Opinion piece from Ben Scoggins, CEO of digital agency Organic
Organic became a certified B Corporation in 2019 – one of the very first UK digital agencies to do so – joining a network of organisations across the world who are committed to ethical business practices.
It’s a network that’s grown rapidly since then. There are now nearly 4000 B-Corporations and thousands more on the waiting list as trends in sustainability, consumer consciousness and ethics in business have become mainstream.
For us, joining the B Corp community made sense, not least because we were already putting into practice many of the values that B Corp requires for certification. We’ve always been committed to a balance between profit and purpose, and B Corp certification aligns with our own brand purpose, Digital for Good.
In many ways, becoming a B Corp is a natural way for agencies to express their beliefs, in our case this was through using the business and our expertise in digital to make things better – be it for our clients and their end users, or our own employees and society as a whole.
Agencies should be happy to be a part of this network for a number of reasons. For one, it helps attract the right people to join your business. It goes without saying that agencies are always on the hunt for talented individuals with the right skills to do brilliant work. At Organic we want people who identify with and embody our Digital for Good ethos, and being a B Corp is a big factor in helping to bring those people onboard.
B Corp certification is a major plus point for existing employees too. It requires the business to look beyond making money and be more mindful of its wider impact, both socially and environmentally. It helps to foster a sense of collective responsibility, and it gives employees a sense of working for a company that makes a positive contribution to the world we live in.
With that in mind, attaining and retaining a B Corp status requires a real understanding of the business outside of profit-making. Issues that businesses might not have paid such close attention to before – like recycling and using environmentally-friendly cleaning products – are highlighted through becoming a B Corp.
Just like anything that’s worth doing, being a B Corp isn’t plain sailing – it takes a lot of effort. Becoming certified is time-consuming in itself, not just in terms of allocating resources to complete the process, but also making the necessary changes to the business to qualify for certification.
Maintaining certification is an on-going process. Once certified you have to complete an annual impact report, and after getting recertified three years later you have to have improved your score. Of course this is a good thing, but it does demand real commitment.
But that’s what being a B Corp is all about – a real commitment to making a positive difference. You have to want to do it for the right reasons, for it to be an endeavour that makes the use of business time and resources worthwhile.
As mentioned, sustainability, conscious consumerism and ethical business are increasingly important in the current climate. But becoming a B Corp shouldn’t be seen by agencies as an easy way to jump on the ethical business bandwagon. It isn’t a simple journey; you really need to be aligned with the purpose behind B Corp before pursuing certification.
What’s more, B Corp certification clearly isn’t the only way to pursue ethical business practices. Take Etsy, for example. After becoming publicly listed in 2015, the e-commerce marketplace brand decided that converting its corporate structure to retain its B Corp status would be too complicated and costly. Instead, it decided to focus on a different set of priorities to improve its environmental impact.
Indeed, there are lots of businesses who might feel they can embody B Corps’ purpose without certification or invest in their own corporate social responsibility efforts with just as much effect. But for many businesses, becoming a B Corp has been a way to express core values, while certain requirements – like quantifying recycling and having a score to actively improve upon – keep companies mindful of the impact they’re having.
And because B Corps are a network of businesses, we’re kept accountable too. That’s where becoming a B Corp stands apart from individual CSR programmes. For purpose-driven companies who want to attract great talent, truly commit to ethical business practices, and join a wider movement to build a better world through business, B Corp certification is well worth the effort that comes with it.