Having been accredited with B Corp status in October 2023, Jane McDaid, founder of THINKHOUSE outlines an A-Z of what it takes to become a B Corp business.
A is for Amazing. Becoming a B Corp has been transformational and it’s something that is, already, of enormous importance and benefit to our company, our team, our clients and our community.
B is for B Corp. The B Corp movement is about transforming the global economy to benefit all people (social), communities, and the planet: the B Corp movement won’t stop until all business is a force for good. The movement embraces a business model that considers multiple shareholders, (e.g. employees, communities, customers, suppliers, the planet). B also stands for BENEFIT for ALL. B Corp businesses are here to serve more than their shareholders; we have equal responsibility to community and planet.
C is for Certification. The certification process can take between 6 months to 2 years and requires a real commitment from the agency.
D is for Dedication. B Corp isn’t just a label you slap on to a business, it’s a dedicated way of being. It’s a company’s values, culture and commitment and it takes daily dedication to live the values of a B Corp certified company.
E is for Economy. B Corps are leading economic systems change to realize a vision of an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. Why? In our current global economic system, business is failing its enormous promise to create positive impact while driving large-scale negative impact. In short, it’s putting profit over people and planet. A different kind of economy is not only possible, but necessary — and business can help lead the way.
F is for Finance. So far, in my experience, B Corp companies seem to be inherently more focused on the future and tend to be quite innovative. Whether it’s that, or the B Corp certification, there’s a lot of data to prove that B Corps outperform non-B Corps financially. According to a B Lab UK Community Survey in 2021, the headcount growth rate for B Corps was 15% between 2018 and 2021 vs the UK national average of 1%. B Corps have more success in securing equity finance. (UK B Corps 70% V’s UK SMEs 56%) and, more recently, in research by B Lab in 2023, B Corps grew, on average, by 22% between first and second accreditation (a period of 3 years). This demonstrates the effectiveness of B Corp companies as well as the shift in procurement priorities in terms of choosing B Corp certified suppliers.
G is for Governance. The B Corp certification process includes a deep analysis of the company’s governance. As part of this, one of the most important things we did, at THINKHOUSE, was to change our company’s articles of incorporation, making a legal and binding commitment to serve more than just shareholders and to consider people and planet.
H is for Happy. As the Founder, I’m really happy that THINKHOUSE has a certification that reflects our business and our true values. I’m really happy that I am surrounded by a team of people that share those values and supported by a growing network of clients that want to partner with an agency that shares their values and is progressive in the areas of sustainability, community, equity and justice.
I is for Impact. The B Corp impact assessment measures a company’s entire social and environmental impact. The framework for the assessment is available on B Impact Assessment. It’s a tool that’s not just used by companies to become B Corp Certified. Over 250,000 business leaders use the tool as a framework for assessing and improving their own impact across 5 key areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, Customers.
J is for Join Us. The B Corp movement is nothing without its growing community. 7794 companies across 92 countries across 161 industries; a network that leads economic systems change to support our collective vision of an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. Who better to champion, and lead, the movement than the advertising and marketing industry – an industry that can exponentially influence all other industries.
K is for Knowledge Sharing. The B Corp community is an open community, committed to sharing knowledge, resources and support to transform the global economy to benefit all people, communities and the planet. The B Corp movement is not so much about ‘having an advantage over our competitors’, it’s about inviting our competitors to get on board too. Knowledge sharing is, to me, an important part of the spirit of being a B Corp leader.
L is for Legacy. Founders often talk about the legacy they would like to leave. Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s Founder, put it perfectly on the day he signed Patagonia as a B Corp Certified company. He said: “Patagonia is trying to build a company that could last 100 years.” He continued: “Benefit corporation legislation creates the legal framework to enable mission-driven companies like Patagonia to stay mission-driven through succession, capital raises, and even changes in ownership, by institutionalizing the values, culture, processes, and high standards put in place by founding entrepreneurs.”
M is for Mission Lock. As part of the process, one of the most significant changes we made was to our businesses mission-lock; the changing of our company’s constitution. The B Corp legal framework allows companies to protect their mission and ensures that the company will continue to practice stakeholder governance even after capital raises and leadership changes.
N is for Network. The growing network of B Corp companies is a community we’re proud to be part of. International B Corp Companies we work with such as Ben & Jerry’s, innocent drinks and Nespresso UK, as well as the Irish B Corp community which includes: O’Brien Fine Foods, Danone Dairy Pars, STRONG ROOTS, Armada Hotel, Change by Degrees, Cully & Sully Limited, Otonomee, The Handmade Soap Company and Baileys (Diageo) amongst others. Of course, in the marketing and advertising space, B Corps we admire include: Wieden + Kennedy, Elvis and, of course, Patagonia. It’s exciting too, to recently see Cullen Communications, an Irish PR agency, become a B Corp company.
O is for Organised Impact. As a powerful constituency of business leaders, the B Corp community is in a key position to influence policy around the world. In partnership with peers and policymakers, B Lab shapes policy initiatives and equips B Corps and like-minded organizations with advocacy tools to achieve policy change. In 2022, B Lab partners advocated for 22 different policy initiatives in 11 countries
to champion changes to international law, policies and acts such as the Better Business Act in the UK.
P is for Purpose and Profit. B Corps are Pro-profit – without margin there is no mission. The goal is to find the sweet spot of balancing People (Social), Planet (Environmental) and Profit (Finance). B Corps typically outperform market growth (in UK – 27% above GDP growth rates), and are key to attracting and retaining staff; it makes business sense to be a B Corp.
Q is for Quality Assurance. Having a B Corp certification is like having a quality mark, but one that is holistic and reassures customers the business reaches high levels of sustainable and ethical standards.
R is for Resilience. The process itself is very very thorough, and the leaders of the process need to be resilient and ambitious to drive it over the line. The certification itself also builds on our businesses’ resilience as the B Corp certification has become more widely recognised as a business that is a force for good; adding to the long term resilience of the certified organisation. Similar to externally verified, globally recognised certifications like Fairtrade and ISO-9000s which are designed to build trust, a B Corp certification adds to a company’s long term resilience. This is something that’s not just reserved for SMEs; every type of business can seek accreditation (SMES, multinationals, sole traders) and the process is customised to the type and scale of the business applying for certification.
S is for Score. The Minimum verified score of 80 points (out of a possible 200) is generated by answering questions that measure a company’s performance across 5 key areas; environment, Communities, Customers, Suppliers and Employees. The Median score for ‘ordinary’ (non B Corp) businesses is 50.9 and the average first time B Corp score is between 80-85 points. THINKHOUSE’s first B Corp score is 90.8. The highest scoring B Corp in the world is Patagonia US which currently has a score of 151.5
T is for Theory of Change. The B Global Network’s Theory of Change guides our mission to transform the economic system into a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative global economy. Check it out here: https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us/movement/theory-of-change/
U is for U Turn. The process itself is extensive, time-heavy and demanding. At many stages of the process, the team will feel like doing a U Turn. Don’t. Support each other, realise that it’s for the greater good, and get to the finish line. You’ll be glad you did.
V is for Value. By becoming a B Corp our business is increasing its value – both with new and existing customers. In just a few months, since our certification, we’ve already witnessed the value-add that B Corp certification brings, especially in the advantage it gives us for new business. We’re entering 2024 with great confidence that being a B Corp certified business will be a big part of our company’s continued success.
W is for Workers. One of the key areas certified companies submit materials around is fair treatment of, and arrangements of, workers.
X is for Gen X. The kids of the silent generation and parents of Millenials and Gen Zers. It’s also the generation that, for the most part, is running brands, businesses, organisations and governments – a generation that has more potential to influence and impact our world at large. A generation I’m eager to influence through our work in the marketing and advertising industry so that we, as an industry, can build a better world for the next generation.
Y is for Youth. At THINKHOUSE, we want to create a world of brands and businesses that young people actually want in the world. Through our work with The Youth Lab, we represent their view and their opinions in the marketplace and, alongside our clients, we’ll continue to fight their fight when it comes to social justice and the environment. What we’ve learned about the B Corp movement, like so many other things in culture, is that young people are more tuned into what’s happening than ‘all adults’. In the US, for example, where B Corp is more established, all-adult awareness levels are at 37% but when it comes to 18-24 year olds, 61% of them understand what B Corp stands for.
Z is for Zzzzzzzzz. The rest you’ll need after achieving B Corp Certification and before starting the recertification process which is due just 3 years later. Being a B Corp is about consistent assessment and improvements so it really is, as far as we’re concerned, just the beginning.