I spent a few hours yesterday in the company of some amazing people doing some inspiring things in business in the form of a breakfast on B-Corporations. In a nutshell a B-Corp is a company that has changed how it operates. The governing ethos of a B-Corp is of being a positive force in society and not just about making money – what we would call a ‘heartful‘ business!
Amongst other things, it involves changing the constitution of the company to move away from just maximising shareholder value to maximising value to a much broader range of ‘stakeholders’ including employees, the community and the environment. And there is a certification process that gets you into the prestigious club – I am told that if you are doing it for the right reasons, “the process is challenging, but not too onerous.”
I was invited by James Perry, co-founder of Cook, a company that produces amazing restaurant quality frozen meals. (I hesitate to call them “Ready Meals”, but they are!) These have been sold in Thornton’s Budgens pretty much since we started. He talked about how they always had ambitions to be a force for good, but that many of their managers felt that despite all the good words, the hidden aim was for to make loads of cash for James and his co-founder brother. Once they started the process of certification as a B-Corp, all that shifted and they have never looked back.
With over 1,200 companies involved, the movement is now spreading beyond its US base with over 400 non-US companies certified, including Cook, which is one of 7 in the UK. What I took away was a sense of community and a sense of being able to share with like-minded organisations as well as a process which forces one to reflect deeper on what one really cares about. Longer term, as the term enters common language it will be recognised by our customers. For now though, I sense that the mere focus on what one cares about will be a positive step for any company that believes that business has a much broader remit than making as much cash as possible.
While it is not for everyone, I am committed to looking at it for Thornton’s Budgens and indeed for Heart in Business Limited itself. The good news for the B-Corp movement is that Paul Polman, from Unilever announced at Davos that they are considering joining. This would certainly would shift the movement up a gear.
To answer the question I posed at the start – is it the answer? There is no one answer. However, for the cause of ‘good business practice’, it is a major step forward.
To get a real sense of what B-Corps are all about and be inspired, please watch this presentation:
Heart in Business Founder