03 November 2021

B Corps: The growth of a new type of organisation

Client stories

what is a B Corporation and why are they so important to the sustainability of the business world?



Finally, there is a movement that we can all get behind,  and it is one that we want to stick around and support: ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). With COP26 happening this week, we thought it would be a good time to talk about how business can adapt to the climate crisis and help turn the tide on climate change.

responsible business for the future of our climate

Prior to the most recent focus on how dependent, our economy has become upon the concept of infinite resources many organisations have already woken up to the fact that they have a role to play in business and the future of our planet that goes beyond creating jobs and wealth. They have recognised that they can help build a more inclusive and sustainable economy and are taking action. Some are going even further and signing up to a community that regulates their efforts and pushes them to do more for our future.

welcome B Corporations!

B Corporations, or B Corps, strive to balance purpose and profit, describing themselves as “a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good”. Sounds both exemplary and amazing! To find out more about what this means in practice though we spoke to Will Bicknell of Felloh!, a client of ours who is in the process of getting certified B Corp status, and Andy Hawkins, founder of Business on Purpose.

what is a B Corp?

B Corps are organisations that have signed up to be scrutinised for their social and environmental performance. They are companies that commit to putting all their stakeholders (including the planet as the biggest stakeholder of all) first. This moves away from the traditional model of shareholders being the main focus.

The B Corp community of companies “works towards reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose.”

Andy describes the five elements of this renewed focus. “B Corp companies sign up to be evaluated on: governance; their people; their environment; their customers; and their community. B Lab is the not-for-profit that is the “keeper of the keys”, but this is about business being a force for good and it is something we should all get behind.

 

 

Andy-Business-on-purpose-b-corp

how do you become a B Corp?

B Impact Assessment (BIA)

B Corporations have to achieve a minimum verified score on a B Impact Assessment or BIA – an assessment of a company’s impact on the five elements we mentioned above. Business on Purpose work with companies at this early stage to assist them through the BIA: it can be complicated and the assessment is not for the faint-hearted!

Andy explained why the B Impact Assessment is worth the effort though:

I see the B Corp certificate as the cherry on the cake, but the cake is the important bit. Going through the B Impact Assessment is an exercise which, when done well, can help companies become fitter, healthier, and stronger in their journey to being a business that doesn’t just prioritise profit.

Working through the assessment can be a fulfilling exercise if done well. It helps you gain insight into how your company is working and can generate conversations with key stakeholders too.

legal requirement tool

The next step in the process is the legal bit – the “mission lock”. B Corps need to consider the impact of their decisions on all of their stakeholders. To achieve certification, your company must be legally required to do this. This means you might need to make some changes to how your company has been set up: the main change is amending your Articles of Association. This also doesn’t have to be a painful exercise and free options are available.

If at this stage you want a chat about becoming a B Corp then pick up the phone! We would love to help you on your journey to certification – changing your Articles is something that is easy to do and we don’t want it to be a block to any business getting certification.   

so, how many B Corps are there?

Globally there are currently 3,500 certified B Corps, 400 of those are in the UK, with a combined turnover of £12bn. The B Corp website has said they are currently overwhelmed with new applications, so these numbers are likely to go up and up! We certainly hope so!

 

will-bicknell-felloh-b-corp

why might a company want to be a B Corp?

We advised one of our clients, Felloh!, as they were on their journey to becoming a B Corp, so we thought that a good place to start to answer that question was by asking them!

Right from its inception, Felloh! Founder Will Bicknell knew that he wanted to create a business that was about more than just making profit. Profit was important – indeed it’s essential to be able to achieve one of its goals (to give back 10% of its profits to charities with sustainable goals) but he wanted to do more than this.

Felloh! saw the benefits of having an external body to hold it to account. They wanted to learn from industry best practice and be part of the broader B Corp community of companies. Companies that share the same values as them.

Being certified by B Corps provides validation that we are doing the right thing. We of course try to do that anyway, but having a third party review what you are doing pushes you to do more and confirms that you are on the right track.”,  said Will.

Another B Corp that we spoke to said that being a B Corp penetrates the whole culture of the organisation and permeates everything they do. Down to the eco paint used in their wall art!

The community side is important. As a B Corp you are able to learn from other B Corps – this is something that you just can’t do on your own”, said Will.

what about Lawbox Design?

We aren’t certified – yet! But we are going to be embarking on the road to certification this year and will let you know how we go. What we have done, and we would encourage you all to do, is to sign up to the Better Business Act. This is a shout-out to amend the Companies Act so that companies would become legally obligated to act in a manner that benefits their stakeholders while seeking to deliver profits for shareholders.

If you are considering becoming a B Corp, or want to chat about the Better Business Act, then get in touch, we would love to hear from you!

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