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The journey to B-Corp

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This is the second in a three-part editorial series where Will Brookes, CEO at Raconteur, will document the company’s quest to certify as a B-Corp with the hope of inspiring more SMEs to take the plunge.

If you missed it, the first part of this series can be read here.

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Now that we’ve pledged to become B-Corp certified, the real work begins. The first thing to do is take the B Impact Assessment, which helps companies measure their impact and highlights areas that need improvement. Our ‘B Team’, a group of employees who volunteered to help Raconteur work towards B Corp certification along with myself and our COO, are tasked with gathering the information we’ll need to complete the survey.

This proves not to be straightforward. There are a number of questions where we simply don’t have the necessary information readily available to provide an accurate answer.

To give an idea of the sort of data that is required, we had to detail how much of our energy use comes from renewable sources. Given we are located in a shared office building, this required contacting the landlord and waiting for them to calculate it and respond. In total, it took us nearly six weeks to gather everything necessary to complete the survey.

The threshold to qualify as a B Corp is 80 points, with the organisation warning that it is “rare to achieve this first time”. It also advises that companies “should aim to submit with a score of around 80 to 85 points”, presumably to give some buffer in case the score is marked down slightly in the audit process.

Raconteur’s initial assessment score is 63.7, which seems like a relatively strong start. In truth, although we hadn’t realised it, our journey to certifying as a B-Corp started a few years back. I’ve regularly written about Raconteur’s quest to become more equitable, diverse and inclusive. We’ve made lots of positive changes to the business in recent years that have clearly given us a higher initial score than we might otherwise have achieved.

But there is quite a lot of work to get us over that 80-point threshold. When I asked our COO, Josh Hearne, what the biggest challenge for us is, he told me: “It’s the wide scope of what the impact assessment covers. There are so many different elements to work through and coordinate. Speaking transparently, we have a lack of in-house expertise able to tackle some of these areas.”

It came as no real surprise that our strongest category by some distance was ‘workers’, given all the effort we’ve put in on that front in recent years. We scored maximum points in areas such as ‘workers financial security’ (which includes what we pay people, the disparity between the highest and lowest earners, and the percentage of the business that get bonuses), benefits (we offer solid health and dental insurance plans, have an existing employee assistance programme and provide enhanced parental leave) and professional development (we invest a lot in training).

We also scored highly for our employee engagement score (currently 91% on Peakon), the flexibility we offer staff and our general employee policies. Many of these things are the result of changes we’ve made in the past two years.

Our second strongest category was ‘community’, again reflecting the work we’ve put in on the DE&I front. We scored well for our inclusive hiring practices, the fact we measure and manage company diversity, and a number of our diversity results – for example having an even gender split across the business and a good proportion of managers identifying as female and from underrepresented backgrounds. We also did well on job creation rates, as we’ve grown significantly recently.

But it was less favourable news on the other three categories of ‘governance’, ‘environment’ and ‘customers’. The governance aspect should be an easy but crucial fix: we need our shareholders to change our articles of association to reflect the fact that we care about more than profit. Thankfully, they are fully supportive of our B-Corp mission and changing the articles will increase our score in this area considerably. It’ll also be important to ensure this filters down from the top to everyone in the business.

Improving our environment score is going to be trickier because there are some limitations due to the office we’re located in. That’s not an excuse. I’ll admit we previously took out an office lease without considering the environmental factors and this process has certainly made us reflect on those choices and what we might do differently in the future.

Nevertheless, in the short term getting metrics like our specific water usage (we share toilet facilities with other companies) or improving the proportion of company facilities that are certified to meet the requirements of an accredited green building programme is challenging in our current circumstances.

Similarly, the customers category is a tricky one for us. That’s not because we don’t care about our customers – far from it – but because we don’t produce products that help customers solve environmental or societal issues. Nor do we serve customers who “qualify as being at the bottom of the pyramid with incomes below $2.50 per day”. Businesses can earn up to 14 points from that question alone but, for us, it’s the opposite. As a B2B publishing business, all the content we produce is geared towards the affluent C-suite and our clients are successful B2B brands, so we score a zero there and can’t easily do much to change that.

That said, there are plenty of things we can do. In total, our B-Team is working on 18 different items that should improve our score and ultimately make Raconteur a better company. These include:

  • Introducing life insurance for all employees.
  • Improving our ‘secondary caregiver’ policy.
  • Providing personal finance training for all employees.
  • Working on new policies around environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP), local purchasing, supplier diversity and good environmental stewardship for employees working remotely.
  • Forging a partnership with a local charity to offer financial and volunteering support, while matching individual workers contributions to any charity.
  • Monitoring indoor air quality.

None of this is overly complicated, but it does require thought, effort, time and some investment from the company. But introducing these initiatives, as well as others, will make us a better company to work for and do business with.

When I asked Josh to summarise our B-Corp experience so far, he said: “It’s forcing us to research areas we didn’t previously think about, to work things out for ourselves and to get the right people in the business involved. The B-Corp framework has made us work on improvement we definitely would not have considered before and the enthusiasm from the B team has been fantastic”.

As you can see, we’ve got lots to be getting on with. I’ll post the final edition of this series once Raconteur officially crosses the magical threshold of 80 points. Hopefully that will be soon, and then we’ll openly document the successes, the challenges and what the submission and audit process involved. So I’ll see you then!

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