January 2019 feels like a lifetime ago, but this was when Anthony, our managing director, came into the office and announced that he’d been looking into becoming a B Corp-registered company.
As a leading financial planning firm, he wanted to be one of the first to gain this prestigious certification.
What does being a B Corp represent?
Be warned, the process is rather lengthy, but worth it. You will need a team of people around you who are also dedicated - firstly to gain the initial certification, and secondly lead the business and the resulting projects forward into the future.
After contacting B Corp UK and asking them what the process would entail, we completed their impact assessment survey online which covered five key areas: governance, employees, community, environment and customers. The requirement was to score a minimum of 80 points to be able to submit the initial documentation for assessment, and thankfully we exceeded this amount with the activity we were already doing.
When completing the online assessment, we found it helpful to have a spreadsheet to complete at the same time. On it, we had their five key areas and under each of these we added the areas that came up, along with the maximum number of points attainable in that area and what we scored as part of the initial (self) assessment.
We also documented what we already did in each area (as you do need to provide evidence at assessment stage) and then went on to add three further columns for what were our quick wins ie the changes we could make within the next 1-3 months during the assessment period.
We also added columns activities which would require more time and attention and for our ‘WOW’ list which included those activities which were not specific to our business at that time but were ones which could have a massive impact if we could implement them.
At the time that we submitted our application, there had been an increase in the number of businesses in the UK wanting to apply for the certification and therefore we had to wait while B Corp recruited and trained additional members to their team.
Almost a year to the day we commenced our initial discussions, we received an email confirming our application was currently being assessed. Following an additional assessment where we had to complete a spreadsheet and answer additional questions on our business practices and provide evidence, we were finally awarded our certification in August 2020, which we were absolutely thrilled about.
There was an initial and ongoing fee to become and remain B Corp certified, but the impact of going through the process has given us more ambition and drive to be a better business for good and has been worth it.
Here are some of the projects and activities we have carried out since our initial assessment:
The initial delays did not hold us back. We were ready to start seeing how we could begin to make a positive impact.
We changed our office suppliers to fellow B Corp companies where possible, or to a company who had sustainability as part of its mission. We made the decision to begin using DocuSign to massively reduce the amount of paper we were using to print forms on, although we are held back by those providers who have not yet embraced the new ways of technology and still require wet signatures.
Where we do have to print, we use 100% recycled paper. Our toilet roll comes from Who Gives a Crap, our office cleaning products are safer on the environment, and we use First Mile for our general waste, recycling and secure confidential waste, as they ensure that the maximum amount of waste possible will not end up in landfill.
We also looked at our energy suppliers and moved to 100% green energy.
Flexible working for our team also helps to reduce carbon emissions as there is less requirements for commuting into the office.
2. Tree Planting
We have a programme for purchasing trees for every new client as a welcome gift. We support the C-Level programme in Nicaragua, which works towards replating large areas previously affected by deforestation.
As part of our initial carbon assessment, we chose to purchase sufficient trees to offset our businesses carbon footprint and our ongoing tree planting project for new clients helps to offset some of theirs.
3. Diversity and Inclusion
We carried out an external assessment with a company called ARE Consultants, who surveyed and interviewed our team to assess us on whether we gave our employees the freedom to be who they are.
We were assessed on our HR data reporting, interviewing techniques, job descriptions, processes and advertisement practices. They carried out a cultural assessment report including disability, gender, religion or belief and sexual orientation among other areas, which included perceptions and feelings. There was also an assessment on how well our team felt looked after and whether their needs and requirements were being met. The results were then fed back at management level initially and then to the wider team, to see if there were improvements we could make now, followed by a further discussions and research into what we could be doing as a business to improve our business practices in this area to attract a wider talent pool.
This is an ongoing programme, and we will shortly be adding our policy and Culture Deck to our Careers section on our website confirming what we want to achieve as a business.
Employee wellbeing was already top of our agenda, but through our assessment process, we started to look at the fact that employees would not necessarily all want the same benefits and therefore we introduced Heka.
Each month we give each team member an allowance (this is the same for everybody across the business) and they can spend it on anything from pot plants, to massages, days out and counselling or coaching sessions.
We are also a 100% flexible working business; our office is now a central hub for those wanting to work collaboratively or prefer not to work at home. This has allowed people who may not otherwise have been able to give the time or ability to commute into London daily an opportunity to work with us.
We have also introduced Culture Amp which is our employee engagement and performance tool and have just recently equalised our maternity, paternity and adoption leave.
5. Company financials
We have full transparency of company financials within the business. These are held centrally and are available to all. We hold quarterly team catch up sessions whereby we share company data and plans for the next quarter.
6. Education programme – Let’s Talk About Money
We introduced our Let’s Talk About Money channel on Instagram as a way of being able to give reputable and accurate financial guidance to younger people, predominately millennials and gen-z individuals, who may not otherwise have access to this valuable information. We have plans in the pipeline to do so much more, so keep an eye out!
7. ESG model portfolios
We support evidence-based investing as our main investment proposition but as part of our B Corp certification we worked with professionals to create our ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance – investment models. Our clients now have more options to invest in more ethical portfolios should they wish to.
As part of the B Corp certification process, we have to re-apply for our certification every three years. So, if you are a business wanting to go down this route and become certified yourself, this is not a do it once and move on activity. You are committing to constantly reviewing and changing the way you run your business for the great of good.