Our journey to becoming a B Corp
We wanted to share some of the learnings on our journey to becoming a B Corp for any companies out there considering starting the journey for themselves. If you're interested in why MMC chose to become a B Corp, you can read more about that here.
What is a B Corporation
There are nearly 4,000 companies over 150 industries in 74 countries that are now B Corporations but what does that mean?
It was a movement originating from the US. Below is a statement from their website but really it boils down to the last sentence: This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.
“Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.”
In the past few years, many companies have moved away from 'shareholder value above all else' being the most important goal. Many companies are now stating that there is a lot more that goes alongside profits and hence the B Corp movement.
Why become a B Corp
Becoming a B Corp means you meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact. You become part of fast-growing global cadre of companies committed to a more equitable economy.
It is a public commitment of values. You are saying that you don't just talk the talk but you walk the walk. You are challenging yourself to keep improving, in part because you have to renew every three years so you will do the whole process and then have to do it all over again in three years, plus maintaining your behaviour in the meantime. Due to the rising tide of expectations of corporate behaviour the questions will become harder over time and you will need to float above that tide if you want to meet the highest standards.
Being a B Corp also means you are part of a global community that can give you access to partnership opportunities. For example, Waitrose and Ocado have made an online aisle of stocked B Corp products allowing people to filter for products by B Corp status.
Once you become a B Corp you are accepted into the B Hive which gives you access to lots of webinars, discounts, training, community and resources to support themselves and improve the ESG as well as giving you access to partner with other B Corps. It is a differentiator in the market, there still aren't a lot of B Corps out there.
Finally, talent is no longer just attracted to companies because of compensation but because the company is a force of good and gives them purpose. Becoming a B Corp aligns values and makes a statement about what your company believes in which helps attract and retain staff.
What is the process
Go to the B Corp website and you will come to the Business Impact Assessment. The assessment is personalised for your company; how many employees, where in the world you are located, and most importantly your industry. The questions and marks are skewed accordingly.
The assessment covers six main areas. You go through question by question ticking off the answers until you reach 80 points out of 140 then you are in a position to submit. It's important to note that you can create policies and formalise processes specifically for the application. For example, MMC formalised our Code of Ethics as part of the process and we were encouraged to do so by the B Corp organisation as they hope to inspire companies to make improvements in their business even if you ultimately don't get certified.
Once you have submitted there is a wait, for us that was about three months, this is due to the backlog of submissions. As you get to the front of the submissions you are allocated an analyst who looks after the allocations process. They will come back to you with c. 20 questions at a time and ask for evidence or commentary on it. This is all done through the portal. We had three batches of 20 when we did it. They are looking for you to get it right. For example, if they ask to see your code of ethics, they don't want to see each individual signed copy in the business, they just want to see the code of ethics document. You finish with a live interview with the analyst asking for evidence or commentary on more of the questions. All being well you will now become a B Corp.
Hints and Tips
Getting senior buy-in is hugely important for a few reasons. Firstly, it is a major project, it covers a huge range of activities across the business and is going to take up a lot of time and resource. It is also not a one off, if you are deciding to do this you are deciding to do it every three years. Secondly, you have to change the articles of association (the company's constitution). That is because B Corp requires you to introduce a new definition of 'success' for the business.
'Success' will then be defined as the company being 'run for the benefit of its members as a whole', but with a commitment that 'through its business and operations to have a material impact on society and the environment'. You have to change the articles by slotting in two paragraphs which are provided by B Corp. To change the articles you need the Directors and shareholders to agree.
Finally, there are membership costs which are graded on the turnover of your company. They are only payable once certified. Again, you have to renew this every three years.
The coordinator or champion needs to be senior to pull aspects together. This is mainly because there is a lot of document collation. For example, you need to consider all of your suppliers from the last financial year and a) list them in a spreadsheet b) state whether they are local (which is within 50 miles from the office) c) state whether they are a female founded or founded by majority owned d) by another underrepresented group. This is an example of many little fiddly bits which need a more senior member of staff or someone who has been at the company for a long time to find that information. There will be a lot of delegating too and therefore team members are more likely to help if being told by a senior member of staff.
Be smart about how you answer questions relative to the marking scheme. If a question is worth more points then spend more time on it. If you already have full marks on a question, don't spend time and money doing more for it. Think laterally because sometimes you may already do something that you don't think you do. For example, we didn't have an 'ergonomic policy' but after understanding the question we do have things that relate to it and therefore we were able to implement one easily.
Once you upload a document, it is fully visible. You may want to wait until the end to upload all your documents so you can edit and change them if needed before submitting them. You may want to maintain a private folder of supporting documents you add throughout the process and only upload at the end for the verification process, rather than throughout. It is fine not to comment at the initial stage, you can leave that until the end.
For submission, try to get someone who likes writing, and can do so clearly and directly in relation to the questions. Due to how many written submissions there are, it can get quite repetitive. Finally, help them help you - make it easy to find your supporting documents and be as detailed as you can on where to find the information in those documents.