The role of business is changing. Over-consumption has harmed the planet, inequality has risen at a frightening rate and our measures of success have become increasingly short-sighted. What if business could become a force for good and be part of the solution rather than the problem?
That’s certainly the dream of the rapidly growing community of B Corps – a movement of over 4,000 companies in 60 countries (with 586 in the UK) and includes Patagonia, COOK, Finisterre, Innocent, JoJo Maman Bébé and The Body Shop. These companies are focused on a progressive and sustainable future that embraces this new era of business, balancing the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit in a way that delivers value to all stakeholders. B Corps have become so popular that Ocado and Waitrose now have online ‘aisles’ dedicated to the brands that have certified and therefore carry the highly desired B Corps logo on their packaging.
Many consumers are now willing to pay a premium for sustainable products from ethical companies and the B Corp certification provides reassurance that their decision is based on substance rather than pure marketing hype. That’s why companies wishing to become B Corps go through a rigorous assessment to ensure they meet the three key requirements of legal accountability, verified social and environmental performance and public transparency. This commitment to a deeper purpose means that B Corp businesses have been shown to grow faster, be more resilient to market forces, retain and engage employees and create more loyal customers. COP26 has certainly increased awareness of sustainable thinking so now is the time to move any of your business weaknesses and threats into opportunities and strengths.
The B Corp movement is growing rapidly and it’s easy to see why. Any ‘for-profit’ company which has been trading for at least 1 year can pursue B Corp status regardless of size. If you have been trading for less than 12 months, you have the option of the ‘pending B Corp’ status which is used ahead of the time you can submit your full assessment. The B Corp framework is incredibly useful to businesses in many different stages of development, ranging from start-ups/scale ups all the way through to large established organisations. The rigorous nature of the assessment means that it can be a useful tool for business owners, investors, and consumers to understand more about business values, vision, and purpose. It will also identify gaps in your policies and procedures which will ensure you can be more effective and focussed on sustainable growth.
The in-depth nature of the B Corp assessment means that it can take time. You can either do this independently or you can use the support of one of the B Leaders who have been trained to support you through the process. The first step is to complete a first run of your ‘Business Impact Assessment’ which will score your business answers in the areas of workers, community, environment, governance, and customers. This will give you a baseline score and show you how close you are to the minimum required 80 points. Then it’s a process of gathering your evidence, improving policies and procedures, and preparing for the full assessment.
There are some great examples of impactful businesses in the UK that have demonstrated their amazing growth from good. JoJo Maman Bébé became a B Corp in 2016 and has brought the principles of B Corp to life in the following ways – 1. Better as an employer, 2. Better at putting customers first, 3. Better preservers of our planet, 4. Better asset to our local communities, 5. Better in business. This has strengthened the brand and ensured JoJo Maman Bébé has retained a powerful position on the UK high street. This also demonstrates how the B Corp framework can be used to take strategy into purposeful action.
Achieving the B Corp status can therefore be seen as just good business sense which allows your business to grow with purpose from the inside out. This may be one of the reasons the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouniard was so drawn to the movement. Yvon is a master of sustainable thinking and considers himself a ‘reluctant businessman’ who asks some of the most important questions about the role of business, “Who are businesses really responsible to? Their customers? Shareholders? Employees? We would argue that it’s none of the above. Fundamentally, businesses are responsible to their resource base. Without a healthy environment there are no shareholders, no employees, no customers and no business.” Through Yvon’s authenticity, he has created a business that makes the best products for people and the planet while rapidly growing the Patagonia profits and brand, which has become one of the most loved in the world.
Becoming a B Corp is a proud time for a business and also comes with the opportunity to join other like-minded businesses who want to help your journey towards a fairer, brighter and more sustainable future at a time that we need to achieve positive change for all. To find out more, visit the B Corp UK website or contact Daring Works.
By Nick Whitnell, Founder of Daring Works and trained B Leader