Interview with Jill Poet | Chairman of ORB

We chatted with the tenacious and unstoppable Jill Poet, on how she is ‘changing the world — one small business at a time.’

Work for Good
Jun 12, 2018 · 6 min read

There are people in life who made in indelible impression on you when they talk. Jill Poet is such a person, so if you ever get the chance to meet her, do it! Having seen the need for businesses to behave a bit better over a decade before CSR was even a thing, she set about doing what others had not even considered …and she’s been changing people’s attitudes towards business responsibility ever since.

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Tell us a little about yourself

I’m also a mother, grandmother and great grandmother to an ever increasing tribe!

What was it that inspired you to set up ORB?

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My husband and I had set up a C.I.C, one of the first in the country, for what is now the Healthy Life Essex website. I was excited by the whole social enterprise movement and started to attend events in London. Often, BiTC would be speaking about CSR, but always with an emphasis on big corporates. With my small business background, I was interested in what was happening in the small business world, bearing in mind that 99% of businesses in the UK are SMEs. Research showed that apart from a few small pockets of activity, nothing much was happening.

We decided that we would bridge the gap and encourage smaller businesses to operate ethically and responsibly, with a mantra that Doing Good is Good for business.

ORB was developed initially as a membership organisation with a very strong voice, launching in February 2010. A year later we added our optional auditable certificate, the Responsible Business Standard.

What does ‘responsible’ mean to you?

We feel that it is so important that businesses take a holistic approach to responsible business i.e. Ig is the core culture that drives the whole of business operations, rather than an add-on.

How did you set up the business and who were your initial backers?

What is the most satisfying part of your work?

What is/was the most frustrating?

Highs/lows of note?

One of the high points with ORB was getting the Responsible Business Standard validated by Anglia Ruskin University. Quite an achievement for a small organisation such as ours. But really, there are just so many high points when people have that light bulb moment and get it — and act on it.

There’s a long way to go, but we are definitely seeing a mindset change in the business community, and we do feel we have played a small part in that change on a national level.

What advice would you give to start-ups and entrepreneurs who are trying to be change makers?

  1. Live and breathe your passion and don’t give up. If something is worth having (or doing) it’s worth fighting for.
  2. Be realistic: sometimes the intent is 100% right but delivery and methods just aren’t working. Sometimes you have to change the way you are working. And sometimes, you have to admit that it isn’t going to work and either take a completely different approach, or even make strategic plans to start afresh.

What do you make of growth of businesses who are putting purpose at their core ( e.g B Corps, Social Enterprises, B1G1 companies etc) and what do you think the future holds for those without purpose?

Individuals and companies are increasingly making decisions about their purchases based on the ethics of companies supplying those goods and services. That is definitely going to increase and any business not embracing a values-based approach is going to see their turnover and profits reduced. I think what is particularly interesting is that the consumer is increasingly aware of ‘greenwashing.’ Companies need to evidence how they really operate, not just add a nice CSR statement on their website! And increasingly, people want to deal with smaller companies they feel they can trust, which makes me very happy.

What was it about Work For Good that caught your interest and made you get involved?

Want to help Jill on her next project? See below!

ORB have an associate company called BSTLC CIC – Businesses Supporting Their Local Community.

While ORB operates nationally, BSTLC works on a very local basis and engages businesses of all sizes. They are working on methods and platforms that could be replicated across the country, albeit always with a very local emphasis.

They have just launched a crowdfunding campaign to increase awareness and improve their IT platforms.

To support their campaign, click here!

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