‘The B Corp movement is one of the most important of our lifetime, built on the simple fact that business impacts and serves more than just shareholders – it has an equal responsibility to the community and to the planet.’ Rose Marcario, CEO Patagonia
I have always enjoyed being in business – the ups and downs, the challenges and opportunities, the good days when everything you touch works and the bad days when it seems that all your hard work is just about to disappear down the drain. However, throughout my 35-year journey in a wide variety of businesses, I have never lost sight of the fact that what you do and how you do it is more important than what you create.
The Environment Agency strapline ‘Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast’ says it all. If you get the culture right then how you want to run your business and what you want to do is a breeze.
The key ingredient is your values
There have been times in my career when I have felt uncomfortable with what I am doing. When I stop to analyse why I am feeling this way, it is always because it doesn’t align with my values. Perhaps I don’t feel that my work and contribution has been valued, sometimes it’s as obvious as the product is damaging to the environment or just that the business seems unethical in some way. When I have found myself in these situations, I have moved on, I am unable to put my efforts into things I don’t truly believe in despite attractive benefits or great opportunities.
So, when I started up my business, I wanted to work with organisations who felt the same way as me, who value our environment and people, but who also want to make some money. We all need money to live, to pay bills, buy food and sometimes to treat ourselves to a little luxury.
I didn’t want to go into sustainability to wear a hair shirt, spend my days hugging trees and eating beans and lentils. I enjoy some of the nice things in life – wine, chocolate, the occasional new item of clothing, holidays in the sun. But I am also aware that too much stuff in our lives doesn’t make us happier and over consumption has led to a society that values things above people.
Which accreditation scheme aligned with my values?
Whilst I was in the process of establishing myself as a Sustainability Consultant, I looked for some form of accreditation that would give me credibility and my customers assurance. Having worked on other schemes in the past, I wasn’t convinced any of them truly demonstrated what I was trying to achieve.
Most are focussed on environmental or economic markers, with only minimal evidence of the impacts on the workforce, community, customers and wider society. I believe that if you get the behavioural and attitudinal aspects right,Ppeople will want to do the right thing for your business and the environment – so equal or greater emphasis should be put on the workforce, customers, suppliers, community and wider society.
In looking around, I came across B Corp, which at the time was pretty new in the UK. Luckily though, I knew the one business in Cornwall who had already joined the community, and was able to meet up with the inspirational Matt Hocking of Leap Media to find out his reasons for joining the community.
As a result, I undertook the assessment. It’s not for the faint-hearted – it took me as a one man band, new start up, on and off, about 2 to 3 weeks to complete. However, the process was a brilliant way of focussing my head on how my business was structured and what improvements I could make. As I was still very much in the formative period, it enabled me to make changes and add structure whilst things were still very flexible.
Laying the foundations for future growth
I was encouraged to think about how I would like the business to grow in future and put in place policies and strategies that perhaps aren’t necessary as a small business, but in the future will be required for the team working for me.
The support, guidance and advice from the team at B Corp was great and I received plenty of encouragement to submit my application. As a new business, I can only be a B Corp Pending for the first year, but already I feel part of a community of like minded businesses whose aim is to help others survive and prosper.
Unlike many business communities, this one is very collaborative and one of the main benefits of becoming a B Corp is that you have a ready market for your wares throughout the world and on your doorstep. Why buy your insurance or stationery from a company whose ethics you are unsure of, when you can access services and products from organisations who have already demonstrated their willingness to protect the planet and the people within in?
B Corp month
So, in this month of celebration of B Corps, I am proud to say I am part of that community trying to run my business and my life to be the best for the world. I am looking forward to continuing my B Corp journey and collaborating with more like-minded businesses!