In the first two blogs of this series, we made the case for why companies should consider becoming B Corp certified and the best practices for tackling the B Impact Assessment. This final article will help you with the next step on your journey. We will help you figure out what to do next and how to maximize your certification.
Once you’ve passed your audit and signed the Declaration of Interdependence, take some time to pat yourself and your team on the back. As every B Corp knows, this process isn’t easy. But you are now among a committed group of almost 3,000 companies around the world who believe in using business as a force for good. That is worth celebrating and shouting from the mountaintop.
But once the champagne is empty and your victory lap complete, you’ll have the same thought many of us had after we finished the certification process: Now What? That’s right, it’s time to figure out what to do next. Here are the easiest ways to get your employees and yourself involved:
Activate Your B Hive Account
Once certified, your company will have access to the B Hive, an online community of B corps. There, you can join channels and jump into all kinds of conversations, from B2B Networking to Community Offers, B Hive offers new B Corps a great chance to start meeting others in the community. It is here you will find out about great calls, like the B2B business development call and the B Culture call where thought leaders get together to solve commonly encountered problems. Put rather simply: Sign up, log in, and start posting.
Join Your B Local
Find your nearest B Local and get involved. Sign up for a committee, attend the networking events and get to know your fellow B Corps. These events are great for business development, idea sharing, and collaborations. B Locals also host annual Leadership Development Conferences (BLDs) that are worth the price of admission.
At Ad Victoriam, we were so eager to get involved after our certification in January 2018 that we attended both the B Summit in Amsterdam and the Champions Retreat in New Orleans. We didn’t know what to do next and there wasn’t (yet) a B Local in Georgia. We left Amsterdam in awe of the companies and people we met, the convictions they felt for their purpose, and their dedication to improvement. New Orleans was more of the same. Even more companies doing great things that left us inspired to increase our mission and accomplish even more in 2019.
Whatever You Do, “Just Get Involved”
When Ad Victoriam first got certified, we asked B Corp champion, ArcBenders Founder Christina Noel, what to do next. Her response was simple, “Just get involved any way you can and you will figure it out from there.” So my advice is her advice. Be active on B Hive, plug into your B Local, attend the Champions Retreat and even the B Summit. Network, volunteer and sign up for the different calls. Get involved and you will find your own answer to what’s next.
In the first installment of this series, we focused on the reasons why you should consider pursuing B Corp certification for your company. From raising capital to attracting new clients and employees, this gold standard of Corporate Social Responsibility accreditations offers a wealth of benefits. But now it’s time for the difficult part, taking the assessment and reaching the needed 80 points. We’re here to alleviate any concerns you have and provide you with a roadmap for success.
In an article written by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, the publishers of Ryan Honeyman’s B Corp Handbook (and the newly released 2nd Edition) discuss the author’s five-step approach. We’ve amended this tried and true process to include one extra (and FREE) step that can make the process much more manageable.
Establish a Baseline by Taking the B Corp Assessment
This first step is a simple one. Go here and take the assessment (BIA). Fill out some basic information about your company to get started and then complete the different sections. The BIA is broken up into five different sections: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. Complete each section and it will give you your score. If you have 80 points, skip the rest of these steps and move ahead to the next installment in this series. If you are like the rest of us who scored less than 80, that’s OK. Keep reading and we’ll help get you over the hump.
Engage Your Team
In your first go-around, you may not have had all the answers at your ready disposal. For example, you might have a facility manager or a controller that has all of your energy and water bills. Or you might need your procurement manager to investigate the diversity and locations of your major suppliers. Organize all the information you need in a central place (we recommend a Google Sheet to allow real-time collaboration) and delegate tasks to your team. Once you receive everything back, update your assessment and receive your new score.
Added Step: Recruit Free Help from a Local College or University
Running a business isn’t a part-time job. And we realize there is a multitude of things that can rank higher on your priority totem pole than your B Corp certification. Lucky for you, colleges and universities across the country have created concentrations, certificates, and programs that require a B Corp project to successfully complete. In the southeast alone, NC State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Florida facilitate B Corp projects each semester.
At Ad Victoriam, we worked with MBA students from the University of Georgia to do a lot of the heavy lifting. The students helped write our employee handbook and identify some of the low- and mid-hanging fruit to help get us closer to the needed 80 points. They were then able to identify other potential opportunities and provided us with a cost/benefit analysis for each item so we could make our own decision based on what was best for our business. We highly recommend utilizing a university-run program to help you achieve your B Corp certification.
With your team engaged and your students ready to help, it’s time to create a plan. If you are working with a university, they will have a roadmap and plan they can adapt to your company. If you don’t have the luxury of student help, there is a simple three-step approach we recommend:
Identify low-hanging fruit: Go through the assessment and identify items that require as little as a tweak to your employee policy handbook. For example, enacting a policy that requires employees to rent hybrid vehicles when traveling for business, or encouraging remote meetings work to reduce your carbon footprint. Start with these and then we can get out the step ladder to reach higher.
Identify mid-hanging fruit: These are the pieces that require a little more thought and effort. This would include things like implementing a volunteer time off policy or writing a supplier screening questionnaire.
Make a go/no-go decision on the most difficult pieces: Quite intuitively, a large chunk of points are available on the more difficult questions. For us, there were some major decisions that had to be made with regard to cost (time, effort, and/or money) and benefit (recruiting and/or retaining employees). Beyond the reasons already mentioned for working with a university program, this part of the process is where they can really help.
Implement Your Plan
Using your plan as an outline, start building out the documentation (e.g. handbook, policies, etc) and enacting the changes (e.g. rolling out your new policies to team members, picking a 401k provider, etc.). Once again, the students can be a big help in this part of the process as they can do a lot of the heavy lifting. But there are also a ton of other resources available to you, like those provided by B Lab or from the B Corps in your region (get connected here).
You’ll notice as you take the assessment that questions can be marked for later review or as a future goal. Even after you hit the 80 point threshold, continue to use the assessment as a tool to improve your company.
Following these simple steps will get you well on your way to certification. When you hit snags and roadblocks, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Whether you get assistance from university students or from a local B Corp (or both), you’ll find that this community is generous with their time and eager to help.
It’s 2019 and times have changed in the business world. More and more every day, becoming the gold standard of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is taking on a bigger role in C-Suite conversations.
No longer does the economic philosophy of Milton Friedman, to serve fiscal shareholders above all else, dominate the landscape. Customers and employees are demanding that the corporate world serve all stakeholders, including their employees, communities, and the environment. The number of companies listening is increasing. They have begun incorporating CSR initiatives into their day-to-day business operations. But with everyone doing it, how can you make your company stand out and work towards becoming a “gold standard of CSR?”
B Corps are for-profit businesses that have a proven (and certified) commitment to serving all stakeholders. They use business as a force for good, ensuring fair pay and benefits to a diverse and inclusive workforce. They also promise to be good stewards of the environment. That means they are actively serving in their communities, and believing purpose and profit can harmoniously coexist.
However, the process isn’t easy, but as the saying goes, if it was then everyone would be doing it. But it is worth going after. In the first of our three-part series, we’re focusing on five reasons your business should consider B Corp certification.
1. The Gold Standard of CSR: A True Differentiator
In a workforce and consumer base increasingly dominated by millennials, people are demanding more than just profit from the companies they buy from and work for. Consumers and potential employees are more likely to sniff out blatant “greenwashing.” Defined by Investopedia, “greenwashing” is “an attempt to capitalize on the growing demand for products that are environmentally sound.” Meaning “they are more natural, healthier, free of chemicals, recyclable, or less wasteful of natural resources.”
But with B Corps, the research and investigation into the legitimacy of a company’s claims have already been performed. After the company completes the B Impact Assessment (BIA), on which a company must score 80 out of a possible 200 points, B Lab, the nonprofit accreditation body that certifies B Corps, performs an audit of a company. The handbook and its policies are reviewed, numbers are verified, and many times, an on-site audit is performed. Succinctly put, B Corp certification is to for-profit business as Fair-Trade is to coffee or certified organic is to milk. The B logo is seen as a stamp of legitimacy on your CSR efforts.
2. Raising Capital
An often overlooked feature of B Corp certification is the ability to seek out investments in your business. According to Forbes, “The Global Impact Investing Network’s most recent estimate for the minimum size of the impact investment market doubled to $228 billion in assets under management, up from $114 billion in 2017.” More and more investors are looking to diversify their portfolios beyond industry. They want to include companies with environmental and social goals, following global standards like the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
As investors scramble to find investment opportunities that align with their personal values, “B Corps may attract capital better than non-b-businesses,” according to an article in Fast Company. In the article, Abi Barnes, the author of “An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Going B,” published by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, alluded to the B Corps’ ability to differentiate themselves to attract these investments. He stated that “in an era of ‘greenwashing’ and misleading labels, certified B Corporations and benefit corporations help consumers identify trustworthy companies.”
One of the biggest benefits of B Corp certification for a growing company is the ability to lock in your mission. When Ad Victoriam Solutions went through the assessment, we only had eight employees. We had to implement a lot of new policies and practices. More importantly, we had to envision what we wanted our company to look like as it grew. Fast forward three years and we have almost 70 employees and our vision is our reality. The mission and purpose are now baked into the DNA of our organization.
When we make strategic decisions, our status as a B Corp influences our direction. Whether it is how we recruit employees to ensure a diverse candidate pool or deciding on whether we want to take on a new client based on their mission and values, our certification weighs heavily on everything we do. And knowing that B Lab requires member companies to re-certify every three years ensures we are always thinking of a decision’s impact on everyone.
The truth is, not just focusing on the bottom line has been good for business. Since Ad Victoriam started the process three years ago, we have doubled our revenue every year.
4. Best Practices, Industry Standards, and Benchmarks for Improvement
An unexpected byproduct of B Corp certification is the inspiration from the B Community to always strive for more. There will always be another B Corp doing more than you for their employees, the environment, and their community. Allowing these companies to inspire you to deepen your commitment opens the door to becoming an even better corporate citizen. Being open to measuring your company’s performance to that of others allows you to identify areas for improvement.
In an interview with Forbes, Barnana CEO Nik Ingersöll stated, “Being a B Corp has solidified our commitment to the way we run our business. They also have an amazing framework that has given us more ideas on how to become even more sustainable. It has given me a path to constant and continued improvement.”
And in an article from the Harvard Business Review, “It Pays to Become a B Corporation,” Richard Stammer, VP of B Corp Cabot Creamery, highlights the use of benchmarking to achieve operational cost savings as well as to recruit and retain employees. Stammer also points to Patagonia, who “report[ed] that certification helps promote and validate its employee-centric culture, which attracts great candidates because of the company’s reputation as a great place to work. Since becoming a B Corp, Patagonia expanded the medical, military, and paid maternity and paternity leave for regular full- and part-time U.S. employees.”
5. Walk the Walk
On top of everything, you are signaling to the marketplace that your mission is sincere and genuine. It helps potential customers and employees more easily sift through the noise and find companies that truly believe in CSR.
B Corp Certification isn’t a pledge or a commitment to simply do better. It is the etching of your mission and your beliefs in stone. As such, it requires time and commitment to achieving. But in the end, it is worth it.
In Part 2 of this series, we focus on tackling the BIA and getting your company B Corp certified. We’ll share common hurdles, best practices, and aids to get help get you there!