We’ve been aware of and intrigued by the B Corp movement for some time, and after a period of expansion in late 2018 and early 2019 it felt like the right time to start the certification process.
We knew before we embarked on the journey that it was likely to involve some serious effort and commitment, and this has certainly proven to be the case, but the further down the path we got, the stronger the sense that this is absolutely the right way to run a commercial organisation.
As B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy, we believe:
The B Impact Assessment and certification process is in place to ensure that both the internal and external operations of a company meet the exacting standards required to become a B Corp.
I’m still at the early stages of the assessment process and I’ve hit a brick wall – my frustration levels are as high as the paperwork mountain I’m generating. Whilst I understand that becoming a B Corp should be a rigorous procedure, chasing these points is starting to feel like a box-ticking exercise and it seems like there is no end to the policies and processes I need to implement and document.
These requirements are as diverse as ensuring that our recruitment process is as equitable as possible, putting a policy in place to provide a private space for nursing mothers through to minimising waste production and increasing our charitable donations.
In most of the important areas (how we treat our staff, subcontractors, and clients, minimising any negative impact on the environment, choosing like-minded suppliers etc.) we feel we are already ‘walking the walk’, but to ensure genuine compliance a B Corp this behaviour must be externally verifiable and hard-baked into the organisation.
The requirement to ensure all of these positive but informal attitudes and practices were codified and communicated means I’m spending a significant amount of time spent adding numerous policies to the Company Handbook and refining internal practices such as staff (and management!) appraisals to meet the required standards.
Given we are a small company - with currently less than 10 employees - I don’t have the luxury of being able to delegate the research and development of these policies to team members. Although I have a fair amount of practical experience I’m also somewhat lacking in formal legal and HR training, so writing reams of policies and standards from scratch is feeling like a seriously daunting prospect!
There is also an overarching sense that so many of the assessment questions just don’t seem appropriate to a small, service-based company working with corporate clients. Our impact on the planet has always been small – we don’t use factories to make products, we don’t own and manage our office facilities (a lovely rural office surrounded by thatched cottages and fields of cows) we have very little scope to localise our supply chain and we are based many miles away from multicultural or low-income areas which doesn’t make for a very diverse pool of potential employees.
Having reached this point, I’ve not been able to make further progress. I’m missing my (self-imposed) deadlines, my anxiety levels are starting to climb and with it an increasing sense that my inability to make headway is letting everyone down, especially given my noisy and very public enthusiasm when we decided to embark on the B Corp journey!
I’ve reached out to B Labs (UK B Corp organisation) for inspiration and assistance – Amy Borbeau has been able to reassure me that my frustration about the irrelevance of certain elements of the assessment were unfounded (and very common) and has provided some boilerplate copy to help with documenting our processes. She’s suggested coming to a B Corp Social event to share in the positivity, hear some success stories and perhaps have a glass of wine or two!
The event (hosted by EQ Investors) was a perfect way to recharge my enthusiasm levels and find fresh motivation to recommence the assessment process. There was so much positivity and support from everyone I spoke with; it was particularly heartening to hear stories of the assessment process from those who have successfully completed it; similar pain points but ultimately a thoroughly worthwhile exercise.
This renewed level of motivation is allowing us to make some serious progress - we are edging ever closer to our goal of becoming certified before the B Corp Summit, Amsterdam in September. Just to heap a bit more pressure on, I’ve just bought the tickets!
We are now only 3.5 points away from meeting the threshold of 80 points that would enable us to successfully complete the B Impact Assessment and begin the final verification process!
We submitted our completed questionnaire on the 4th July - 81 points on the B Corp dashboard.
I’ve been through our response with a fine-toothed comb to make sure we can support all our answers; I’m feeling fairly confident we won’t lose too many points during the verification process; I have all my digits crossed!
Aaaargh - I’m really starting to feel the pressure of those Amsterdam Summit tickets. B Labs are experiencing an unprecedented volume of applications to process, and their predicted timeframes are slipping – to add to the stress I’ve got two weeks holiday in Devon with my family later this month.
We have movement! Simone Norfo from B Labs had been in touch – he’s going to be working with us over the coming three weeks to verify our assessment. As we expected, he has requested clarification and supporting documents across all areas of our application.
Whilst I’m in Devon the team back in the office are doing all they can to help; fortunately the weather here is hilariously bad, so a few hours on the computer each day isn’t causing a family mutiny yet!
One area of our application that has previously been frustrating for me is the inability to generate any points based on our core business activity of delivering technical training courses - all the questions intended for educational organisations just don’t seem to apply to a short-form training provider like us.
Fortunately, Simone spotted that nearly 20% of our clients are Purpose-Driven Organisations (charities, not-for-profits, publicly-owned organisations) and we have always provided our services to these organisations on a discounted basis. This element of our activity opened up a new assessment area - our point score has shot up to 99!
There had been a huge amount of to-and-fro with Simone – he’s been absolutely brilliant throughout; guiding us through this tricky final process and is very complimentary about the quality of our responses,
I thought I had a good idea how much extra work would be involved in this process, but it’s even more rigorous and time-intensive than I’d anticipated. Fortunately, I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and something this important should not be an easy exercise.
It was fantastic to meet so many driven, capable people at the Amsterdam B Corp Summit. There was a tangible passion to make things better and so much rich discussion of issues - and solutions - that it was hard for something of a fervour not to rub off on me.
There is hope...If we as a species are going to try and reverse the negative impact we have upon life on this planet, I genuinely believe history will show the B Corp movement to be a major catalyst by changing business ethos to become a force for good.”
“For me, as well as all the fundamentals that go with being a B Corp, I love how the status has unified us as a team. It’s exciting to know that I’m contributing in a small way on a daily basis towards the greater good for the environment and genuinely feel that we could very well be on the cusp of a major change in the way society and business function. It’s a rewarding feeling to be a part of that.
I’ve gained so many values by meeting and networking with fellow members at the recent B-Inspired summit in London, everyone working in a method where we can all invoke change, even if it is on a minor scale. But most importantly, I’ve learned that it’s better to do something instead of nothing.”
“As the latest addition to the team, it was great to step into an already ethically and diversity-oriented company (which very much resonates with my own ethos). Becoming B Corp certified is pretty exciting and high-lighted, how much we all care about all aspects of doing ‘business4good’. It is just a great feeling, to get up in the morning knowing, that the company I work for is part of the Global Goals and a Circular Economy model, for the benefit of all. It’s a wonderful way of work-life-balance, when personal and business ethos align like this. I feel very lucky to be part of this.”
“The most positive aspect of belonging to a B Corp is the knowledge that we are not just in the business of ‘box ticking’. The concept and ideas can be filtered into every aspect of our lives, whether it be changing our attitudes towards recycling or being more caring and having empathy with those less fortunate than ourselves. It’s the complete package. I’ve already seen some significant changes happening in how I live my life as part of being involved in the B Corp certification process. I truly believe that as a member of the team I can live a more socially and environmentally responsible lifestyle and promote this concept to work colleagues, friends and family and hopefully influence the education of the next generation.