The Journey to B Corp — with Quest Impact Studio
A conversation with Diana Garcia about Quest, helping entrepreneurs and organisations tackle the social and environmental challenges of our time, and the B Corp movement.
Based out of Belgium, Quest is an international Impact Design Studio combining strategy consulting and creative design to drive positive change. Quest is also a certified B Corp — a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. At Metta, we’re an aspiring B Corp and I wanted to sit down with Diana to hear her take on how businesses can approach the B Corp certification, as well as how Quest help their clients in the social impact space and the sustainability challenges that Diana is most passionate about solving.
How did Quest Impact first start? What was your experience prior to joining Quest?
Quest Impact Studio came to be because our Founder, Michael Boschmans, got tired of writing sustainability reports for companies that were not really creating impact. His vision was to have an agency that solely focused on making a true difference, where we help impact-driven organisations grow and flourish and with it so does its impact. It’s been a journey, but I can confidently say that 100% of our clients fit this description.
As for me, my early experience was in marketing and sales but for the education industry. To me, advocating for access to education was my biggest impact passion. I realised early on in my career that though it is a major issue in the world, the industry still needed a lot of work and I knew I could do more for people, and the planet.
This transitioned into my career, where I began to work in environmentally-driven organisations from green-building to consumer goods made from recycled plastic. I also got heavily involved with the B Corp movement in Toronto. As part of their local chapter, we worked to relaunch the local community to help share best practices. So it was natural that when I arrived in Europe with no network, my first instinct was to get involved with B Corps in the area, this is how I landed at Quest. Now my role is to help grow and expand Quest as well as the B Corp movement in the Benelux region.
What is your definition of a ‘positive impact’’ project? How does Quest decide which companies to work with, and is it a requirement to be an existing B-Corp?
Great question, and one I get often. For the most part, our clients have a clear impact focus integrated into their business. For example, they take food waste and create an alternative to plastic, run a donation and volunteering platform, advocate for sustainable innovations in the fashion industry.
Yet, we do get requests to work from organisations where it may not be clear how their work is ‘sustainable’. For these cases, we do our own internal scan which can include a variety of different factors:
- Do they want a brand identity or website? They have to showcase a clear impact strategy or agree for us to do one.
- Do they have leadership buy-in? We look at internal leadership, what is their definition of ‘impact’, and if they are willing to make a radical change.
- Does their solution make an impact? We analyse the solution to see if it is truly making a difference within B Corps five pillars.
- Do they have a significant say-do gap? So, do they say they do more than they really do? Unfortunately, most of the time, this is the case.
- Lastly, are they a fit for our team? We have what we call impact-warriors on our team and if they feel the company’s mission does not align with theirs, we take a vote.
As for your B Corp question, no, they don’t need to be certified B Corps at the time, but if they are then we definitely work with them since we trust the certification and know that internally, there has already been some radical transformation for change.
The B Lab, the non-profit organisation behind the B Corp certification, is currently experiencing overwhelming interest from companies. Why do you think companies are interested in the B Corp status?
It’s exciting, isn’t it? 🙂
Beyond there being an increase in consumer pressure to be better for people and the planet, I think people are realising that stakeholder-driven capitalism is no longer an option but a requirement. There has been an active transition at least externally, of no longer doing less bad but actively doing more good. You see companies scrambling, especially with the pandemic to prove they are a ‘good’ company, whatever they define that to be.
I think B Corp certification has been able to guarantee assurance across the globe. It is no longer just a trusted label in the U.S., but an impact movement across the globe. I remember reading that certified B Corps were 63% more likely to survive than other businesses of similar size and I truly believe this is the case. We are a small agency and we even grew in size during the pandemic.
What happens after a company becomes a B Corp?
Congrats! The work has just begun! Not joking. After certification, you get plugged into your local community. Here, you will be able to connect to other B Corps, get updates or educational sessions, or webinars from B Lab or your local chapter. The world is your oyster! Yet, this means the impact work is just beginning.
The B Corp movement is about making transformational change. All B Corps have to go through recertification every three years. Did you make commitments or set goals in your B Impact Assessment? It’s time to start acting! This time around, you have a trusted movement behind you. Looking for partnerships for change? Work with B corps. Unsure how to introduce a new policy? Learn from your peers. You no longer are doing this work alone.
Aside from Quest, you’re also involved in clever carbon, where you’re teaching about carbon literacy. Why is it important that brands increase the transparency of their carbon footprint?
I think just like B Corp Certification, carbon foot-printing is all about transparency. If you are not transparent about the carbon footprint of your organisation. How can you really make carbon neutrality plans and statements? How can your consumers make more informed purchasing decisions if you withhold that information? With clever carbon, we want to see a future where carbon labels are used just as often as health labels. I truly think this is a way that consumers can be empowered to make better decisions and help transform current industries and systems.
What sustainability challenges are you personally passionate about solving?
At Quest, we have nine impact questions that we tackle through our projects. The two that I am most passionate about and am responsible for are:
How might we contribute to planet-friendly food systems?
This is fascinating to me since there are so many innovative organisations that vary in solutions from empowering farmers across the globe and paying them a living wage, to alternative protein production the help our CO2 emissions. This space is expansive, and for me, if we can help contribute to an equal for all food system would mean we have done our jobs right.
How might we contribute to a more inclusive society?
Being a person of colour from the U.S., even opening the conversation into inclusivity and diversity in Europe is a win since there is a lot of work that needs to be done here. An inclusive society is a flourishing society and I will do everything in my power to make this a reality.
About 1 in 3 companies that submit for certification will certify. There are a lot of B Corp guides out there to help with this process. What would be your top 3 tips for a company on a journey towards becoming a B Corp?
Here are my recommendations:
- I think first and foremost, have leadership buy-in. I get questions all the time about how to get to the minimum certification score — that is not the point. For some organisations this may mean some radical internal change, if you don’t already walk the talk this will not be an easy task.
- Don’t try to score for everything, align your assessment to your impact goals. Make a short, mid, and long-term plan. The B Corp certification is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Involve your organisation! A common occurrence is that B Corp certification is carried out by one person internally, usually an admin or someone from the HR team. Try to get someone from different departments to see how this movement will positively change this space.
You don’t have to do it alone! Quest is one of the B Leaders who are here to help.
Thanks Diana for these insights! Find out more about Quest, their services and tools on their website.
For more information about Metta and the work we do, head to our website. Check out our podcast Metta Talks to hear the latest about startups, innovation, and sustainability. The team is also on Twitter — reach out to us @mettatalks.
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