Darryl left a ten-year career in finance after asking himself a few simple questions: “What am I doing with my career? Am I adding value in a way that aligns with the difference I want to make?”
It’s the equivalent to a Fair Trade certificate but for businesses instead of products
He's now the Community Builder at B Lab, a non-profit organisation that helps for-profit companies use business as a force for good. In his previous roles, he was dimly aware that his employer had a CSR drive. As part of B Lab, he now helps companies embed social responsibility into their DNA. Many of these companies become what they call B Corps and legally change their Articles of Association.
Three entrepreneurs in Philadelphia founded B Lab in 2006. had stripped the basketball shoes and apparel company they’d founded for profit, leaving no remnants of their ethical principles. The three of them decided to start a movement that would allow organisations “to lock in their commitment to benefitting society and the environment” regardless of changes in ownership. In some ways, it’s the equivalent to a Fair Trade certificate but for businesses instead of products.
B Lab started off as a spreadsheet with questions to measure a company’s performance against best practices in socially responsible business. In 2007, they welcomed their first B Corps. Now there are B Corps in over 50 countries; more than 50,000 companies have taken the online assessment globally; 2,168 are now part of the B Corp community, 140 of which are in the UK since its UK launch in September 2015. Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Kickstarter, Etsy and Hootsuite are just some of the companies that have joined the movement.
How does it work? After submission of an online assessment form, B Lab’s standards team will ask for documentary evidence. This depends on the business but it could be the payroll, the employee code of conduct or the environmental policy. There is a 90-minute review call. 10% of B Corps have onsite checks. The assessment is tough: the average score is 59/200 with the minimum for certification being 80, and it needs to be taken every two years. So why do it?
66% of global consumers will pay more to support companies committed to making a social and environmental impact.
A Huffington Post article made it quite clear. “According to a study by Nielsen, 66% of global consumers will pay more to support companies committed to making a social and environmental impact ... Leading investors like Kleiner Perkins, Catterton Partners, New Enterprise Associates and American Express have all invested in B Corps.”
Darryl is quite clear about the benefits of becoming a B Corp: “This means embedding practices to forge long-term sustainability, long-term success. You will attract more customers, more employees, more investors. The consensus is that people care about where they're buying their products, their clothes and will spend more money if they think the company is genuinely a good company.
Working for a purpose-driven business is attractive for employees, Darryl says, and they’ll be motivated by more than the pay cheque: “If they think this employer is a good employer because they care about the environment, they care about the community, they care about me as a worker.” And in a world where information is “rampant”, Darryl says, consumers, employees and investors will soon find out if you're not doing what you've written on the tin.
Consumers, employees and investors will soon find out if you're not doing what you've written on the tin
Darryl actually found his job at B Lab through an online recruitment company – which he later found out was a B Corp – Escape the City. He guides companies (from large corporations to sole traders) through the online assessment process. These questions encourage companies to think through their ethical standards and treat stakeholders in the business as well as the shareholders.
In the US, the B Corp movement is better known than in the UK. Since launching in September 2015, however, B Lab UK has enlisted Ella's Kitchen, Jojo Maman Bébé and renewable UK gas and electricity supplier Bulb. The UK movement was actually co-founded by the director of COOK, a frozen ready meals company and B Corp, which hires ex-prisoners in their kitchens. Danone is currently looking to certify as a B Corp.
The team of six were originally based in Club Workspace at Cargo Works, and after briefly moving into a team room, they settled on a permanent office. After researching – “there's so much choice and so many middlemen in the property market in London” – Catherine, the team assistant, settled on the Workspace centre Clerkenwell Workshops because of the 'ethos and design' and 'community focus' of the Farringdon area.
The day we moved in our name was already on the directory!
“The day we moved in our name was already on the directory!” Catherine says. Otherwise the office, only four weeks old is starting to feel like home. “Because it's unfurnished, it gives you flexibility. We're getting a wall sticker, and painting the other wall with blackboard paint. I'm up-cycling a cable reel to make a table.”
They held a networking dinner at Clerkenwell Kitchens, who use sustainable and organic produce, and have recently found out that two other Workspace customers are already B Corps. If you're keen on finding out more, 'Visit us!' says Darryl or look online at bcorporation.uk. You'll be in good company.
Find out more about Club Workspace or Clerkenwell Workshops or book a viewing here.