31st March 2021
Better business is better for all
This past month has been B Corp Month: an annual, global, month-long campaign celebrating and championing what it is to be a B CorpTM. The theme this year was Better Business. Being a ‘better business’ means you prioritise constant improvement to ensure you continuously exceed the expectations, demands and needs of society and the planet. It also means placing stakeholders at the centre of your business decisions.
On this final day of B Corp Month, we asked George, our MD, to share his thoughts on what it means to be a better business…
The B Corp movement is one that I have been aware of for a number of years, prompted by my brother certifying his business, Coschool, as a B Corp out in Colombia back in 2015. After joining bio-bean in the same year it struck me that the B Corp ethos is aligned to what bio-bean is seeking to achieve.
Certified B CorporationsTM are a select (but growing) group of for-profit companies using the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. B Corps are verified, through a rigorous assessment process, to have met the highest standards of “social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose”.
B Corps are building global awareness and driving a movement of people using business as a force for good – taking the lead to both deliver and set an example of what is right, fair and sustainable in business.
We (bio-bean) certified as a B Corp in late 2020. It is a fantastic achievement and one that took a great deal of effort from the whole team. Certification is both validation of what we have achieved and how we intend to move forward. It’s also a public, legally binding marker as to how the business will be run.
The part of the certification process that is perhaps least well known is that B Corps are legally required to amend their company’s Articles of Association. It must state that the company exists to promote the success of the business for the benefit not only of its shareholders, but also have a material positive impact on society and the environment.
The governing documents of a B Corp state the company’s commitment to consider a range of ‘stakeholder interests’ when making decisions, including those of shareholders, employees, suppliers, society and the environment. Critically, the documents also state that shareholder value is not the supreme consideration, but rather just one factor amongst the many stakeholder interests.
We are fortunate at bio-bean in that both our board and the majority of our shareholders are equally aligned with the B Corp approach and the need to consider a wider stakeholder base, as well as ensure that we have a positive impact on the environment.
So, when it came to amending our Articles, the approval from the board was unanimous. They understood that a stakeholder governance approach, where we take into consideration the interests of all identifiable stakeholders (staff, community, customers, the environment), would benefit the business and ultimately help us create big change that lasts.
Benefits of adopting a stakeholder governance mindset
B Corps benefit from higher levels of innovation and they experience greater levels of employee retention, engagement and diversity, alongside faster growth in turnover.
We certified less than 6 months ago, and so we’re still embedding into the B Corp system and community. However, there have already been noticeable benefits and opportunities through engaging with other B Corps and providing us with a framework to approach decisions.
We’re also, prompted in part by the B Impact Assessment, working on plans to improve how we operate across all areas of the business, and I’m looking forward to seeing what impacts our being a B Corp has on our team, our community and our wider outputs over the medium and longer term.
And in the spirit of transparency, our current B Impact Report is publicly available for all to see.
We continue to build on the foundation of our certification and are proud to be part of a growing and driven band of companies. In the UK, B Corps span some 50-odd industries, with over 20,000 employees and a combined revenue of nearly £4.5 billion. The B Corp movement is a true vehicle for change and one that is increasing in influence and reach.
When you consider that 75% of the UK public believe businesses should have a legal responsibility to the planet and people, alongside maximising profit, and that they have a responsibility to protect the natural environment (B Lab UK survey, May 2020), it raises a very pertinent question… why don’t they? What if all businesses acted purposefully and responsibly, ensuring a cleaner, greener, fairer future for all?
In light of this, I am proud that bio-bean is not only a B Corp but will be supporting the Better Business Act (BBA) campaign which launches today (31 March). The BBA is the campaign, led by B Lab UK, to change UK law to make sure that businesses are required to put balancing people, planet and profit at the heart of their purpose and the responsibility of their directors.