It is the first in a three-part editorial series where Will Brooks, CEO of Raconteur, will document the company’s search for certification as a B-Corp, hoping to inspire more SMEs to sink.
If you are not already familiar, B Corporation (or B Corp) is a personalized certification system that focuses on the social and environmental performance of for-profit companies. It is run by B Lab, a global non-profit organization that believes the world’s biggest challenge is “It cannot be solved by government and non-profit alone”
B Lab was founded in 2006, with the first 82 companies certified in 2007. Fast forward to 2022 and now there are over 4,500 certified companies worldwide. In the UK, there are more than 900 industries spanning 50 or more. Although there is clear-cut building, this means that still 0.35% of UK companies are certified to employ more than 10 people (based on 2021 private sector statistics).
Companies like The Guardian, Ben & Jerry’s, Danone and Innocent Drinks have already made grades, B Corp status is something that only big brands can expect you to be forgiven. But there is no limit to who can certify – even the only traders can, as long as they have been working for 12 months or more. I recently wrote an article arguing that a business is never too small to focus on DE & I and I believe that the same thing applies to business environmental and larger social responsibility. If businesses ignore these challenges, they can become more complex and ultimately cost more to fix as the company grows. It’s best to start small, or, if you’re out of that point, start today.
At the time of writing, Raconteur has hired 75 people and recently pledged to certify as B Corp – one of our core strategic objectives over the next 12 months. It is driven by various factors. First, and perhaps most importantly, the right thing to do. As a business with huge growth ambitions, we must take our responsibilities seriously and ensure that we can make a positive impact in the world. Second, being a B Corp is something that all employees can go back to and work in addition to their normal daily responsibilities. The certification process, and hopefully the final recognition, will further increase staff engagement and help attract and retain talent. Ultimately, it will build trust with our consumers, communities and suppliers – and increase our brand awareness.
Despite a relatively small number of companies making grades to date, more than 100,000 companies have registered and begun the B Corp certification process. High quality is required to achieve B Corp status. To qualify, a company must score more than 80 points from a detailed questionnaire structure that explores its policies and practices around administration, employees, community, environment and customers. Evaluation needs to be repeated every three years to ensure long-term commitment and retention of certification.
After promising to certify, we started thinking about the best and fastest way to achieve it. While it is important to support Raconteur’s leaders and get involved in the process (in fact, some items can only be achieved by company managers), we also saw an opportunity to engage our larger workforce. B Corp Certification covers a range of business practices, meaning employees will gain insights and exposure to conduct business across the level of experience. Thus, it can be a valuable learning experience for more junior staff.
We’ve given a company-wide presentation of our intentions, and what might be involved, and we urge employees to volunteer if they want to play an active role in helping Raconteur get certified. About 20% of our staff put their names in front of us, from which we randomly selected an initial group of six to sit next to me and our COO in our “B-Team”. Raconteur’s “B-Team” will collectively complete the B Corp evaluation and be responsible for conducting data research and change around specific items included in the evaluation. We will tour the team every six months so that others can participate, learn more about how our business works and have a positive impact on the company.
We’ll be submitting our preliminary survey next week, so in the next article in this series we’ll reveal the changes we’re making to get closer to our initial score, areas of improvement, and all the important scores in business that are close to 80. . While we have no doubt that being certified as a B Corp will be a big challenge, it is one that we are thrilled to take on.