First things first: People. Planet. Profit.
By Bob Mytton
Although it’s become a popular term, sustainability isn’t about keeping up with trends. It’s about committing to being a better business in the long term. A business that is a force for good.
Profit is always going to be at the forefront of any business owner’s mind. But the danger is that we put financial gain before people and the planet. Many would say that is what has led us to the social and environmental problems we face globally. It’s time to think about the bigger picture. But where do we start?
Firstly, we all need to review our activities with that bigger picture in mind. You don’t have to be a multinational oil company or a national government to have a significant impact. No matter how small your influence might feel, every decision and action has an effect – for good or for bad. Start having your own conversations about sustainability, both internally and externally. In our experience, you’ll find that people really want to have these conversations. Customers and clients, existing employees and potential talent, now more than ever, are driven by values.
Certifying as a B Corp – the process
Our route to examining our impacts was to embark on B Corp certification, and I now get asked by many people about the process. It’s a significant commitment to being a sustainable business – and doing all the work that entails. Which is a lot of work – as it should be.
This wasn’t a box-ticking exercise or a greenwashing activity that was more talk than action. It’s been a challenging process of meeting standards in Governance, Workers, Environment, Community and Customers. Every B Corp business assesses every part of their activities, from policies and processes to energy usage and civic engagement.
A year after we decided to apply, we submitted our B Impact Assessment for evaluation. At this point, the wheels were fully in motion, and all of our hard work started to feel real. The rest of the process to certification took a month and involved B Corp requesting more details and additional documentation to support our application. We also completed a long Assessment Review via zoom, which helped B Corp to get a more accurate picture of our impact.
Importantly, it doesn’t end there. Every three years, we will have to re-certify: a process that ensures we continue to engage with sustainable practices and set goals against the most up-to-date standards.
It’s a team effort
It’s not been easy, but it’s worth it. When you first approach B Corp it might seem complicated, but don’t let that put you off. Make use of the resources and support that B Corp provide. After all, they want businesses to certify! In particular, their online Knowledge Base will answer many of the questions that you may have along the way.
Get all your colleagues onboard, not just with what’s needed for the process, but that sense of greater purpose and doing good. If the whole team is invested, the process will move along and the sense of pride at the end will be greater.
We also had the support of Jo Lord, a former colleague who has now set up BYEN, a consultancy that helps businesses on their journey to be more sustainable. Having someone who understood the nitty-gritty, and gave us prompts when we needed them, helped us to make it happen.
Change for the better
It’s not an exaggeration to say that going through the B Corp process has completely shifted our mindset in a very positive way. It forced me to evaluate every aspect of the business and make changes for the better.
On the smaller scale, it’s changed aspects of the day to day running of the studio and made us revisit and update all of our policies. In a bigger way, it energised us to put in place ideas that we’ve been talking about for years but never got around to doing. It also allowed us to reflect and recognise the work we have done in the community through some of our side projects or support for small local organisations. I now realise we didn’t value that as much as we should have.
Most importantly, it has made us reflect on how we approach design projects and what shapes our decisions when we propose solutions and develop strategies. This has strengthened our ability to have conversations with clients who are also reflecting on sustainability and need to think through the implications for their brands and communications.
The whole process has given us a greater sense of purpose in the work we do. It makes us better as a team and for the community. Better for the planet in how we understand our impacts. And keeps us on track as a stronger company that can design towards a better future.