The road to becoming a B Corp is a long and bumpy one — as we well know. But the reward can be well worth the challenge. The certification itself is a massive achievement and the framework to improve your business is a big bonus.
For those who don’t know (you might be lost, are you okay?), being a B Corp means you’re a for-profit business committed to having a positive impact on society and the environment. You go through a rigorous process to show whether you’re meeting high standards of performance, accountability and transparency on anything from employee benefits to calculating your carbon footprint.
Here’s our list of lessons to help you on your way.
Make a giant spreadsheet
Full disclosure, we didn’t make the necessary 80 points on our first submission. But it’s not a massive surprise, we had a few areas for improvement and we focused on moving forwards.
The Impact Assessment can be intense and the questions depend on the type of business you are. Despite the intensity it was a genuinely useful exercise. This is especially true as a ‘scale-up’ because it showed us a lot of the missing processes and holes in our systems so the lessons were valuable.
It can be tricky to know where to start with improving your business processes and systems. You have to take a step back and look at things without the ‘we’ve always done it this way so it must be fine’ lens. We looked at what we cared about as a team (for instance, equality and inclusion so we implemented a blind-hiring process) and what would help us gain more points.
It felt like a mammoth task reviewing all the questions and answers from the initial B Corp Impact Assessment. But like any dream team with a mission, we built an enormous spreadsheet and turned it into a whopping 219 actions.
This might sound intimidating and time consuming but it was necessary to get full visibility of our business. And in hindsight (classic, always 20:20), we should have taken this further before our first submission — so learn from our experience! Did we really have a process for making our supply chain as sustainable as possible? Did every employee know how to follow it? These are the kind of gaps you need to find before you can make anything better.
Break it down
Ok so you have your gigantic spreadsheet. Well done you. Enjoy that birds eye view of all your company’s gaps and overlaps! But, what next? It’s time to break down your hundreds of actions into impact areas. Think bitesize pieces of this large humble pie.
We chose five areas to sort our actions into (but you can adapt this to fit your business): Governance, Environment, Community, Customers and Workers. And one person was responsible for each of these. Accountability and realistic expectations were critical in this process.
From the way the Impact Assessment is designed (often you’re given a list of graded answers and you select the relevant one for your business), it gave us scope to be more ambitious and see where we could make the biggest difference.
Give a damn
This isn’t an easy process (hopefully you’ve got that from what we’ve said so far). You’ll need your team’s genuine buy-in if you want this to work. Meaningful change doesn't happen overnight.
On top of our impact area leaders, we formed an internal environmental and social governance (ESG) group. This has now grown to over half our staff members. The group meets monthly and is constantly pushing for positive environmental and social change — this has been a crucial part of our B Corp journey.
We learned a lot in this process and we’re always keen to share our lessons with others. Chatting to other organisations that were going through the process or had previously been through it gave us great insight.
During our application, we attended group sessions run by an external provider, Seismic. This was a brilliant platform to share our challenges and work through them with others facing similar hurdles. You don’t have to go through this alone, reach out and see what you can learn from others’ experiences.
Go beyond B Corp
It can take 3-6 months to hear back with a decision, so it’s important to think beyond just the application and continue with your improvements. We’re still pushing ahead and refining our ESG processes and engagement.
For instance, we’ve been looking at how we can work with landlords to make our buildings more energy efficient and less carbon intensive. We’ve also been providing school tours and partnering with local charities. We’re running Green Week at the end of April to engage with our network in member-led panel talks and give everyone a chance to share knowledge and experiences.
Want to chat about your B Corp journey? Give us a shout on social!