Gayertree Subramaniam, Community Manager, B Corp ANZ
Businesses are increasingly starting to realise that they need to start having purpose and a positive impact on people and planet. We have seen a seven-times growth in certification since 2014; an indicator that business in Australia wants to operate for reasons beyond profit generation.
In my time speaking with B Corp leaders, there are nuanced underlying reasons for tackling the assessment and gaining the certification. For DrawHistory, it was a way for us to better communicate our commitment and publicly declare that we are anchored to a broader set of stakeholder values; that we are answerable to both people and planet. For other organisations, it might be to attract and retain talent, build credibility and trust, or become better advocates of their missions. Qualitative data from the Harvard Business Review seemed to suggest that one key driver of the emergence of B Corps was because certified firms believed, “the major crises of our time are a result of the way we conduct business,” and they became B Corps to “redefine the way people perceive success in the business world.”
In the end, the B Corp certification encourages businesses to assess how they fare as positive change agents, and opens meaningful conversational pathways for leaders and workers within an organisation. The process doesn’t make a distinction between a ‘good’ business and a ‘bad’ one. As Subramaniam said, “[the] B Impact Assessment that businesses start to get moving on their impact journey, is very thorough and holistic in its audit and looks into how they fare across the areas of workers, community, customers, environment and governance.” You are scored along a spectrum which you are asked to continuously improve; a pulse check of sorts. The scorecard has been particularly helpful in our day-to-day work as an agency, where we are continuously trying to strengthen our sustainability practices like engaging with youth in our community more frequently through volunteer weekends, or in simple ways like purchasing KeepCups for our staff. It drives us to be a better business for everyone.
While the jury might still be out on whether businesses can truly thrive with purpose at its core, the B Corp movement has provided mounting evidence to suggest that, for many businesses, purpose and profit may not be at odds for much longer. It’s become a normalising force for entrepreneurs curious on converging the two. And for the consumer who’s had to choose in binary between second- rate ethical products and superior demerit goods, this potential tipping point serves as a moment of deliberation for a historically-adversarial concept. In the meantime, The People v Profit continues – only this time, businesses are banding together with a purpose beyond money.
Useful links and resources
Jeffrey has consulted for hundreds of public companies, multinational nonprofits and government agencies on purposeful strategy, brand and design. He has been recognised as a Forbes Under 30 Listmaker and Young Australian of the Year Nominee.Email Jeffrey Effendi