In a world fraught with global challenges, startups have a unique opportunity to be the founders of solutions. Virgin StartUp has been looking at the ways businesses can design and run themselves in a way which puts people and the planet alongside profit as a measure of success.
And consumers care. Research has found ‘72% of the UK public think business should have a legal responsibility to the planet and people, alongside maximising profits’. To go beyond greenwashing, businesses need to look at how they’re designed as organisations, as well the impact their products and services have, too.
The fusing of profit and purpose is something that’s been taking precedence in the business world for a few years - and, whilst not a novel idea, is something that’s building traction to become a movement; a unifying goal businesses can work towards.
In the UK, one such way businesses can ensure they use their profit for good is through the B Corporation Certification, known affectionately as the B Corp. With high street names such as Innocent Drinks and The Body Shop now on board, ‘B Corp’ is becoming the mark of ‘good’ status in business.
But when it comes to startup founders, why should you consider this certification in 2021? We’ve answered the big questions surrounding the B Corp movement for you.
What is a B Corp?
The underlying value of the B Corp Certification is the driving force to do business for good, and to believe businesses can positively impact the planet, and the lives of those on it. It’s a movement that fuses profit and purpose, to consider business beyond shareholders. It’s not just a certification: it’s a community of like-minded founders who are committed to making a positive change.
It’s a legal requirement as a B Corp to consider and monitor the impact of all business decisions on the entirety of the supply chain. From employees, to consumers, to suppliers - and the effects these will have on communities and the planet, B Corps must commit to sustainable and inclusive business. As the B Corporation UK website states, ‘The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose.’
How does the B Corp Certification work?
Assessing and evaluating the entire structure of your business, the B Corp Certification looks at your product or service offering, how your business works, and the impact it has on the world. Certified B Corporations must edit any legal governing documents to ensure its Board of Directors balance profit and purpose within the business. It’s a rigorous process both the business world and consumers trust, and it helps hold your business accountable.
As to how the process works, the B Corporation UK website details the process as this: ‘Certified B Corporations achieve a minimum verified score on the B Impact Assessment - a rigorous assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, customers, community and environment - and make their B Impact Report transparent on bcorporation.net.’ It’s a certification that is constantly pushing your business to do better - so it’s no surprise many are getting on board in 2021.
But can small startups really make a big difference?
It might seem that as small startups - sometimes with sole founders - we can’t affect change. But whilst systems, governments, institutions and massive corporates will be instrumental in changing the way the world works, it’s the founders of tomorrow who will build the movements that kickstart these changes. As the B Corporation website states: ‘Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and non-profits alone.’
In the UK, small businesses are part of tradition and culture, and as a nation people love to rely on small businesses every day. Research from Small Business Saturday UK and American Express shows 59 per cent of Brits support small businesses more than ever before, following the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on customer values. People want to shop small. And they’re doing it in their masses.
Small startups and independent businesses are sensing the shift in consumer values, and they’re quicker to adapt and pivot than corporates with complex systems. By starting small, pressure will be put on corporate businesses to rework their business models. Startup founders are disruptors - and by becoming a certified B Corp, it’s a great place to start.
Why B a startup that considers it in 2021?
Businesses choose to apply for B Corp status to lead a movement, build relationships, attract talent, improve impact, amplify their voice and protect their missions.
Here are three other ways applying for B Corp Certification might be right for your business in 2021:
1) When you’re stretched on time and resources, the B Corp Certification offers a framework to follow
After a challenging year, startup founders are feeling more stretched than ever. You can hold your startup accountable and instead of feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to start, the B Corp Certification helps assign clear areas for improvement, enabling you to keep on track with your values and mission.
2) It helps secure the right talent for your business
Hiring is more complex in a saturated job market in 2021. Achieving B Corp Certification is a gold stamp for in-the-know, conscious people interested in working with brands that share the same values they do. You will attract people that share in your mission, and your workforce will all be working towards the same goals.
3) It makes scaling your startup fool-proof
Trying to stay afloat amidst a pandemic is hard - and startups need to stay on track in a realistic way. It becomes harder to stay transparent about your supply chains as your business grows, purely because as you scale, the business becomes much bigger than a founder’s original vision. But the B Corp Certification process ensures you get each and every company policy and practice onto paper, making sure every department adheres to the same values, goals, and overarching mission.
Is it time to join them? Here’s some inspiration from the Virgin StartUp community:
Freestar Drinks is an alcohol-free beer brand with a difference. After starting the business in 2017, and securing a Start Up Loan with Virgin StartUp, the team at Freestar have been working hard to achieve B Corporation Certification, something they now proudly have. This is what Freestar have to say about being a B Corp:
“Our B Corp journey started with the desire to build a company we could be proud of. That meant running our business in the most environmentally and socially responsible way we could, and to be as transparent about it as possible. We reckoned the best way of doing that was through the B Corp framework, as their tests are completely independent and super rigorous. They make you consider every aspect of your business and make hard choices that are often not the cheapest - this is about putting our money where our mouth is!”
Freestar are committed to using the B Corp scoring as a basis to continually improve upon, and they publish their scores on a regular basis to hold their startup accountable. In a year with difficult challenges ahead, we’re more accountable for our actions than ever before - and B Corps are paving the way for change in the business world.