To B Corp or not to B Corp, that is the question

By Mia Brown
News • Thoughts
22nd March 24

As featured in BE News, March 22, 2024
To mark B Corp Month, we asked UK-based B Corp-certified companies in the sector how – and why – they sought certification.

To B Corp or not to B Corp? That is the question that built environment companies are increasingly asking themselves. A growing number have joined the B Corp movement over the last few years.

The certification programme was devised by non-profit network B Lab to measure a company’s total social and environmental impact. To achieve certification, a company must not only demonstrate strong social and environmental performance, they must also make a legal commitment by changing their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders – not just shareholders – and show transparency by allowing information about their performance to be publicly available on their B Corp profile on B Lab’s website.

It is a highly challenging process, and it is not a case of ‘job done’ once certification has been secured. B Corp certified businesses are required to undergo the verification process every three years in order to recertify, which ensures their focus is on continuous improvement.

So, why do it?

Zac Goodman – CEO & Founder, TSP

When did you start the certification process and why?

We started the process in the summer of 2020. Sustainability is what our team and our customers value highly – in both cases it makes them stay for longer! That’s good business in real estate. We wanted to follow a best-in-class framework to truly live our values – B Corp was the best.

How did you go about it?

Jonathan Vanstone Walker – our long serving MD – led the process and created a small team dedicated to achieving the accreditation.

How long did it take to receive the certification?

It took approximately one year – we were accredited in July 2021.

What have been the benefits of achieving B Corp status?

The benefits are many. It galvanises your team, your clients and your customers firstly. It’s not easy to achieve the accreditation and people recognise that. Secondly, you gain entry into an exclusive club of like-minded businesses. B Corps like to do business with B Corps. Most importantly being accredited raises the spectre of losing the accreditation every three years – it keeps you and your team honest in the face of compromising decisions.

Are there any downsides?

For us – no.

What advice what you give to someone who is considering applying?

Do it because you really want it, and you believe it aligns with your business and personal values – otherwise there are easier ways to win some marketing plaudits in this space!

Basil Demeroutis – Founder & Managing Partner, Fore Partnership

How did you go about gaining the certification?

It was a key strategic decision for us, and as a small team, each person played a role. Certification is as much about the process and what that does to push the team and the firm forward, so it was important to have everyone involved as part of our personal growth and development.

How long did it take to receive the certification and how much did it cost the business in terms of money and time?

It took us about nine months. It cost us very little in terms of money, perhaps a few thousand pounds that we spent with some third parties on things that we needed to document and tidy up. Time-wise, it was more intense and it did take up a considerable amount of our bandwidth over that period. It’s not meant to be easy!

What have been the benefits of achieving B Corp status?

Being a B Corp has been our true north, almost above all else. When we have particularly complex decisions to make, or need to answer the ‘why’ of a specific tactic or strategy we want to implement, it provides the firm ground on which we can stand.  We can’t point to one specific business win or revenue line item; our B Corp status is everywhere, it’s the oxygen around us, omnipresent.

Are there any downsides?

It’s hard to think of any.

What advice what you give to someone considering applying?

Just do it! There is no ideal time, and nor is any business perfect, including ours. I’m surprised when I hear firms say they don’t have management buy-in or the energy to pursue becoming a B Corp.  Surely there can be no more important thing for a business than finding – and codifying – your purpose. This is what B Corp empowers.

Edward Clough – Managing Director, Octopus Real Estate

When did you start the certification process and why?

The investment industry has both the power and responsibility to do a lot of good in the world. That’s easy enough to say; it’s another thing to prove. That was the driving force behind Octopus Investments – including our real estate investment and lending businesses – working towards B Corp certification a few years ago: we wanted to hold ourselves to even higher standards.

How long did it take to receive the certification?

It took us 18 months in total: we’re a complicated business and B Corp really wanted to understand what we did and how we did it, as well as understanding and seeking evidence to support our answers.

What have been the benefits of achieving B Corp status?

In many ways, it makes things easier for us – it acts as a filtering mechanism, helping the team to ensure the businesses we work with are focused on doing things the right way. The benefits go beyond short-term impact on our P&L or marketing.

Ultimately, the financial services industry is built on trust. We believe that over the long-term, being a B Corp gives all our stakeholders – whether they are borrowing from us, investing with us, or working for us – peace of mind that we are acting responsibly and fairly. This will help us attract talent, mitigate risk, and drive profitable growth. And sustainability is already having a material impact on capital values in the real estate sector – it’s clear that many buildings are worth more due to their green credentials.

This was already the case before energy costs started increasing, but now tenants and buyers have a very real incentive to choose the greenest building possible when they are facing a lease event or purchasing a building, particularly when they have their own net zero targets.

It makes the case for doing the right thing even more compelling.

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