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How should we approach it internally?

Ideally, Within A Broader Context

If you are thinking about being a B Corp then you should see (and discuss) the "should we certify?" question within a broader dialogue about your future, not simply as a stand-alone issue about whether or not this is a badge worth pursuing. A dialogue about who you want to become and become known as. And why B Corp - or the B Impact Assessment - is the best way forward.

Every business must evolve to meet today's changing needs and expectations. Perhaps you need to upgrade your investment philosophy, improve your reputation, reimagine your culture, redesign your structure or simply want to be seen as a market leader in terms of being purpose-led. Whatever it is, you'll need a framework or methodology to do so.

The B Impact Assessment is certainly the most comprehensive option. And certification can serve as a standard of excellence to strive for, something to celebrate reaching, a community that employees will be excited to be part of and a constantly improving benchmark to maintain.

To become a thriving, purpose-led organisation there are things you should consider that are not directly covered by the BIA: relationship quality, stakeholder trust, creative thinking, market responsiveness, access to opportunities, degree of creativity etc. These things will need to be pursued independently of the BIA and B Corp certification. But the very best approach is to do these in combination.

Be Realistic About The Time It Will Take

Becoming a B Corp is an investment, mostly in terms of time spent. If you are looking for something that is a marketing exercise, this is going to be bottom of the list of things you want to take on. It is rigorous and for good reason. But the reason it has the kudos it does is because of this. So, don't wish it away: it's why you're here in the first place.

Lastly, if B Corp is a community you'd like to be part of at some point then, to find out when to start, you'll need to work backwards from the date you'd like to certify on. It's currently a 6-month verification process from the point of submission.

As a Company-Wide Exercise

Do not do this as an isolated team that eventually announces with fanfare what you've been up to once you're most of the way through the assessment or, worse still, once you've certified. This is one of the most common mistakes certifying B Corps slip up on. 

Getting to virtually 80 points before you start pulling people in for help or engagement is to rob the company of one of the most important parts of the process. And you will pay for it down the line when you then try to get everyone on board with something they had no hand in or knowledge of.

Douglas Lamont of Innocent Drinks tells this story everywhere he goes. Innocent certified and then had to spend a lot of energy over the next 18+ months getting people on board. And that was Innocent, who was already well invested in this way of thinking; if you are not then it will be even more of a challenge if this mistake is made.

You need to invite and involve as many of your employees into the whole process as you can right from the very start. This is to adopt a method that pursues a philosophy of commitment over installation. Commitment is bred from widespread contribution before the fact. This is very different from the corporate norm which adopts a mindset of installation where the centre does something on behalf of everyone else and then enrols them after the fact. This is the problem with employee engagement as traditionally pursued.

Avoid Outsourcing It All To A Consultant

Yes, we're a consulting firm that helps companies through the process. But, ideally, we do not want to be doing it all: it isn't good for the client. It is important that the client does a lot of the work. This is the only want to ensure the client really owns it. And, from a practical perspective, they are going to need to use the B Impact Assessment on a regular basis so it makes sense to be in the BIA from Day 1.

Also, no consulting firm - including us - can guarantee you certification. We can help you give it your very best but, ultimately, certification depends on your level of willingness to cross the line.

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  1. John Featherby

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