For good reason
Today we’re proud to announce that Human After All has become a certified B Corp. Our design agency is now part of a growing group of companies who seek to reinvent business by pursuing purpose as well as profit.
We’ve always believed that business has the capacity to not only act responsibly, but to make positive contributions in society. But seven years ago, when we had just founded our agency, it wasn’t yet clear how we could do this ourselves.
The neatest solution would have been to say that we would only work with charities or nonprofits, but that felt like ignoring the main issue: we knew businesses were a part of the problem. Perhaps there was a way to help them do better.
When our new agency was only a few weeks old, a couple of us flew out to SXSW in Austin, Texas. Here we found ourselves listening to Al Gore talk about his book, The Future.
As Gore detailed all the ways in which business was failing the world, we realised this was the first time we’d heard anyone articulate such problems so clearly. Gore opened our eyes to a view of the world that was more complex than we’d previously understood. One in which humanity was out of step with the ecosystems on which it depended, the global economy was crumbling, separatist ideologies were emerging, and corporations were damaging democracy.
We began to see that if you really want to change the world, you have to understand it first. You have to find the information that illuminates and explains the issue, then you have to communicate that information in a way that resonates — and ultimately, compels people to act. This was a transformative moment for us. It helped us to identify our two core values, reason and empathy, which now underpin everything that we do.
The first example of these values was set in motion shortly after we returned from SXSW. Gore’s talk inspired us to launch our own publishing project: Weapons of Reason, which aimed to clarify the most complex challenges facing the world. We hoped that by helping our readers to understand these issues, they would turn this new knowledge into action, just as we had.
Through making Weapons of Reason we started to appreciate the interconnected nature of the global challenges we were covering. But beyond that, it also became clear just how businesses were contributing to these problems. The world has finite resources, and bad business practices are putting it at risk. In turn, this helped us clarify how our agency could become a force for good.
This wouldn’t be as easy as simply choosing one sector or space that we felt was “unproblematic” and then sticking to it — not least because we don’t believe such a space exists. Instead, we decided to run towards the problems and try to be on the right side of the solutions.
Seven years later, all of our clients require us to have a sophisticated understanding of the world. We create communications for people who are grappling with the same huge, global challenges that we have explored in Weapons of Reason. Our attempt to understand these problems has helped us serve our clients while giving us a clear perspective on our own business, and the responsibilities that come with it.
Our work has led us to several partnerships that we’re incredibly proud of. These include:
- Greenpeace: helping to make fossil fuels a thing of the past.
- The World Bank: encouraging businesses to adopt sustainable development strategies.
- Facebook: inspiring women with entrepreneurial spirit to join forces and help each other start, build or grow businesses.
- The UN Global Compact: showcasing innovation projects within the circular economy.
- Girl Effect: empowering girls to act as agents of change.
While working for these clients — and exploring their issues in depth — we’ve come to realise that it’s not just who we do business with that’s important, but also how we do business. This is why we decided to become a B Corp.
As a business, we feel bound to acknowledge the state of the world in every aspect of our operations. At present, becoming a B Corp is the best way of doing this. If you were building a “good” business from scratch, the B Corp guidelines are the first principles you’d start from.
And as for our own work: this year we’ll be wrapping up the eighth issue of Weapons of Reason and publishing a book about the lessons we’ve learned from making it. What Weapons of Reason becomes in the future is still undecided, but suffice to say it will build upon the lessons we’ve learned and push us in new directions.
None of this means we’re “done”. We’re always thinking about how to be a better business in a complex world. But by meeting the standards required of a B Corp, we’re confident that in another seven years’ time we’ll be in even better shape than we are today.
In the meantime, we’ll do our best to help the world keep improving too.