To become a certified B Corp, also called a “benefit corporation,” a company has to meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. According to its website: “B Corp certification is to sustainable business what LEED certification is to green building or Fair Trade certification is to coffee.” This is the story of our journey.
The application process
Our path to certification was an eye-opening process, one that truly helped us understand the positive impacts a business can have on individuals, on the environment and on communities as a system for social cooperation.
At first pass, reviewing the 150 detailed questions, we thought for sure we were going to get a passing grade. However, we quickly started to see some of our shortcomings in the areas of policies, procedures and documentation.
For example, as a relatively young and small company, we had never taken the time to develop an employee handbook. We encouraged community involvement, but we did not have a formal policy to provide employees paid time off for days of community service, or to match donations to nonprofits of their choice. Uh oh. We might have “talked the talk,” but did we really walk the walk? If the assessment could talk it would have said, “Nice try, Notogroup, you can do better.”
Failure made us better
We knew we had to improve. Some of our action items included:
- Developing a stated code of ethics to align with our values and service standards;
- Establishing a more formal volunteer service and community engagement program;
- Incorporating social and environmental evaluation in performance reviews;
- Launching a process for measuring and reducing overall energy use;
- Integrating the “benefit mission” into our operating agreement; and
- Clarifying our company’s mission for the primary “change we seek” as an organization.
The culmination of these changes ultimately resulted in the drafting of a customized, 35-plus page employee handbook that specifies our values, mission, policies and benefits. As a service firm, we must attract and retain the absolute best and brightest talent in order to be able to thrive. We now have a roadmap and the tools to follow through on our commitment being a great place to work for all the right reasons.
How you can become a B Corp:
To get started, a company conducts an impact assessment, which includes questions about:
- Governance: Corporate accountability, transparency and governance metrics.
- Workers: Compensation, worker ownership and workplace environment.
- Community: Supplier relations and community involvement metrics.
- Environment: Energy and water usage, and environmental practices.
Once the assessment is conducted and standards are met, additional steps include meeting the legal requirements to ensure that B Corp certification and the company’s mission can better survive new management, new investors, or even new ownership.
We can’t rest on our laurels
Achieving B Corp certification is quite an honor, but it is not the finish line. We have to continuously measure and evaluate our progress, and reapply every two years. It requires us to set a vision for the “change we seek” and holds us accountable for living up to it.
In the end, even though we fell short the first time through, we learned about some of the terrific ways we could improve our processes, and our company, so that we truly could be a force for positive change and success. Plus, we weren’t left to flounder. Throughout the process, the B Corp team provided excellent tools and great support. Now, having been through the process, we can say sincerely that we made a giant step in becoming the company we always aspired to become.
Notogroup is an executive search and talent consulting firm with a singular focus on providing the most comprehensive executive recruiting service for companies that support healthy, active, and sustainable lifestyles. For more information, contact Roy Notowitz.
About B Corps
The concept was introduced in 2007 by a group of entrepreneurs seeking to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Today, there are more than 700 certified B Corps working to redefine what the definition of success is in business. Some of the more recognizable B Corp companies include: Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Etsy, Partnership Capital Growth Advisors, and the Portland-based coffee importer, Sustainable Harvest. They demonstrate a willingness to undergo a rigorous examination of their business practices, and evaluate their success based on their impact on the environment, their employees and the community at large.