The benefits of being a B Corp
Increasing numbers of companies are seeking B Corp status, an accreditation that proves their commitment to balancing profit with people and the planet. It’s a long and arduous process, but worth it, says James Bidwell, who’s done it with two separate companies
The first thing to say is that becoming a B Corp isn’t easy. I thought it would take about six months to get accreditation, but it took more than twice that. You have to answer a very complex questionnaire examining every part of your business in terms of the environmental, social and governance factors. And you need to verify your answers, so, for example, you’ll have to provide evidence about the carbon emissions of your office supplier or whatever. And after that, your assessment is then peer reviewed by other B Corp members.
One of the biggest challenges is governance and having to change the articles of your company. You’re basically changing the purpose of the business from being there exclusively to deliver value to shareholders, in terms of financial value, to considering the planet and all stakeholders. So if, say, you’re in a business with a complex supply chain and you’ve got people manufacturing stuff in factories around the world, all of them have to be taken into account. For big companies with long supply chains, that’s very complex.
We’re finding that clients are increasingly asking us about the commercial advantages of being a B Corp. There are about 4,000 B Corps in the world, with more than 400 in the UK, but there are thousands more in the system trying to get accreditation. And the fact that it’s such a rigorous process is one of the reasons it’s such a competitive advantage.
It’s also about credibility. When we pitch against the big consultancies for a sustainability or innovation project, we’re able to say that we walk the talk, which is something they can’t claim in the same way.
Another advantage is that being a B Corp is a real magnet for talent and allows us to attract really good people. It’s not just the younger consultants, but also some of the more senior guys, who are saying, you know, “I’m fed up with working with these big old companies, where the ethos is just about lining shareholders’ pockets rather than doing something good for the world.” They’re looking for a purpose, and that’s been accelerated by Covid. People are really evaluating what they want to do and how they want to position themselves.
I would highly recommend becoming a B Corp. The climate change issue is so acute now, and business really must be part of the solution. At the very least I’d recommend using the free assessment tool as a framework just to see where your company stands on all these issues and to find where there are maybe areas for improvement.
James Bidwell is co-founder of Re_Set and chair of Springwise. For more information on becoming a B Corp, visit bcorporation.net
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