Guest contributor: Annalise Lewis, Chair for GM B Local and Co-Founder of Pentameter (Written 25 February 2021)
2020 was relentless, ferocious and polarising, and strangely - came with the emergence of real opportunity for hope. This hope does not see a future empty of crisis but a deep and meaningful opportunity that includes compassion, community and renewal.
Research across multiple disciplines shows us that - as in biology - societies tend to change in evolutionary leaps, and these usually happen during times of profound challenge and adversity. These are moments in time where often our mostly invisible systems that govern our existence get exposed, potentially breakdown, and their ability to enable us to thrive is seriously questioned.
We are undoubtedly in one of these periods now, where we have more of a chance to bring deep systemic change to reinvent how we build, grow and flourish interdependently with one another and with the rest of nature. But for this to work, we first need to find or design a viable alternative that can replace the current ways of doing things. As people across the world are increasingly looking to business for answers, this is where I believe B Corp comes to the fore.
What is B Corp?
Certified B Corps are a new kind of business that fundamentally embed purpose into the DNA and heart of what they do, presenting a new operating system for business. They do this by becoming more stakeholder-orientated, innovating to improve their positive impact on the community and environment, and by balancing a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
B Corporation is fast becoming the gold standard certification for sustainable and responsible business, allowing organisations to revitalise and prioritise their business model towards becoming a force for good. It also provides the B Impact Assessment (BIA) tool for companies to measure their performance against the contribution to society and the environment, instead of solely shareholder value.
As with the Good Employment Charter, B Corp looks at practices of employee opportunity, welfare and security. It also moves beyond a focus on employment standards, taking responsibility for customers, suppliers, the wider community, governance and the environment.
The Time is Now
It can all sound great and somewhat idealistic. However, the statistics reveal that this shift has not only started, but that even amid the turmoil of the pandemic, business leaders are waking up and stepping forward to take on such challenges and responsibilities. The UK is now officially home to the second-largest community of B Corps in the world, with almost 500 B Corps across 48 industries, and representing more than 22,000 employees. And since March 2020, the national growth rate has accelerated, with annual certifications increasing by 116%. A powerful sign that the movement is being taken seriously and gaining real traction.
The B Local Community
As a repercussion of this, local hubs called B Locals, are emerging around the country where clusters of B Corp businesses are appearing. Manchester was identified last year as one of those areas; and so the Greater Manchester B Local was born. Created with the mission to foster an inclusive, meaningful community and build a purposeful economy in Greater Manchester. The community is currently made up of 12 certified businesses and 4 B Leaders (trained consultants). Local interest in B Corp also appears to be strongly tied to that of the Good Employment Charter; and so this has triggered an exploration into the parallels and partnership potential of the two.
Donald Moore, Chair, from Rowlinson Knitwear shares “We are proud to be a first member of the Charter and one of the first in GM to be an accredited B Corp. We believe that we should all deeply care about people, prosperity and the planet. We ask all caring organisations in the region to join the charter and to do the B Impact Assessment, which is free to all, to become a real force for good.”
Ayshea Robertson, People & Culture Director, Zen Internet, said, “Maintaining a great culture where we empower our people to be successful and care about their wellbeing is a top priority at Zen. Such commitment to employees is also central to the B Corp movement and so the certification was a natural fit for us when considering our people-focused strategy.”
As one of the first of its kind in the UK, the B Local community is an exciting initiative and will bring something new and dynamic to Manchester’s change program. We hope this will help ignite the business community to be part of a historic culture shift, to harness the power of business to develop a sustainable and inclusive economy. One where all businesses can become a conduit of hope.
For more information or links to the next steps, check out the resources provided, or please get in touch here.
Pentameter is a transformation design consultancy that knows that the most successful brands of tomorrow will be the ones that make the changes today. By aligning purpose, culture, brand and impact, Pentameter helps organisations create positive change that is sustainable — for them and for the world.
They do this by unleashing the inherent creativity of organisations; with a team that combines culture, design, communications and sustainability expertise.