Hamilton's REfficient is the first local company to gain a B Corp certification for being a socially and environmentally conscious business.

"It distinguishes between companies who say they are doing something good as opposed to actually doing good," said Stephanie McLarty, CEO of REfficient, an online business-to-business marketplace that resells un- or under-used telecom equipment. "It shows you can be a good business and good for the environment."

'In the U.S., people seek this [certification] out. It will spread in Canada.' —Stephanie McLarty, REfficient

B Corp certification is to a business what a Fair Trade or Organic certification is to coffee or other food products. The certification by U.S.-based non-profit B Labs is only for companies that attain a high score on an evaluation of their business model, treatment of employees, governance and their environmental impact.

For McLarty, going for a B Corp certification was a natural fit — she built her company on many of the same principles, she said.

B Labs has offered only 690 certifications to businesses worldwide, putting REfficient in an exclusive club. About 60 of those businesses are in Canada, with the bulk in the U.S. where the certification is coveted.

"In the U.S., people seek this [certification] out," said McLarty, who was connected with B Labs via the Toronto-based Mars Centre for Impact Investing. "It will spread in Canada."

McLarty said now that the company is certified, its also legally bound to maintain a high standard of social and environmental practices. She is confident that the work she put into REfficient to gain the certification will pay off.

"One of the biggest advantages is that there are impact investors who want to invest in these companies," she said. "It opens us up to those investment opportunities."