No plan b
Cameron Roberts analyses B Corp certification by speaking to businesses who have been through the ringer to be sustainable.
How do you know if you organisation is being sustainable? Is it the optics of being seen to be eco-conscious? Do you notice that employee wellbeing is top of the agenda? Or do you just believe the internal comms that the organisation is?
Anecdotal measurements for sustainability are all well and good, but to efficiently and reliably measure change, businesses need a credible signposting process to show clients and internal stakeholders what they are doing to push sustainable practices.
Conference News spoke to numerous organisations that had achieved the certification about what the process involves and what tangible benefits businesses can reap from becoming sustainably accredited. Representatives from OrangeDoor, Exclusive Collection and HeadBox all spoke about the importance of sustainability both internally and externally for their businesses.
What is B Corp?
The official tagline for becoming a B Corp is that “a business has to be verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability”.
In essence, B Corp certification is a stamp of approval that a business is sustainable across multiple fronts. It’s not just an events qualification; businesses across a variety of sectors are jumping through the hoops to be recognised as being at the forefront of sustainable practices.
The organisation behind the certification, B Lab UK, claims there are more than 5,000 B Corps around the world, across 154 industries that employ more than 412,500 workers. The point being that sustainable recognition is not just a nice to have,
it has tangible benefits across the value chain for a variety of sectors.
Applying to be a B Corp is a rigorous, points-based, process which analyses numerous aspects of the business to ascertain a score to denote the sustainable chops of a company. From supply chain to employee engagement, the process looks into the minute details of how a business operates.
Danny Pecorelli, managing director, Exclusive Collection, said: “From my side, it has been a vigorous journey of accreditation always with people and planet at the heart. B Corp categorise in five areas – environment, governance, community, workers and customers – and score best practice in each area.”
Aside from the external benefits and the social responsibility that companies are beholden to, internal benefits also make B Corp certification appealing for events businesses. Lucy Lowry, CFO and COO, HeadBox explained: “The change is right for our employees, is right for our clients, the environment and the wider community. So, it goes without saying it’s the right thing for the business. The engagement we’ve had from staff has also increased as a direct result of our B Corp mission.”
What is the benefit?
For one thing, it’s a good benchmark to measure sustainability by, something that many organisations struggle with, especially on the people front. Often, the secrecy surrounding how internal organisation measure sustainable success, make it difficult for industries to figure out how they stack up.
Elizabeth Heron, CEO and founder, OrangeDoor, said: “I think what
B Corp has done is that it has given us a platform, it has given us a method and a way to review everything that we do. It’s set an industry standard that we need to judge ourselves by.”
B Corp itself espouses the virtues of the certification for a businesses in terms of commercial opportunities. The logic is easy
to understand – in an era in which sustainability is so high on businesses’ priorities, provable sustainability is like gold dust.
Edward Low, head of growth at OrangeDoor, said: “The values that consumers now have when making
purchasing decisions tie into the principle around not buying brands, but buying into brand ideals.”
B Corp can also be used as a reason for thoroughly working on projects and can impact the lead times on delivery, according to Heron. She said: “It’s showing our clients why things are a bit more money, why things may take a bit longer, because we’re pursuing those values in everything that we do.”
However, it is not all about the commercial aspect for businesses such as OrangeDoor; sustainability champions within the organisation are pushing for this certification for greater social responsibility across the industry.
Heron added: “B Corp for me isn’t something that is going to win us business. It isn’t something that’s going to put better value on the business etc. We’re doing it because we must do this as a collective within our industry to make a difference.”
Supply and sustain
The accreditation process does not just influence what work a company is doing internally, of which they have a lot of control and can track its practices. It also assesesses supply chains that businesses use and how that impacts the effect events and business operations have on the environment.
Lowry added: “When we started our B Corp journey, we broke the business into two key areas. The first was HeadBox supplier spend
and the second was the supplier spend our clients put through us. Of this total spend, 5% relates to HeadBox and 95% relates to our clients. As a result of this, our focus has been driving sustainability for our client spend.”
For Exclusive Collection, changing the supply chain focused more on impacting local communities rather than revenue streams.
Pecorelli said: “For our work on the supply chain we are going hyper local, growing our own in kitchen gardens, vineyards and orchards.
“We also are challenging the purchasing we make to remove waste, plastics and find solutions using more sustainable materials. For example, we use Sprout wooden pencils with seeds in and we have QR codes that allow guests to download papers and magazines to devices. We also partnered with Olio, a food charity, for when we do generate waste.”
Once again, sustainability is not just about the impact on the planet, but the people as well. This encompasses the structure of partner companies, their social governance strategies and what they do for their people.
Lynn Mackeonis, head of HR and talent, OrangeDoor, said: “We have a preferred supplier list now. It’s still being worked on as we speak, but it started about a year ago. We look for companies that are diversely owned small businesses locally available to wherever the event is near our offices.”