As my 9 year old daughter was tucking into her boiled egg and toast this morning I asked her whether she thought it was ok for companies to do what they like in order to make more money as long as they don’t break the law; or whether she thought that companies should be held to a higher standard: to have a positive impact on society; go to greater lengths to look after their staff; and to try their best to limit their impact on the environment.
You can guess the muffled answer she gave through her mouthful of marmite toast. It’s obvious right?
I remember the moment when B Corp thought leader Luke Fletcher introduced me to the idea of Benefit Corporations many years ago – my heart immediately leaped. Everything inside me told me that this was a good thing. And I have been wanting to get involved in the movement ever since. And what a movement it has become, several newly accredited B Corps pop up on my LinkedIn feed every week.
I must confess that as the movement has grown I had begun to wonder whether the B Corp mark was being diluted with the bar set too low. UK B Lab guru John Featherby assured me that wasn’t the case and it wasn’t until I found myself leading Semble through our B Impact Assessment journey that I realised just how right he was.
Before I go into that – a word about Semble. We exist to bring businesses and communities together to make change happen from the grassroots up. Over the last 10 years we have run dozens of movement building and grant funding campaigns for major UK brands and have established a network of 3,000+ community groups which are the lifeblood of our organisation. Core to our DNA is the dual belief that business has a powerful role to play in transforming society; and that social transformation is best achieved by equipping and resourcing the people who are already on the front line in delivering services to their local communities.
Given that our purpose (to enable business to be a force for good in society) is so closely aligned with that of B Corp itself we assumed that the assessment process would be a total slam dunk. We were wrong. Truth be told, the incredibly thorough certification process forced us to have a good hard look at ourselves. And that has been such a healthy exercise.
Aside from the certification itself, I am most proud of the fact that we have come out of the process as a stronger and better business. We have formalised more of our unwritten policies and process, particularly with regards to our people. We have asked ourselves the tough questions about the measurement and management of our own impact – which is ironic given that we spend so much time helping our corporate clients to do this for themselves. And, with B Corp’s help, we have identified the areas where we feel we need to improve further over the coming months. Our big aim over the next year is to develop our Impact reporting and management practices – learning from the experts in the B Corp community.
So Semble now enters this movement of brilliant ‘benefit corporations’. We are so excited to meet and learn from our fellow B Corps. To strive for excellence. To remain transparent. And to keep doing the best we can to do good.
Over my career I have worked for several different types of company: a private partnership, a FTSE 100; a charity and a number of social enterprises. Whatever the context there’s no escaping the fact that money matters. Without money, there is no enterprise and there is no social impact. But I firmly believe that organisations that prioritise doing good business in the right way will stand the test of time- they will attract better people and hold on to them for longer; and that they will grow more sustainably through increased loyalty from suppliers, customers and the wider community.
You might call me an idealist, as many of my friends do. Well that’s fine by me.
If you’re thinking about taking your firm on the B Corp journey and would like to chat then feel free to get in touch. If you’re interested in what we do at Semble – bringing businesses and community groups together to make change happen and build brand value – then again – drop me a line.
And don’t forget- when you ask a child what’s the right way to do business, the answer is blindingly obvious.