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B is for Benefit

It’s B Corp month and at Brink we’re asking what benefit truly means, and how we could do better

When my cofounder Lea and I set out to build Brink, we felt that the traditional model of business (in which return to shareholders has highest priority above all else) didn’t fully resonate with our values. We believed that in between traditional business, ‘third’ sector and government lay a different path: A way to do well commercially whilst having our highest priority be doing good.

This is a path which has now been trodden by thousands of organisations, those who’ve joined the movement of B Corps: a certification for businesses that ‘meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.’ It’s so much more than just a certificate. As a certified B Corp we are held to account for balancing the interest of shareholders with ensuring true benefit to workers, customers, community and the environment. This is enshrined in our Articles of Association, the legal documentation that underpins our business and is publicly available for anyone to view on the UK’s Companies House register.

In short, we are bound by law to build a business that brings measurable benefit to society, economy, workers and the environment.

Over the past 2 years we’ve undertaken the B Corp certification process then continued the work it takes to sustain it. That work has helped us continue along our chosen path of building a benefit business, and has helped us with a framework to measure what matters along the way.

To us, our vital statistics are not just EBIT, margin, headcount… even if these are the metrics Lea and I are asked about on the regular. We have built Brink with the intention of remaining a small but mighty team focused on making an outsized impact. To us, one of the most important metrics is the size and number of positive dents we make on the world. And by maintaining a healthy business, we’re ensuring that the team we’re building and the client and collaborator relationships we form along the way, can keep doing that.

That’s why we enjoy thinking about levers for change — what are the levers that mean we, as a boutique company, can have an outsized effect on the world? For example, one way we do this is working with ventures to test and grow ideas. We believe working with the innovators behind new ideas that show promise for impact and meet an unmet need, is a path to benefit. Through our Venture Studio we work with innovators to test, iterate, fund and scale those ideas out in the real world.

Having the legal imperative to be a profitable business that’s accountable to people and planet is, we believe, one of the most powerful levers of all.

Since we were certified a year ago, we’ve improved our score but there’s still much more we could do

March is B Corp month and this year we’ll be spending it discussing the 5 B Corp areas: workers, customers, governance, community and environment. We share our scores in those areas and the stories behind them which tell of our successes and setbacks. Most importantly, we’ll be highlighting what we feel we could be doing better, and sharing what we intend to do about it.

Our B Corp scores are public for all to see (here’s the directory). That level of transparency brings a scrutiny that’s very welcome. Beyond lipservice, B Corp gives us a benchmark of what good looks like, then holds us to account against that benchmark, in public for all to see.

How can we bend the curve of progress, together?

It gives me hope to see more and more businesses being certified. In the time we’ve been certified we’ve seen the number of fellow certified B Corps rise from 2778 in 60 countries to now over 4000 in 70 countries.

But with the news last month that top companies are exaggerating their progress or failing to meet their own targets on climate, transparency, accountability, measuring what matters, and aligning business with benefit has become an imperative.

(Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-60248830)

At Brink we ask things like: How can we bend the curve of progress? Can a product be truly innovative if its model is extractive or resource intensive with no attention paid to its contributions to the climate emergency or to social inequalities? What if all of us working in innovation were held to account?

We’re looking forward to exploring these topics through B Corp month and beyond, and to discussing with the team, our collaborators, and with you, about how we could do better.

Where do you stand on this? What do you think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Abigail Freeman

Abigail Freeman

Founder of Brink. Organisational psychologist and behaviour designer writing about the future of work, the mindsets and culture we need for innovation to thrive