On the road to B Corp: Our journey so far

It’s not a household name. And it hasn’t really infiltrated all areas of the business world, yet. But to those who do know what it is, and to those who know what it represents, it’s probably become a very important part of their day-to-day life. I’m referring to B Corp. Or B Corps. Or, to give them their full name: B Corporations. If you don’t yet know what they are, let us quickly explain. B Corporations are a community of businesses which form a global movement that redefines what success in business looks and feels like. The ultimate aim? To create a culture shift and to contribute to building a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

To some, this might sound like a tall order. The outdated assumption that no one gets anywhere in business by being nice prevails to this day. Our appetite for extracting resources from our world, in the name of progress and provision, has more or less brought our planet to its knees. As has our constant need for growth and profits that seemingly cannot be quelled without bringing down the ‘house of cards’ that is our global economy.

But thanks to B Corp and the arrival of a new school of business leaders there is hope and a refreshing can do attitude to change which translates into an infectious refusal to uphold and continue the old school business practices. So, after several months of reflection, reorganisation and rewriting policies, we have just submitted our B Corp application and now patiently await our official assessment and, hopefully, the subsequent certification.

B Corp gave us the framework we needed to channel our ambitions and to turn our good intentions into a tangible organisational structure.

Why go down the certification route? We’re pretty sure the reasons will vary greatly from business to business, but whatever the reason, going for B Corp is not a decision to be taken lightly. It’s not a quick questionnaire that you can fill in during your lunch break and download your certificate before the end of the day. And it’s not cheap either. For an organisation of AJT’s size it’s costing about £2,000 per year (not including the fees we paid consultants to help with certain aspects of the assessment).

Why did we seek certification? Our reason was that, although we were already running a successful business, with good morals and a real focus on employee satisfaction, we had an innate desire to do more. We’ve always prided ourselves on being an ethical translation company that treats its employees and suppliers fairly and with respect. However, we were so busy with the day-to-day running of the business that we didn’t know what else we could do and had little time to sit back and imagine what we’d like to do. Like many businesses, we needed inspiration. It was the B Corp ideology that provided that inspiration and we’re not ashamed to admit that we needed guidance. The B Impact Assessment (the BIA), the precursor to the B Corp application submission, gave us the framework we needed to channel our ambitions and to turn our good intentions into a tangible organisational structure.

B Corp businesses and B Corp ambassadors are quick to tell you that, even if you don’t ultimately achieve B Corp certification, by working your way through the BIA and improving your processes and policies, you will improve your business and that you’ll already be in better shape than before you started. If we’re honest, after our first pass through the assessment, that was the best we were hoping for. We branded ourselves B Corp ‘wannabees’. One of those companies who’d love to be B Corp, but will probably never actually achieve it. The 80+ points you needed for certification seemed a bridge too far, a dream we’d probably never realise, but something that we’d keep striving towards nonetheless.

However, slowly and surely, we started making changes. We began with the low hanging fruit, like updating our mission statement and introducing things like a local purchasing policy. We gradually made progress, actually finding time to discuss the more serious developments, and setting targets and timelines, to make sure we didn’t lose momentum. And, after a few months, we realised that, with a little strategic thinking, and a little help from our friends at Leap, that the dream was potentially within reach. Now, hopefully, in a few months we’ll know if we’ve actually done it.

B Corp becomes the yardstick for assessing your company’s social and environmental performance, year on year.

Obviously, if we don’t achieve the B Corp this time round, we’ll be devastated. But we can honestly say, even if we don’t, AJT is already in better shape than it was, with even more commitment to ethics and an even stronger focus on employee satisfaction. There are no more ‘not sures’ or ‘who knows’. And everything we offer our team members, in terms of benefits and career development, has been thought about and carefully considered, rather than being statutory or presumed. We know our business better than we did before we started and we also know where we’d like to go next. Because being B Corp isn’t a static situation, or a one-time tick list. It becomes the yardstick for assessing your company’s social and environmental performance, year on year. And it allows you to measure that performance against other B Corp businesses, providing you with constant inspiration and a drive to keep improving.

Looking back over the application process already feels nostalgic. Good times had and good initiatives in place. For example, we now have a Green Committee at AJT. A crack-team of environmentalists whose role is to arrange events and presentations to educate and inspire the rest of Team AJT, and our suppliers, to improve their own social and environmental performances.

We’ve introduced the AJT Step Challenge, which is an initiative to encourage team members to up their step count, in the name of health and fitness, encouraging them with fun and topical challenges, and prize giveaways (from our environmentally responsible preferred suppliers list) for star performers. We’re investing in our team’s health and fitness whilst supporting brands and retailers in the environmentally responsible retail space, creating a virtuous cycle.

We’ve increased pay to ensure we are paying the national living wage, increased the amount of paid sick leave and improved the terms of our family-friendly leave policy. We also have a philanthropy policy, where we clearly set out our commitment to funding charities and initiatives making positive changes around the world. And, we also now have a retirement policy! Who’d ever had time to think about retirement before?

People want to work for, buy from, and invest in businesses they believe in.

And, of course, we now have our own social and environmental key performance indicators (KPIs) so we can, for the first time, monitor and set targets to improve our own performance. Not just this year or the next, but continually, in the hope that we’ll keep up with world’s best and most responsible businesses.

They say that people want to work for, buy from, and invest in businesses they believe in. We hope that by achieving B Corp status, the types of people that we want to employ and the businesses that we aspire to work with, those that share our values (ethical, passionate, nurturing, collaborative, transparent) and appreciate our vision, will believe in us.

We believe in ourselves, and we are confident that will be seen in the way we run our business and engage with our employees and our clients. B Corp has become a really important part of our day-to-day life and we feel better for it.