A note from Jack, our Head of Impact and Sustainability
There’s a lot of debate around B Corp at the moment. That’s probably a good thing. Given the problems surrounding greenwashing claims, it’s right that we should challenge industry bodies and best practice to make sure they’re fit for purpose.
However, I feel that my perspective is not one that has been shared by either side of the debate. So today, as part of B Corp Month, I thought I’d share my own views.
We often talk about becoming a B Corp as being the single most important decision we’ve ever made as a business. But probably not for the reasons you’d expect.
At the beginning of our journey, we looked at B Corp as a rubber stamp of approval. It was our way of demonstrating to all our stakeholders that we put them first.
But even before we became a certified B Corp, things within our business changed in ways we hadn’t expected. Today, I’d go so far as to say that none of the value came from the certification itself.
Becoming a B Corp changed the way we ran our business, and just as importantly, it had an almost immediate impact on the language we used to communicate who we are, what we do and why we exist. I strongly believe that communication is a big part of the solution. The buzzwords surrounding sustainability and ESG confuse everyone – me included. In contrast, B Corp stands out because it’s an approach to business that makes sense. In fact, at Octopus we’re applying the same approach to the way that we manage money.
Sure, there are almost certainly companies who approach B Corp with the wrong intentions. Those that pursue certification in an attempt to cover up bad behaviour. But those companies will always be weeded out because becoming a B Corp isn’t just about scoring over the 80-point threshold.
Beyond the badge, B Corp is all about progress. It’s a framework that helps you identify where and how you can build a more responsible business. The assessment tool lets you track progress and the outputs are there for the world to see, in your transparency report on the B Corp website.
That means that whether you’re a gold-plated perfect business, with a high score and the values that you’d expect from a company that pledges to put their stakeholders rather than their shareholders first. Or if you’re earlier in that journey, transitioning from a business that historically has put short-term profits above purpose. B Corp provides a framework and a language to communicate where you are today, where you want to be in the future, and how you’re going to get there.
I believe that’s a looking glass to the future. We live in a hyper-connected, transparent world, and the walls that companies have built around themselves are being ripped down. Becoming a B Corp just accelerates that process. It gives those who believe in a better future, the opportunity to set out their stall and explain how they’re going to fit into a sustainable, equitable world.
There’ll always be the purists who say that B Corp should remain an accreditation reserved for the gold standard. But ultimately, I think it’s difficult to argue with the logic that there’s a far bigger opportunity to change the way that organisations, sectors, and ultimately whole economies, operate.
Meeting the minimum score of 80 points is the beginning, not the end.