I photographed the sleeve of my microwaved cooked meal last night. It’s not every day I feel inspired to do this, but there’s a first for everything.
Four Thursdays ago, I stood in a darkened room with a couple of hundred people to celebrate the entry of the B-Corporation into the UK. As a mother of a four year old starting his first week of school, I reluctantly trekked to Camden Market with a rather more willing group of salt employees to celebrate with 61 other businesses: we were to be announced as the first UK B-Corporations.
I didn’t quite identify with the significance of the ‘badge’ until that evening. I was honoured to have the accreditation, but it wasn’t until Paul Polman was video-linked to the room from New York to explain why he was so supportive of B-Corp that its significance really hit home.
Although it’s new to the UK, American B-Corps include household names like Ben and Jerry’s, Etsy and Patagonia. The premise is that you can make money and have a positive impact on society and the environment. Any organisation can apply to become a B-Corporation and passing the rigorous accreditation means your organisation is – and we have the legal articles to prove it – a force for good while turning a good profit. You’re officially a ‘goody goody’.
Among Millennials and Gen Z, it’s aspirational and cool to be good and profitable. But as a corporate communications practitioner at heart, I’ve always wondered how do you extend the exciting stuff you can do in this area with consumer brands (like our work with Lifebuoy) to B2B organisations, without alienating stakeholders (and importantly shareholders) as soon as the words ‘social purpose’ and ‘sustainability’ are mentioned? How do you move away from “old skool” CSR and introduce social purpose/sustainability initiatives, which in a VUCA era defined by difficult trading conditions aren’t necessarily top of the CFO’s agenda?
One answer became very clear at a meeting this week. A client of ours was grappling with how they’d navigate a procurement team with a well-known multinational client of theirs. The procurement team were demanding transparency in terms of my client’s supply change in exchange for a long and fruitful partnership. It was clear that failure to comply would have significant consequences. Suddenly sustainability and understanding how to leverage the journey to date took on a new meaning – it became business imperative, not just a nice to have. And it was great to be able to offer some insight into how to navigate the conundrum. It felt good as they’re a good company trying to do good things in an ever changing environment.
Coming home from a long business trip I took my meal out of the fridge. And there it was. The B-Corp badge on the label of my Cook Thai Green Curry. Cook, like salt, is a B-Corporation. Being ‘goody goody’ is getting everywhere.
So this evening, I enjoyed my B-Corp dinner after a day at my B-Corp office, following a day talking about the value of business as a force for good.
Did I feel like a goody goody? You bet. And I’m proud of it.
Photo credit: B Corporation