B Corp’s activities balancing goal, planet and profit
Everyone claims to be “sustainable” these days, but who’s really talking? Jihee Junn talks to some of the New Zealand companies taking action by joining the B Corp movement.
TTwo years ago, nearly 200 CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies agreed it was time to redefine “a company’s purpose.” In a report signed by Apple, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Amazon, Pepsico and Target, the American heavyweights have decided that companies will no longer operate primarily for the benefit of their shareholders, but rather “all stakeholders”. This includes their customers, employees, suppliers and local communities who have traditionally been overlooked in favor of maximizing profits. A cultural shift was happening and big business knew it – their engagement signaled a big change brewing.
Words alone weren’t going to be enough, however. At the time, many advocates for social and environmental change – like the team behind B Corp – emphasized the need to “take action” in order to achieve these goals in any meaningful way. But as many of these companies repeatedly fail to tackle their questionable work practices like grueling conditions, discriminatory management, and excessive waste, their commitments collapsed into little more than empty promises two years later.
“It is important to recognize that the people who demand this change demand action,” the co-founders of the B Corp trio wrote in a 2019 editorial. “People are demanding a new social contract between business and society in which business and capital markets create long-term value for all stakeholders. People ask, in part because they saw a credible alternative in the B Corp movement.
Since its launch in 2006, companies around the world wishing to make a positive social and environmental contribution have applied for B Corporations certification. But becoming a B Corp is not just a matter of good intentions: certification depends on the overall social and environmental performance of a company, with supporting evidence. Today, more than 4,000 companies have achieved B Corps certification, including well-known names like Ben & Jerry’s, Danone, Allbirds and Patagonia.
In New Zealand, the demand for socially and environmentally responsible businesses has grown exponentially in recent years. In 2014, New Zealand only had one B Corp. Five years later, there were 22. Since then that number has more than doubled to 45, most recently with the addition of Kiwibank – one of the largest companies to be certified in Australia and New Zealand.
“I think becoming a B Corp is a real demonstration of our commitment to being a goal driven organization. That’s one of the reasons we took this trip – to make sure we had some form of independent assessment or verification that we were operating in a way that was in line with our purpose, ”says Julia. Jackson, Head of Sustainability at Kiwibank.
“It’s also a good assessment of where we are today, because sustainability is always a journey. You’re never really done, and one of the great things about B Corp is that it recognizes it through the points system. You always see how you can improve and what more you can do.
Because B Corp measures the overall performance of a business, from supply chains and carbon footprint to community work and benefits, it is widely regarded as the gold standard for environmental and social certification. . The process is rigorous and can take years, starting with a questionnaire tailored to the industry, location and size of your business.
Then the hardest part comes as B Lab – the nonprofit organization that certifies businesses – goes through each company’s self-assessment and verifies the answers. At Kiwibank, which submitted its questionnaire late last year, Jackson says it took eight months of “a lot of back and forth” to finally get that accreditation. And with companies reassessed every three years against a new set of standards, maintaining a B Corp status is no easy task.
“It’s incredibly difficult – it took us about 14 months to get certified – and it’s not cheap either,” says Roman Jewell, CEO of the Nut Butter company. Repair & Fog which became a B Corp in July of last year. “This is not a lip-service certification, and it certainly isn’t obvious. Getting certified is just the start of the journey.
Jewell, who founded the company in 2014 and has been a Kiwibank customer since day one, says he has always viewed Fix & Fogg as a brand driven by enduring values, “it’s one thing to say, a other to show it ”.
“What I love about B Corp is that it is all encompassing. It looks at all facets of your business, such as how and where we buy our ingredients, jars, lids, and our carbon footprint as an importer and exporter, ”he says. “It’s a very good analysis of your company’s situation, but also a bit of a roadmap [for doing better in the future]. “
Julie Boucher from management consulting Just add lime agrees. As head of social sustainability and planning, Boucher says the company’s main draw to B Corp – for which it was certified in March after a year-long process – was also its “holistic view.” of what it meant to do good business.
“You use terms like ‘sustainable business’, but what does that mean for a professional services business like ours? Of course, it’s about the environment and the community, but it’s also about being transparent in our decision-making, involving staff in shaping our policies and having regular feedback. conversations with them about the business.
After earning B Corp certification, Boucher says the team now goes above and beyond to maintain and improve their credentials as a sustainable business. For example: tracking the carbon footprint of each staff member, measuring the amount of waste they throw away each week and even striving to switch to local suppliers.
“Part of sustainability is looking at who we get our services from, and we’ve realized that our [previous] the bank did not correspond to our situation as a company, ”explains Boucher.
“So we switched to Kiwibank less than a year ago because they were from New Zealand. It made no difference to our score, but as a B Corp it is important that we have a strong philosophy of local support. And now with the Kiwibank certification it’s great, because I think as a B Corps we understand each other a lot better as organizations. “
WWith an overall B Impact score of 90.3 (a minimum of 80 is required for certification), Julia Jackson of Kiwibank says she is delighted to see the focus on clients, especially in the long term, and its terms of service. work and the treatment of the personnel appear as strong points of the final evaluation of the company.
“One of the things that emerges the most from interviews with randomly selected members of our contact center and frontline team is this commitment to supporting the customer,” says Jackson. “The other areas where we have performed well are the benefits we have introduced for our employees over the past 12 months. comprehensive health and life insurance coverage, as well as our commitment to provide living wage, and supporting the diversity and inclusion which are all part of allowing people to be themselves at work.
However, the most crucial hurdle that Kiwibank managed to overcome was its “responsible” bank requirement, according to Jackson. “Without meeting the minimum criteria in place around the types of industries we lend to, we actually wouldn’t have been able to certify at all,” she says. “So if we had been overly exposed to fossil fuels or high-risk industries like gambling, then B Corp wouldn’t even have answered the other questions at all.”
Going forward, Jackson says Kiwibank plans to use the B Corp framework as a guide on how to further improve its sustainability goals. She said one area that was highlighted as possible for improvement was in helping her suppliers be more sustainable, adding that work to revise her supplier code of conduct was already underway.
One vendor that has a head start is Springload, the Wellington-based digital agency that has been behind the design of Kiwibank’s website and app since 2008. Certified as B Corp status two years ago. For years, getting certified was a no-brainer for Springload, according to people. experienced manager Clare Everett. As he had already put in place several measures required for B Corp accreditation, it was just a matter of writing them down “and showing evidence of what we were already doing” such as carbon offsets, flexible working and opportunities. career development. and growth.
“Getting certified meant we could say, ‘Look, we’re doing all of these things, but now someone has verified that we’re doing them.’ It was a validation that we weren’t just making this up, ”Everett says. “It also meant being part of this amazing network of companies who realize that business is about more than making money.
“If every business in the world did this, I really think the world would be a much better place to live and work. “
In / A article 2016 Exploring the meteoric rise of B Corp certifications, he suggested that as apples and Amazons around the world step up efforts to be recognized as good corporate citizens, small businesses “that have long been engaged in social causes and environmental wanted to prove that they were more genuine and genuine advocates of stakeholder benefits ”.
As a result, becoming a B Corp meant showing that you were serious (and proven) about your claims, going beyond the “greenwashing” and “hype” that prevails among so many companies today. Because the reality is that many companies would rather pay lip service than risk disrupting their bottom line. But consumers are getting smarter – they know actions speak much louder than words.
This content was created in a paid partnership with Kiwibank. Learn more about our partnerships here.
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