Guest Post – People, planet, and profit – measuring success the BCorp way

In 2017, Simply Business became an accredited B Corp. This accreditation recognises their strong track record of having a positive impact on people, society and the environment. They have very kindly written a guest post about their experiences in becoming a B Corp. This post has been written by Simply Business and is (c) to them, we hope that you find it interesting.

It’s natural that as a business owner you want your ventures not only to survive but also to thrive. Success is an obvious goal – but have you considered what it really means to you?

The definition of success is something we’ve thought about a lot at Simply Business, and while we may be a profitable insurtech firm with more than half a million live insurance policies, we’ve decided we want our business to be about more than making money.

That’s why we’re sharing our journey to becoming a BCorp (or BCorporation), in the hope that it’ll inspire you and others to follow this way of operating, whether you choose to aim for certification or not.

BLab are the driving force behind BCorp accreditation – they’re the people you’ll work with if you decide to take the assessment to become certified.

So what’s being a BCorp all about?

We’ll begin with BLab

BLab is a non-profit organisation with an important mission. Dedicated to redefining the role of business in society, BLab recognises the global shift that’s taking place to make business a force for good, and is committed to speeding up that shift.

It offers businesses the chance to become certified by aligning with a common set of principles aimed at making the business world a more socially and environmentally responsible place.

So what’s a BCorp?

Within the BCorp community, the traditional benchmark of judging a business solely in terms of how much money it makes doesn’t apply. BCorporations champion the idea that there are other ways to define success.

The community includes a diverse range of organisations, from food producers to financial services, linked by a commitment to take better care of the world and its inhabitants.

The BCorp movement believes that having successful businesses among its fold is its best advocate. Becoming certified, in some industries, may even drive an upturn in profits and attract new consumers to a brand.

The idea of the triple bottom line is central to the BCorp ethos, encouraging businesses to consider the ripple effect of any decisions they make. It’s about considering social and environmental as well as financial factors when evaluating a business’s performance.

Becoming certified as a BCorp at Simply Business required us to measure our entire social and environmental performance. We were assessed on how our business affects our workers, community, environment, and customers.

What does the B stand for?

The B in BCorp is open to interpretation. It originally came from the American term ‘benefit corporation’, a type of corporate structure in the US. Today, it can mean different things to different people.

Kate Sandle, Community Manager for BCorp UK, has a favourite interpretation of BCorp, which comes from Ghandi – “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. She also says the B can stand for ‘better’ – or ‘better corporation’.

What made us decide to apply for BCorp certification?

We believe in the guiding principle of ‘business as a force for good’, and we achieved our certification in June 2017.

Part of becoming a BCorp for us was about inspiring others to aim higher in their performance standards and legal structure.

We like to think of our accreditation as ‘finding our people’ – it’s helped us to quantify the positive way we’ve been doing business for years.

On average, it takes an organisation one to two years to become a certified BCorp, so we’re proud of the fact that it only took us three months – it’s testament to the hard work we’ve put in to date and the fantastic culture we’ve created over the years.

Using business as a force for good has always been more than just words for us – and our BCorp certification proves that we walk the walk as well as talking the talk.

How did we go about it?

To become a certified BCorporation, Simply Business had to meet the required standards laid out in BLab’s assessment process.

The three steps to becoming a BCorp are:

  1. Completing the B Impact Assessment, scoring at least 80 out of a possible 200
  2. Making sure you meet the legal requirements and making changes to achieve this if you don’t currently
  3. Signing the BCorp Declaration of Interdependence and Term Sheet, to make your BCorp status official

Can any company become a BCorp?

You can apply for BCorp certification if you’re a for-profit business that’s been operating for at least 12 months. If you’re not quite at the one year mark, you can still get a head start by engaging as a ‘soon-to-B’ peer within a community of more than 1,000 Certified BCorps.

How does Simply Business live up to its BCorp status?

As a BCorp, we keep our operating practices transparent and we’re held to a high standard of legal accountability. We were delighted to be awarded Best for the World Honoree in both the Workers and Governance categories in 2018.

Like all the other BCorps, we’ll need to be recertified every three years. The criteria are dynamic, so we constantly keep tabs on how we’re continuing to be a force for good – and there are three obvious ways we’re doing this.

Dedication to giving back

Our Social Impact Team is always on the lookout for new ways we can help more than ourselves, whether it’s through fundraising, giving time, or in another way.

We work with charity partners like Whizz-Kidz and the England Amputee Football Association to raise funds for worthy causes, and we have a bank of 150 days our employees can use to spend time volunteering for any cause close to their hearts.

Other exciting plans involve Age UK, Voluntary Impact Northampton, NorPIP, The Hope Centre, and Create UK to name but a few. We’re looking into pro bono work on charities’ social media through to level-up sessions on staying safe online, and even a makeover for a charity’s tired and rundown offices.

We also have 30 people volunteering at a local homeless day centre in the run up to Christmas, helping spread Christmas cheer to those in need.

Creating diversity and inclusion

Firm believers that a diverse workforce is a successful workforce, we’ve put measures in place when it comes to ensuring we stay on track to gender equality.

We’re also signed up to HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter, which aims to encourage gender balance across the financial services industry.

To illustrate our commitment, in 2017 36 per cent of our management team were women, and our plan is to at least maintain this by 2020, alongside a number of other initiatives to promote opportunities for women.

Taking care of the environment

Our people are also on the case working out how we can reduce waste, energy and water usage, and unnecessary travel.

We’re dedicated to minimising our impact on the environment, and believe that even the smallest of efforts – from litter picking days to water-efficient toilets – all add up to create a positive impact.

Want to get on board with the BCorp community?

Becoming a BCorp is a great way to demonstrate to the world your dedication to making your organisation more about its people, community, and the planet than just its profits.

It also gives you access to a network of like-minded organisations with which you can share knowledge and best practice.

The triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit will need to feature at the forefront of your mind, with environmental performance, transparency, and accountability also important factors to take into consideration.

Becoming certified is no mean feat, but the effort you put in is worth the benefits. If you’re concerned about cost, you may be interested to know that it’s levelled against the number of employees in your organisation. And any money you pay goes towards running BLab and the BCorp accreditation scheme as a not-for-profit.

Even if you don’t become certified, there’s no reason why you can’t still join in the movement to make business better for the world. It’s free to complete the assessment with no expectation to become certified – you could think of it as a free benchmarking exercise for your business as a force for good.

Ways you can follow the BCorp path

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals encompass the spirit of the assessment to become a BCorp, and are a good guide for any organisation that wants to do more than just make a profit. The goals are 17 ways to transform the world we live in, and the first six are:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and wellbeing
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation

Achieving these aims may seem like a tall order – because it is – but if we all do a little individually, collectively we can make a big difference.

Visit un.org to see the rest of the goals and find inspiration for ways to make your business better for the world.

This article was written by, and is (c) Simply Business. All opinions, recommendations and views expressed in this article are solely those of Simply Business.

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