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Why becoming a B Corp is the way to go!

If you are working in HR, you will almost certainly know something about B Corps. What you may not realise is that March is B Corps awareness month, set up to celebrate the work of some of the thousands of purpose-driven companies around the world that have been certified for their sustainable, ethical practices. Find out why I believe purpose-driven businesses and a movement like B Corps are critical for our futures and how your organisation can get involved.

Very briefly, by way of introduction, B Corps are a rapidly growing community of purpose-driven companies from around the world who have shared and stated the desire to be a force for good for their people, their local communities and our planet.  Certified B Corporations have shifted their focus from profit for profit’s sake and satisfying shareholder value, to using profits and growth for a positive impact for all their stakeholders.

“Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”

About B Corps | Certified B Corporation

There are more and more businesses achieving B Corps status.  You can even shop ranges of products at Boots and Waitrose, made by B Corps.

Why should my business become a B Corp?

Whilst realising shareholder value and the associated wealth can be powerful motivators to those closest to the source of that output, it is just that, an output. What is the input that generates this? When was the last time you were asked why you do business or why you come to work? What purpose does your business serve for you; your workers and colleagues; your local community; or the wider world?

As the old adage goes - revenue is vanity and profit is sanity - and I’d add to this, that operating with a clear purpose to be a force for good, is humanity.

There are many initiatives to support companies in identifying a more holistic approach to making money, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the B Corps movement.

But if you haven’t yet been swayed by the call of being a force for good, there are also commercial benefits of taking a more holistic approach to doing business.

Purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow on average three times faster than their competitors...

Jim Stengel Co., “Purpose,”

So, why does a business with a clear purpose to do good, outperform those for which the answer to the question of why they do business is less compelling?

People have a powerful influence over this.

Over the last 25 years, people have increasingly sought more meaning in their work.  Employees are approximately 20% more productive when they are highly engaged in their work.  With over 80% of employees seeking meaning in their day-to-day work and over half energised by knowing their employer has a positive impact on the environment and their local communities.

What about your customers?

The Deloitte 2019 Consumer Pulsing Survey suggests over a quarter of your customers could be making a decision on whether to purchase from you or work with you based on how your company treats your own people. Add to this 1 in 5 will be weighing up your impact on the environment before parting with their money, and a similar proportion wanting to see how you benefit your local community before deciding to invest with you.

There are loads of different ways for you to grow and evolve as a purpose-driven business.  But, it is B Corp month so let’s stay on topic and focus on this movement!

Ok, I’m in. How does my business become a Certified B Corp?

In order to become a certified B Corp, your business will need to undergo a rigorous self-assessment using something called a Business Impact Assessment (BIA).  This assessment is made up of a number of sections - governance, customer, community, workers and the environment – each carrying weighted scores.  The minimum threshold is 80 points. 

Once you’re satisfied your self-assessed BIA is above this threshold, you undergo an assessment by a B Lab UK appointed consultant.  This 3rd party assessment adds another level of rigour and it’s not uncommon for businesses to find their self-assessment wasn’t as strong as they’d hoped for and further work is required to reach that minimum threshold.

Once your business achieves the Certified B Corp status, that’s when the real work begins.  The scoring criteria are continually reviewed by B Labs meaning that you can’t stand still.  You also need to undertake re-assessment every two years to ensure you are making progress. 

I worked with The Myers-Briggs Company to achieve B Corp certification in October 2018.  It was the wonderful outcome of a fascinating 12-month journey for the project team and, crucially the wider business.  Using a range of approaches and activities to engage employees, the team were able to harness momentum and ideas (300+ of them!!) forming squads of cross-functional employees to research the ideas and implement those that could be.  Working in month-long cycles, the squads would report back on progress and the BIA would be updated, all the time inching toward the minimum threshold and beyond. 

Finally, after 12 months of effort, energy and ingenuity, The Myers-Briggs Company was recognised as a Certified B Corp. A time for well-earned celebration.  However, it was at this point everyone involved realised this was just the beginning of the journey. I know efforts continue to evolve their approach in all that they do, spurred on by the sense of purpose and the reward of knowing they operate as a force for good and not merely as a money-making venture.

What do you think?  Interested?

So, there you go! You now know what a B Corp is, and have an insight into why being a purpose-driven business is important. You also have some context on how your business can go about becoming part of the B Corps community

If you want to discuss more on evolving as a purpose-driven business, please get in touch.  We can put you in contact with experts, such as B Leaders, who can support your journey. 

This guest blog was written by Will Cleare, Managing Director of Oxfordshire-based HR consultancy, The HR Agency – People on purpose.

You can contact Will at willc@thehragency.co.uk

Will Cleare

Will Cleare

Managing Director, The HR Agency – People on purpose

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