We are immensely proud to announce that we have won our second ITI Corporate Award in four years, this time for ‘Our road to B Corp certification’. The ITI, or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, to give it its full name, is the only UK-based independent professional membership association for practising translators and interpreters, with over 3,000 members. The ITI Corporate Award recognises outstanding achievements in developing a translation business, which could include improving service provision; building relationships; commitment to professional standards and involvement in the wider community.
This year’s application was based around our application for B Corp certification and the improvements we have made to our business and processes, to achieve this.
Embarking on our journey to B Corp
AJT has always been an ethical translation company, however in late 2020 we decided to embark on the journey to achieve B Corp certification, an acknowledged global accreditation that would provide proof of our social and environmental credentials to our customers, our team and our wider translation community.
We wanted to make sure that AJT didn’t become just another mid-sized Language Service Provider (LSP) driven only by turnover and profit. So, we decided to re-evaluate who we were as a company, what we stood for and what was important to us, not just as a business, but as individuals.
We wanted to focus on AJT being the best it could be. We wanted to be known as an ethical LSP that cared about its social and environmental performance, and to improve and contribute to an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy.
Proving our ethical credentials
Translation service provision is a consistently competitive marketplace and has always been price sensitive. Many businesses taking their first steps into localisation for foreign markets do so tentatively, viewing it as a cost rather than an investment. They therefore tend to see price as the primary factor when sourcing translation partners.
And now, more than ever, there is an appetite to use machine translation, or at least combine machine and human translation, to leverage cost. For these reasons the whole industry is under pressure from translation buyers to lower rates, which in turn puts pressure on linguists to work for lower rates themselves and increase their workloads to make up the shortfall. This can have a devastating effect on work-life balance and mental health.
We decided that we were not going to participate in or contribute to this unsustainable, unfair economy, and instead position ourselves as regional specialists, providing gold standard, human translation, paying fair prices and retaining a happy, healthy team of linguists who were proud to work for AJT.
We saw a growing number of companies that we admired, from home and abroad, celebrate achieving B Corp status and realised that this was a community we wanted to work in and work with and we made it a strategic priority for 2021. We decided to improve our business in every way possible in an attempt to gain B Corp certification, make AJT a force for good and to compete with other LSPs on the attributes the companies we wanted to work with would appreciate and value.
“There is no Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct for the localisation industry. We have a lot of good players in our industry, but also a fair few bad ones who are engaging in unfair and unsustainable practices. Working towards an external accreditation like B Corp is our way of proving our ethical credentials to both our clients and our community of linguists.”
– Anja Jones, Managing Director
How and what we improved
We embraced the B Corp B Impact Assessment (BIA) as a tool to assess our current social and environmental performance to ascertain where and how we needed to improve. Businesses must score over 80 points to be eligible for B Corp certification but after the initial assessment we only scored around 50, way short of the required level. Rather than be demoralised, we saw it as an opportunity to improve. Making AJT a better employer, a better partner, a better supplier and a better business was an exciting prospect and it became the driving force for everything we did.
Over the following six months, we began to assess and improve our policies and processes.
We began with updating our Mission Statement, Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct, to align them with our values and how we wanted to position AJT. This was straight forward but actually hugely significant as it provided the focus and direction we needed to be able to look at our business holistically, objectively and strategically, and identify where change was needed.
We then looked at what we already offered our team members but could improve on, and we…
- Increased pay – so all team members were earning above the National Living Wage
- Increased sick leave – adding extra time for mental health days
- Increased family friendly pay and leave – improving on our statutory offering
“I am a professional translator, but I also truly care about the world. In AJT, I have not only found a company that shares my beliefs but encourages me to be the best version of myself every day – whether it’s about looking after the environment or the way we treat others. AJT is transparent, fair and genuinely values its employees. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of such a great team and work for an aspiring B Corp company.”
– Bettina Ransley, Junior Translator
As a fully remote business, we don’t have a significant negative impact on the environment and communities we work in, however there were still areas in which we could improve. We introduced…
- A social and environmental policy and KPIs – to monitor our performance
- A local purchasing policy – to help support local businesses
- A preferred suppliers list – to promote local planet-friendly brands
- A philanthropy policy – to formalise how we donate to environmentally or socially focused initiatives
- An inclusivity and diversity policy – to ensure we foster a healthy and equitable working environment
We also introduced incentives and rewards to enhance our employee satisfaction and contribute to financial goals. These included…
- A profit share scheme – to ensure everyone benefits from the profit we generate
- The AJT step challenge – to encourage outdoor exercise and promote fitness
- Financial services – to offer off-schedule payments and interest free loans
- A sabbatical leave option – for those who’d like to take some time out
Our impact so far
The introduction of the above policies and initiatives happened gradually during 2021 and has resulted in AJT successfully reaching 87 points on the BIA, which is well above the required level for B Corp certification, and we expect to receive accreditation in the very near future.
The journey to B Corp certification has been a truly humbling and uplifting experience. As the management team, we now know our business better than we’ve ever known it before and we know that it is a better business than when we started. We also know that our team members know us better too, what our values are and where our priorities lie, now and in the future, and we are confident that this has significantly improved employee satisfaction.