We recently announced that Progeny has become B Corp Certified, following a rigorous and lengthy assessment process.
This means that we join a small number of UK professional services companies who hold this certification and are now part of a global community of businesses that are verified as meeting high and improving standards of social and environmental impact.
B Corp certified firms must endeavour to be a ‘force for good’ by placing people and planet on the same level as profit and nearly 7,000 companies across 161 industries in 90 countries are now part of this community for sustainable change.
This all sounds like good news, but what does being a B Corp really mean in practice?
I’ll start by looking at how B Corp originated, before considering why we decided to opt for this certification in particular and what it means for our clients and team members.
Where it started
The B Corp movement was started by three individuals in 2006, two of whom were the co-founders of a US basketball footwear and clothing company AND1. During the 1990s, AND1 was not only profitable, reporting annual revenues of $250 million in 1991, but also a prime example of a socially responsible business, with shared ownership of the company, employee benefits and projects with overseas suppliers to ensure worker welfare and professional development.
When the founders sold the company in 2005 however, almost immediately post-sale, all of the company’s pre-existing commitments to its employees, overseas workers and the local community disappeared. The co-founders were devastated but this inspired them to create a more permanent framework for businesses in relation to their social and environmental practices, and so B Corp was born.
Why B Corp?
There are many accreditations and certifications out there in relation to adopting a ‘greener’ or more accountable way of doing business, but none in our view were as transparent and all-encompassing as the B Corp certification.
B Corp differs in two important areas – one is its legal accountability and the other is the commitment to continuous improvement.
B Corp requires business to adopt a legal framework that accounts and looks to create lasting value for all stakeholders – clients, employees, the community and the environment – not just shareholders.
We will be challenged to evidence how our decision-making creates value or improvement in areas such as our investment strategies for clients, our recruitment, training and retention practices, how we select and support our local charities/communities and how we are directing ourselves and our business relationships towards a better way of working.
Continuous improvement is implemented by the requirement for all B Corp companies to undertake recertification every three years, where they must improve their baseline social and environmental performance to remain accredited, with their impact scores made publicly available.
With the rise in concerns around greenwashing, it’s really important to us that if we are reviewing our standards of social and environmental performance, we are doing it as credibly and meaningfully as possible – not as a badge to display, but in a framework where we live and breathe those values every day.
Transition to net zero economy
With the UK’s commitment to transition to a net zero economy and the ambitions of the updated Green Finance Strategy for the UK to be a world leader on green finance and investment, focus on financial and professional services firms’ own credentials and values in this area is only likely to increase.
At Progeny, we had already begun our journey in many areas, including a commitment to becoming a carbon neutral business, which includes initiatives such as waste and water reduction, centralised travel booking and local supplier sourcing, as well as working with third parties that specialise in carbon offsetting and carbon credits. However, what we lacked was a centralised framework to monitor all our activities and hold us accountable to meaningful improvement.
What does this change for the better?
For our clients and our employees, it means we are legally obliged to create lasting value for all our stakeholders and use the business as a force for good. This is probably most simply explained as looking at all our decision-making through the lens of “is this the right thing to do?”. This is a principle that we believe was already enshrined in our values and the way we do business, so we welcome the external validation that B Corp certification provides.
Hopefully, it also helps to build trust in our credentials in key areas like sustainable investing, third party supplier selection, and importantly, in any strategic planning that affects our clients and employees.
In terms of what it will change for us as a business, it means we now have a clearly defined road ahead towards the recertification process with knowledge of the areas that we need to improve on to achieve this. This means that B Corp must become fully embedded in every aspect of our day- to-day business and everyone essentially becomes part of this process.
Vital and important step
Despite the fact that not many professional services companies are currently part of the B Corp community, we felt that for us and all our stakeholders, it was a vital and important step to take, in a direction that others in our sector will follow in the coming years.
We’re very proud of achieving certification but we’ll be even more proud of retaining it and we look forward to everyone joining us on that journey.