Our journey to being a better business, our journey to B Corp
In this guest article, Parry Jones, Deputy CEO at What’s Possible Group, covers their journey to becoming a B Corp.
Last month I was at a breakfast debate, listening to business leaders and investors talk about Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG). About 15 minutes into the conversation, a man two seats down from me said, “we became a B Corp because we are passionate about making a difference”. I wanted to hug him.
While all the rational P&L driving reasons are valid, not all roads need to lead back to profit. The What’s Possible Group is becoming a B Corp because we believe business can and should be a force for good.
So, what is B Corp?
B Corp is a movement of businesses committed to balancing the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
The planet is on fire. We are in a global mental health pandemic. Progress on inclusion and diversity is nowhere near good enough. Inequality is rife.
Businesses can, and should, be part of the solution.
B Corps are not charities. They are for-profit companies that meet specific social and environmental performance standards. In other words, a B Corp is a company with a conscience.
A central theme to B Corp is transparency. Once certified, people can see where you are ESG strong and where you aren’t.
For this reason, I’m sharing our journey in public.
We didn’t launch as a purpose-driven business, and we are far from perfect, but we are a bunch of passionate people who care about building something better.
It’s hard to pinpoint the start. Many of our people went on climate marches, yet our house wasn’t in order. George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement painfully showed we weren’t doing enough around diversity.
We have done some great things, like raising £1m in free advertising for charities and building a sustainable print offering. We partner with BeyondAutism and are featured high in our industry’s Best Places to Work. But the nagging feeling was, are we doing enough?
At the same time, a growing number of our clients had become B Corps or had started the journey (Graze, Hello Fresh, Bombas, World of Books, Lily’s Kitchen, Leesa Mattresses).
And in December 2019, I was invited to an event hosted by Leesa Mattresses, where many of us were packing Christmas gifts for homeless kids in New York. It was there that I met people from B Lab.
Who are B Lab, and how do they help you become a certified B Corp?
There are currently over 4,000 certified B Corps around the world.
To become certified, your company must complete an assessment of your ESG performance. This assessment looks at employee welfare, sustainable practices, and community engagement. Companies that meet the requirements are then certified as a B Corp.
B Lab is a non-profit network offering support to businesses on the B Corp journey. They help and guide you through what you must do to become certified.
How striving for B Corp is making us a better business
Henry David Thoreau said: “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” B Corp is the perfect example of this.
We achieved 60 points, 20 short of certification when we first completed the B Impact Assessment. I was proud of this score and humbled in equal measure. I was told 60 means we are a ‘pretty good business’, particularly how we look after clients and our people. But at the same time, we had been tested in every area of our Corporate Social Responsibility, and for most questions, we had scored no points.
Since then, our B Corp team has been working extraordinarily hard to make us a better business. I am incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved.
They’ve brought in Creative Equals to help us create an inclusion and diversity strategy – this has fundamentally changed how we recruit and promote people (including a new apprenticeship scheme); created a representative inclusion and diversity working group to educate us on topics like menopause, Black History Month and gender pronouns and made us a Disability Confident Employer.
They’ve implemented new policies on neurodiversity, pay equity, gender transition, and miscarriage alongside policies that enhance parental, paternity, adoption and surrogacy benefits, introduced support/time off for parental loss and fertility treatment and parental coaching and return to work support, and they’ve increased holiday allowance, added an extra day for volunteering and rolled out private medical care.
Governance is a big area, and the team is leading the change in our Articles of Association, financial policies and internal controls. Our mission statement will soon include our commitment to people and the planet.
They are working hard to understand our carbon impact and find ways to reduce and offset this.
Everything they’re doing involves stakeholder engagement: what do our people, clients and partners want us to focus on?
Once you’ve become a B Corp, what next?
Becoming a certified B Corp is just the start of the journey. The next step is becoming a better B Corp. How can you become more sustainable? How can you be a better employer? How can you do more for your community?
The highest scoring B Corps are called ‘Best for the World’. Isn’t that lovely? Becoming certified is a colossal task, and I’m not sure What’s Possible Group will become one of the ‘Best’ but knowing there’ll always be room for improvement is inspiring.
We plan to achieve B Corp status, celebrate, set more ambitious targets and go again.
My advice for businesses looking to start their B Corp journey
Start. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.”
The B Impact Assessment is a brilliant framework to understand (measure) where you are versus the gold standard. And it’s free.
Dedicate time and resources to make a difference; you’ll achieve more with 100% of one person than 10% of ten people. Making change does mean investment. Make B Corp a top-tier goal. Then you won’t drop it because ‘something else crops up’.
Start with people with a passion for making a difference and engage the broader business in what you’re doing.
Finally, do it for the right reasons. It’s hard work and takes investment. Don’t waste time pinning your actions back to profit, do it because you are passionate about making a difference.