Diary: Our Bcorp Journey Part 3

NUMBER 122!

I’m very pleased to say that last week we heard that we have achieved BcorpTM certification and we’re the 122nd company in the UK to become a BcorpTM.

It’s been a short but intense period of activity since we started the journey a couple of months ago.  There was a brief period after the guys in the US had approved us, with a score teetering dangerously close to the pass mark, before we got final confirmation.  Now, with an overall B score of 82 (80 makes you eligible for certification), we can promote ourselves as a BcorpTM and begin the process of improving our score.

We’re a small and new company so it’s pleasing to qualify at this stage and there are lots of areas that we can increase our social accountability.  We’re now busy drawing up a plan of improvements that we can start working on for the rest of the year and beyond.

The other area that we can now focus on is becoming a part of the BcorpTM community and there are plenty of resources available, including a great online portal where you can connect with other members and share content and ideas.  It’s a bit like Linkedin but where everyone is there for the same reason and so there are no unwanted advances or wasted prospecting.  It feels really good to be part of a community of like-minded people, all wanting to create a better business world and work together.

Now that we’ve arrived at this stage it’s good to reflect on why we began this journey.

Why did we want to become B Corp certified? At Bubble Chamber, we believe passionately in the opportunity for Social Enterprise to create a unique Fourth Sector of the economy, one that that doesn’t suffocate enterprise, as the public sector so often does, that doesn’t put shareholder value before everything else, as the private sector does, and that doesn’t suffer from the cultural confusion over enterprise that can paralyse so many charities (the last comment not too controversial, I hope, but one of our values is to challenge conventional views).

The B Corp assessment has provided a framework for us to measure our success against their own rigorous standards and ensure responsible practices as we grow as a company.  We are beginning a process of embedding social impact into our everyday work, so this feeds very much into that.  The B Corp model is a great one to ensure that we are living up to our own mission and that we are continually improving and being socially accountable.

Just a week after we qualified, I find myself signed up for a BcorpTM event taking place in my home city of Bristol this week, where I anticipate meeting the B Corp UK team, other members and people interested in undertaking the same journey.

We look forward to experiencing the benefits of being a part of the BcorpTM community over the coming weeks and months and I will report on these in future posts.

See our Bcorp profile page here.  For more information on our views on Bcorps click here.

Diary: Our Bcorp Journey Part 2

In the first post of this series, I wrote about the reasons for Bubble Chamber applying for Bcorp status.  Having made the decision late in 2016 to begin this process, we spent some time completing the online questionnaire, which covers many aspects of governance, employment policy, behaviour towards the community and environment and business models.

With our completed questionnaire submitted we awaited the next step of the process, which was for our application to be scrutinised in a 90 minute telephone review by the staff at B Lab in the US of A.

The day for our telephone review came and went. We gave it a go and found that we didn’t have all the information at the ready, so another call was scheduled for when our MD Ben Freedman could be on hand to answer key questions that only he knew the answers to.  Note of advice:  make sure you have the right people and the right information lined-up before taking the B Lab call or you risk wasting your time and that of the guys at B Lab.

Having said that, Charlie Fraioli and his colleague Pooja Dindigal were very friendly and understanding and duly called us back the following week for the rescheduled review.  The questioning was very thorough, so whoever is leading the process for you, make sure they have instant access to all the vital statistics or have somebody who knows the business like the back of their hand available.

A few of the things we were quizzed about were:

Separate from a mission statement, has your company done any of the following to legally ensure that its social or environmental mission will be maintained over time, regardless of company ownership?

    Signed a contract or board resolution to amend or adopt a legal form that requires consideration of employees, community, and the environment (i.e. Signed B Corp Term sheet but have not yet adopted stakeholder consideration)
    Amended corporate governing documents to require the consideration of employees, community and the environment (e.g. Amended Articles of Incorporation)
    Has a specific legal entity/governance structure that preserves mission (i.e. cooperative)
    Legal entity/governance structure preserves mission and requires stakeholder consideration (i.e. Benefit Corp or cooperative that has amended governing documents to include stakeholder consideration)

The company’s governing papers were needed for that one.

Subtracting for inflation increase, what was the average % increase in wage/salary paid to non-executive workers in the last fiscal year?

We’re a small company so the details of that one weren’t difficult to ascertain.

Are full-time employees granted in writing any of the following options for volunteer service?)

    Non-paid time off
    Paid time off
    20 hours or more a year of paid time off
    Workers offered incentives for volunteerism (office parties, competitions with prizes, etc.)

That is included in our Employee contract, so was easy to settle.

Number of hours volunteered by full-time and part-time employees of the organization during the last fiscal year.

Nobody had done the sums on this one before, so we had to cast around and gather all the volunteer and pro bono activity of the last year.

After being scrutinised on these and many other aspects of the application, our score was adjusted and we were pleased to see that, even with a few downward tweaks, we were still in excess of the 80 points needed to qualify.

I am currently training up in the area of Social Impact (with, amongst other things, the help of training courses and webinars from the excellent Economic Change) and much of this was relevant to the Bcorp process.  Showing evidence of how you operate and the benefits to the wider community that come from your work is vital to both processes.

So, we seemed to be in a strong position at this stage but a certain amount of extra paperwork had to be submitted to back up our claims and the next few days involved gathering data from various sources and sending them through to America.  Everything was in existence but, even in a small company (and one that operates virtually) like Bubble Chamber, it was a question of speaking to the right people and getting hold of the correct information in a clear and concise way.  B Lab provide very helpful templates for filling in and uploading.

As I write, this is all in hand and duly submitted, so we are now waiting to have our revised score confirmed so that we can continue to the next stage of Bcorp qualification.  The journey continues…