and founder of certified purpose-driven strategy and creative shop Good.
“We believe and sign up to [B Corp as] a community,” Norman said. “They need to respond to the community. I don't know exactly what's going to happen going further down but that's the position we have at the moment.”
Read the full letter below: