So You Wanna Be a B Corp?

by | Jul 14, 2020

There 4 values that B Corporations believe in:

  1. ‘We must be the change we seek in the world’
  2. ‘Business ought to be conducted as if people and place matter’
  3. ‘Through products, practices and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all’
  4. ‘To do so, requires that we act with the understanding that we are dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.

Jenny Kitchen, CEO at YoYo Design a creative digital agency, Andrew Bathgate, Co-Founder of Good Innovation and Tom Greenwood, Managing Director at Wholegrain Digital discuss their experiences of becoming certified and how it has affected their agencies.

Jenny explains what a B Corporation actually is, ‘it is a certification process that began in America, and to date there are 3500 companies around the world.’ ‘It is the highest standard of ethical and moral ways of running a business. The certification looks at a multitude of things, from how you look after your staff, how you impact the environment and your local community, but also the value that you bring to the world.’ It strives to ‘build better business that aren’t only focussed on making money, and that instead, there is a triple bottom line value – that people and the planet are at the same level as profit.’

‘For us it was wanting to have a stamp, being able to say we genuinely believe in this, and this is the type of business we want to run.’

Thomas suggests that ‘in a way the whole process is an experiment to see whether you can run a business sustainably or whether you end up using it as a marketing tool. We have done a lot over the years to try and run in a sustainable way, but it was all very informal. The free assessment tool online was actually quite thought-provoking and rigorous. We wanted to do better, but it is hard to do that when you don’t quite know what you are working towards; the certification process enabled us to do just that.’

Jenny notes that YoYo Design ‘had been running for 8 years with those values, but without a framework to it.’ She suggests it gave us a structure from which we can discuss decisions at board level.’

Andrew describes that there are ‘160-200 questions, all of which are multiple choice. Depending on your answers you get a number of points, you need 80 points or more to be certified, but they also show you where your peers are so that you can strive to become better.’

‘Some questions are simple – How much recycling do you do? Where do you get your electricity from? – others are quite probing – What is your governance? What is your diversity profile? What is your pay gap between highest and lowest earner?’

‘Once you get a score of over 80, you have an interview with someone and they ask for evidence for some of your answers. It is quite a collaborative process; they don’t want you to fail. They will point you in the right direction.’

Most who fail by small margins do so because of a lack of documentation on hiring, pay, policies and mission statements.

Andrew thinks the benefits of becoming a B Corporation come internally from within the team. His employees had described the accreditation as a ‘sign of a quality company’.

Thomas suggests that the framework for the process helps, ‘in same way you look at you financial accounts to check that you’re on track for the quarter, this gives you the same type of moral validation’. ‘There are also about 300 other B-Corp’s in the UK and it is great to be a part of a community who is open to sharing problems and solutions with one another.’

Fees for the process are based on your revenue and there is an annual cost.

Jenny notes that the application process and feedback is free, so even if a company did not continue with the certification, the learning involved can be really beneficial.

When asked about the impact the certification process has had on relationships with clients, Jenny suggested that ‘there is so much flexibility around becoming B-Corp, there aren’t any hard no’s and we haven’t had to stop working with any existing clients. But, it does give us more perspective when assessing new clients.’

‘If B-Corps only work with B-Corps, there will be no changes. But if you work with companies who are in a grey area of sustainability and have an impact on them you are helping in a much bigger way.’