Ethical business scheme B Corporation has officially launched in the UK.
The “B Corp” movement, imported from the US, requires companies to commit to hitting social and environmental goals, alongside financial ones.
Companies that sign up to the scheme must rewrite their articles of association to make environmental and social performance as important as financial.
B Corp UK’s director James Perry told Business Insider: “A regular company is run for shareholders. We see three inputs — not just capital, but also land and labour. B Corporation is institutionalising the idea of rewarding those other two inputs too. It’s not just for shareholders, it’s also for the community, and the environment.”
The movement was started in the US in 2008 and high-profile B Corp companies include Ben & Jerry’s, Kickstarter, Etsy, and Patagonia. There are over 1,400 companies signed up as B Corps across 41 countries. Standards are set and tested by global not-for-profit B Lab.
“There are a lot of business leaders who are saying businesses can do more. We don’t like the approach of investors we’re coming across who don’t value the type of things we value — we’re just not aligned.”
Perry’s own catering business, Cook, became a B Corp 2 years ago. He says: “With employees we’ve implemented the National Living Wage, we’ve introduced a profit share, we’ve done a whole load of work around employee benefits. We’ve also started employing more offenders on day release from prison and addicts.
“On environment, just by being incentivised to use less water, we now use about a quarter of the water that we did use per portion of food we produce.”
While there are no defined benefits to becoming a B Corp, Perry says his company has seen a lot of upside since joining.
He says: “There are a bunch of really great benefits. The main one is you’re joining a global movement of people who feel similar. There’s brilliant networking, trading opportunities.
“The other key thing that we’ve experienced is attracting and retaining talent. Particularly young people want to work in a purpose-driven environment. This idea of bringing your whole self to work, where you can see your job as a platform for what you want to achieve in the world — employees love this stuff. You really do a much deeper level of connection.”
The New Yorker reported a similar phenomenon last year when it looked at Warby Parker, a popular US glasses retailer that became a B Corp.
61 companies have signed up to the B Corp scheme in the UK so far. Most are small and medium-sized businesses, but one larger company that has signed up is Ingeus, an employment company that runs the government’s back to work scheme.
Perry says: “I think quite an interesting story and one that will develop is government commissioning from more aligned providers.”
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