In April, we celebrated a milestone achievement for our consultancy. Surrounded by many of Bristol’s leading advocates for ‘business as a force for good’, we received our B Corp block – a small sculpture crafted from sustainable wood that symbolises our entry into the global B Corporation movement.
Put simply, B Corp is to business what Fair Trade is to coffee. It’s proof that your firm has passed rigorous tests of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency, and shown that your core business model makes a positive impact on people and planet.
Forward-thinking brands like Ella’s Kitchen, Ben & Jerry’s, Neighbourly, Pukka and JoJo Maman Bébé have all become B Corps in recent years. Today, there are over 2,200 B Corps operating in over 50 countries and 30 industries worldwide.
The benefits of B
We joined B Corp because we see an unprecedented opportunity for a generation of authentic, motivated leaders to ‘do well by doing good’. We call this ‘purposeful advantage’: finding the sweet spot between what you’re good at, what your customers need and how you can make a difference.
Our job at The House is to help leaders and businesses make that purposeful advantage a reality – and there are three main reasons why we felt that becoming a B Corp would help us do that.
#1 B Corp is all about putting positive impact at the core of your business
We believe that the successful businesses of the future will be those that go beyond CSR and put purpose beyond profit at the heart of their core strategy, products and services.
B Corp describes this as an “impact business model”. This helped us understand right away that the movement was about much more than simply reducing harmful impact, for example, through ethical buying or community initiatives (as important as those are). B Corp is about proactively creating positive impact using the power of business, something that we were already 100% behind.
#2 B Corp is a movement, not just a kitemark
Meeting other B Corps convinced us that it’s far more than a kitemark. The B Corp community is fast becoming a place for businesses of different sizes and sectors to come together around new opportunities and issues, such as the UN Global Goals.
We’ve been struck again and again by the lack of ego at the B Corp events we’ve attended. Even in rooms full of passionate, self-driven entrepreneurs who are not short of opinions, there’s a real willingness to support each other and collaborate for positive change.
Trust is hard to build in business, but when we sit down with a fellow B Corp to talk about a potential project or collaboration, we immediately feel comfortable that we are on the same page in terms of our values.
#3 B Corp is rigorous and pushes you to continually improve
We spend a lot of our time helping other companies to embed their purpose and culture in order to make sure that it’s something they can live every day, at every level and in every decision. Going through the B Corp assessment process helped us look at our own backyard with fresh eyes, nudging us to become more conscious about how and why we do what we do.
Most importantly, it’s a tool that propels you further along the road from intention and aspiration to concrete action and living your purpose.
When you apply to become a B Corp, you’re given a score out of 200. Anything above 80 allows you to qualify and join the community (we scored 82). This means that even after you have become a B Corp, your work is not done. There is still a huge amount of potential headroom to improve your impact and be recognised for it.
Successfully applying to become a B Corp is no walk in the park. As a small consultancy, it took us roughly four months to complete the process. If you are a larger company with a retail presence and a far-reaching supply chain, it may well take longer. There are a few ways to make the process more comfortable, however.
Find an internal champion to push it forward…
The B Corp assessment process will touch every part of your business, so it’s important to have either a single person or a small team pushing it forward. Our head of communications acted as our internal champion, taking a 360-degree view of the process, liaising with the B Corp UK team and sourcing information from the right places and people.
Another option is to engage a certified B Leader. These are consultants certified by B Corp UK to take you on through the assessment journey. If you’re a larger organisation, you may consider inviting one of your employees to go through B Corp UK’s B Leader training.
…. but clear time in everyone’s diaries
Don’t kid yourself that you can leave all of the work to your internal champion, however. Everyone from HR to building maintenance will have a vital role to play in the process.
Look at this as a positive. If your company becomes a B Corp and most of your employees don’t even realise it, then you’re not getting the full value of the experience. The assessment process is an opportunity to engage all of your employees in thinking about how your business can build a more dynamic, successful and meaningful future.
Use it as an opportunity to think big
We went on something of an emotional journey with the B Corp assessment process. At first, we felt a little defensive: we’ve been working to support the purposeful business agenda for 10 years, so it chafed to be told that we might be coming up short in certain areas.
As the process went on, however, it became clearer and clearer that this was an opportunity for us to push ourselves, think differently and scale our impact.
Like all B Corps, we will have to recertify every two years. We have widened our team of internal champions and are determined to increase our score by increasing our impact. Our team have a clear goal to work towards and a common language for problem solving. That’s the power of purpose and the power of B Corp.