At a Bristol Creative Industries virtual event recently, following an excellent Andy Hawkins presentation, Nick Dean and I shared our positive experiences of the B Corp process & why we think any organisation should give it serious consideration.
I’ve been asked a few more questions about the “business case” for B Corp following the event, so thought I’d cobble my thoughts together…
I’ve been watching the growth of UK B Corps with interest over the last few years (recently passing 700). In part this is driven by the awareness of well-known B Corps such as Tony’s Chocolonely, Innocent Drinks, Patagonia and Brewdog. They are all very publicly trying to limit their environmental & social impact.
B Corps are companies who’ve been…
“…verified to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability”
So although their Social and Environmental impact is an important part of this, the other elements of being a B Corp are not discussed as much: Transparency & Accountability.
After setting up as an independent consultant, I decided to go through the certification process myself recently (more on that hopefully soon!). Initially, purely as a learning exercise, but while going through it I realised that it’s the combination of all four elements that make the B Corp verification such a fantastic measure of running a good business, not just a business trying to do good.
I also very quickly realised that there would never be a better time to submit my own assessment. If not now, when?
The same goes for you. If you haven’t already, I think someone in your business should take a look through the B Corp Impact Assessment tool ASAP. The only cost is time. Even if you don’t submit your assessment, I guarantee you’ll learn something.
To help convince you, here are 9 valuable lessons I’ve learnt from going through the impact assessment…
Robust governance = Smoother procurement discussions. B Lab (the team behind the B Corp certification) want you to demonstrate your commitment to a whole host of better business practices, not just by ticking a box, but by proving you have the relevant process / policy / mechanism in place. Of course, many well run organisations will have these already. But this acts as a brilliant sense check that you have the right policies, for the right reasons. At the same time, many procurement teams are asking increasingly challenging questions to closely examine supply chains. This is a great way to help ease your path through those procurement discussions. And of course, the sooner you tackle this, the better.
Demonstrating a commitment to Data Security & Privacy. In the privacy conscious world of today, working in digital (where customer data is incredibly accessible) it’s important to demonstrate your commitment & awareness of data security. The B Corp expectations here are a welcome, additional stamp of approval.
Customer expectations are changing. Many of your prospective customers and clients increasingly want to buy from brands who demonstrate they share values (less impactful, more local & greater emotional experiences). You need to demonstrate that you’re aligned & committed to what they expect. A vague, throw away website headline or a limited, inauthentic CSR policy just won’t cut it any more.
Employee expectations are changing. So much so that we’re starting to hear companies saying that “employees are in charge”. The B Corp process can help you clarify your organisational purpose, establish appropriate policies and evaluate your stakeholder rewards. Furthermore, once you’ve been through it, what better way to confirm and communicate your commitment in these areas. All of which should help drive recruitment, loyalty and productivity.
Get to know your Suppliers better. A key part of the B Corp approach is to check you know what’s going on in your supply chain. By starting to ask questions of your suppliers (and your clients) NOW, you can start to move the dial for your own business. This doesn’t mean ruling out working with a whole host of suppliers – unless they are included in the initial eligibility criteria – instead, think of it as a way of learning more about the organisations you regularly work with. By being curious and asking, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find out about the brilliant positive impact suppliers like Xero and Userlytics are having. Plus, having a well-researched supply chain will help with those procurement processes.
The positive impact of your business. B Lab assess if your business is fundamentally geared towards having a positive impact (their “Impact Business Models”). The options include things such as “Poverty Alleviation” and “Wildlife Conservation”. This was an eye opener for me, because I’d assumed I could claim my efforts as a conversion optimiser were helping other businesses doing good. But that’s too indirect for B Corp, they want you to demonstrate the direct positive impact you’re having. In which case, it’s likely you’ll need to formally structured your organisation towards something like (1) choosing to donate a share of revenue to charity, or (2) by having an employee owned business structure (like AdLib and Sawdays). Clearly this might be a significant shift for your business, so it will take time to consider carefully and steer in that direction. Hence, best to start thinking about it NOW!
Reinforcing the value of your service. A secondary benefit of this process for me has been to allow me to help ease commercial discussions. Any suggestion of a “discount” can be quickly passed over, once the B Corp credibility and my impact business model (donating a fixed share of revenue to charity) are mentioned.
The Planet (duh!). But it’s difficult to know where to start, so the guidance & structure the tool gives steers you towards authentic, impactful decisions. Plus, as you’d expect, the tool helps you understand your existing environmental impact and following this you can more easily benchmark, monitor and manage your future impact.
Avoid accusations of Greenwashing. I’ve got no problem being accused of jumping on a B Corp bandwagon; it’s becoming popular for very good reasons and the more organisations that get accredited the better. However, it’s important to not get this confused with being inauthentic, doing it for the wrong reasons, or even worse “greenwashing”. The process is quite rightly, very tough, to ensure those who are successful are genuinely trying to have a positive impact. In my view it would be even tougher to go through it disingenuously! Furthermore, once you’re certified, you have to continue to keep up a high level of business conduct; the likes of Brewdog and Innocent have had their fingers burned and as part of the process, B Lab will be keeping a very close eye on them in the future.
These are 9 benefits of acting now that stand out for me.
Let me know any you think I’ve missed.🙂
Remember, B Corp provide this tool for FREE for any company to evaluate their own business. It’s the first step of their certification process, but you don’t have to go further, you can simply do it as an exercise to explore ways to run your business better.
Find the >> B Corp Impact Assessment << here.
Conversion Optimisation Consultant. Improving the measurement and effectiveness of clients' websites by analysing Web Analytics data and conducting Behavioural Research.