B Corp Month 2023 – Why it’s important to go beyond ‘Business as Usual’

March 06, 2023

Simon Sinek is often more mentor than man these days, helping even the youngest entrepreneur to kickstart their career. Many of us have the words of the author and inspirational speaker ingrained into our psyches, and always try to ‘Start With Why’ to emulate the golden circle that is said to underpin the most successful leaders and organisations. 

For us at Verity London, the question of ‘why’  starts with the work we do for our clients.  Delivering excellence is a main focus for us, and you can’t do that without understanding the deeper reasons for their challenges.  It’s also  a great way to step back and review the reason and value of the work we are partnering on. ‘Why’ is a multi-layered and loaded word. It may begin with ‘why do you want to do this project, what are you trying to achieve and what does success look like?’ . But leave the office behind and the ‘why’ of what we do  morphs into far more complex questions around purpose, life and the universe. 

Why does your business exist? 

Somewhere between adding value to clients and the purely existential comes the ‘why’ of businesses and organisations as entities themselves. For centuries, this was without question. They made things. They provided services. They sold stuff. Even when the forward thinkers were backed by a purpose (think Sunlight Soap, precursor to Unilever, pronouncing it existed ‘to popularise cleanliness and bring it within reach of ordinary people’), most punters would think that the core business and its bottom line were all they were really about. Customers may have supported the brand’s purpose by buying the soap and proving its point, but not always consciously. There was no fundamental expectation for companies to also take responsibility for wider social issues, unless they were directly and overtly impacting them negatively – and even then, often not. Those who considered themselves social and philanthropic entrepreneurs such as George Cadbury, who set up a village for his Bournville factory workers in 1900, were few and far between. (The village remains today, perfectly chocolate box in its visage!) 

Cadbury knew that well-housed workers were healthier and happier workers. And healthier and happier workers made more of the delicious, brown, sweet stuff. Which is one of the ‘whys’ behind today’s big social movement of ‘responsible business’ – that all businesses and brands should have a purpose benefitting not just profit, but people and planet too. It is the acknowledgement that all businesses have impact and influence on how our world operates, whether they choose to recognise it or not, and at the very least should neutralise any harm caused by their operations. However, for those who choose to go further, there is huge opportunity available for brands who choose to benefit people and planet too. 

This is central to the mission of Verity London – we believe all businesses should be responsible, and we want to help as many as possible to get there – to define what responsible means for them, align their operations, and tell their story. As the strategy and communications agency for responsible business, our client work is more central to the concept of going beyond business as usual than most. But what we do as a company ourselves is just as important, we need to walk the walk, and becoming a B Corp in 2022 was an important step forward. B Corps – there are around 1,000 of us in the UK – are companies certified to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. We got the rubber stamp from B Lab after a rigorous two-year process. Joining the B Corp community was a flagship step for us as an organisation wanting to indeed go beyond business as usual. 

Going beyond business as usual, as a B Corp 

This March 2023 is ‘B Corp month’. It’s a time to celebrate being a B Corp, but also brings the concept of going above and beyond into sharp focus, reminding us of that core question of ‘why’. Why is it important for businesses to take on all these ‘other’ roles alongside the all-encompassing ones of making a profit, paying it’s people and supplying goods and services? Most find, when you dig deeper, that they are actually one and the same. But let’s get the commercials out of the way first. 

Like the more far-sighted of Victorian entrepreneurs, we know that it’s actually good for business. Responding to a growing demand from employees, investors, customers and clients is a necessity, and purpose is one of the things that fuels business growth, driving sales, loyalty and supporting a unique business proposition that supports brand recognition and appeal. Larry Fink said that ‘without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential’. Research that tells us there’s a significant relationship between a company’s social purpose and its financial performance.* 

So the traditional ‘bottom line’ reasons are there. But what of the more altruistic ones – the ‘triple bottom line’ of people, planet and profit? 

There are plenty of drivers for this, ranging from an urgent climate need, to a new generation who ask more of their work and the world. To celebrate B Corp month as the proud Co-Owner of a B Corp agency myself, I can only comment with true authenticity on the ‘why’ for Verity London and how it impacts our day to day.  For us, it’s about making work more meaningful and more satisfying. One of our core values is that we ‘make a difference’. This is translated in multiple ways both internally and externally but, fundamentally, spending time doing work that has an impact is good for us as individuals, our team, and our relationships with our lovely clients. Working together, we’re helping businesses be better – which feels good. 

Embracing the fact: none of us operate in a vacuum 

As well as satisfying pesky profit margins and personal passions, there is a growing need to support the global shift that has blurred the boundaries of work and home, worker and consumer, company and customer. Globalisation has been compounded by the information age (or is that the other way around?), and we simply cannot exist as companies in silo, expecting to be attractive to others based on our core business activity alone. Our narrative has to tell the story of the why. Who we are, why we exist and the difference we make. It needs to speak to those who directly consume our products and services, but also to those who may be impacted – both positively and negatively – by the residue of the work we do.   Do it well, and you will also speak to everybody else, to those who care about the issues you champion and how these tie into your core business activity. 

Despite all the challenges we are facing right now, including comms challenges themselves like dis- and misinformation, trolling and ill-informed debate – I believe this will be looked back on as an altruistic age. One where many wanted to benefit wider society and play their part. If individuals can pledge to help, how much further should businesses go to leave a positive mark on the world we live in, with the responsibilities and resources they carry? This has to be the ultimate ‘why’ this B Corp month, which marks how we all can ‘go beyond’ in what we do and what we offer the world. 

Visit our service page to learn more about how we can help.

*The Return on Purpose: Before and during a Crisis, Milano, Tomlinson, Whately and Yigit 2020 

Karen Benveniste
Co-founder and COO

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