Becoming a B Corp
In our last article, we outlined our decision to centre sustainability in everything we do at the studio. But what does that path really look like?
To figure out a roadmap, hold ourselves accountable and make our plans tangible, we committed to becoming a certified ‘B Corp’. If we learnt anything from what came next, it’s that change doesn’t happen overnight. It is a complex and continuous learning process to reshape your mindset.
It’s still a work-in-progress; we’re on the way to achieving B Corp status in early 2021. And the work doesn’t end there. So what exactly is a B Corp? Well, we’re in the process of figuring it out. We’ll tell you what it means to us by sharing some thoughts from our personal journey.
A Rigorous Process
On paper, a B Corp is a business that meets the ‘highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.’ Its big picture is shaped by the triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit. This is no empty gesture: it’s an official, long-term commitment, even requiring companies to have notaries amend their official public-facing documents in the Chamber of Commerce.
In practice, it’s so much more than paper. It is about cultivating a state of mind, shaped by a long and detailed assessment process which requires you to take a hard look at how your business is run, put changes in place and provide evidence in order to become certified.
The one common description that sticks is ‘rigorous’. The main thing we can tell you is that it’s been a soul-searching process that made us rethink our own definition of sustainability. While it has always been an important part of our daily lives as a studio, the assessment has encouraged us to play a much more active role, interrogating the way our company functions at every level. Since we started a year ago, our approach has shifted to think about the bigger picture.
A Long-Term Work Process
Comprising 190 questions about the entire spectrum of how our company is run — from the small details like formalising our policy of supporting breastfeeding in the office to relooking at the studio’s core mission statement — the assessment is a huge job in itself.
‘If we want to have an impact, we have to transform the way we see sustainability. It’s not just about stopping air travel and being done with it; it’s transforming the way we work on a day to day basis, involving every aspect of the business. That is not just a little side project,’ explains Bente Brunia, our office manager-turned-sustainability officer who has been leading the process. And, since you have to redo it every three years, a commitment to staying true to your plans is key.
A Tailor-Made Process
The assessment is different for every company that applies: you receive questions depending on what industry you belong to, and the area on which you can have an impact. Divided into five parts — governance, workers, community, environment, and customers — points are given based on how you answer each question, each one has a different value. In order to receive the certificate, you need 80 out of 200 points.
Reaching 200 points is near-impossible, so there is always room for improvement — and you have the freedom to decide where you want to focus your efforts. For us, the highest concentration of points was in governance, workers and community, reflecting what we always knew back at us. At its core, Random is about connecting people. It has always been our strength and we want to nourish that, so we pursued the questions that support our employees, clients and local community.
A Very Random Process
Last year, we took the time to fully focus on the assessment. As office manager, Bente is blessed with first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of the studio, but even so, tackling the overview of the studio was more than a one-person job. We recognised that the task in hand was both big and continuous so we built a dedicated team from our staff to make sustainability a fixed presence. While the workload was sparked by the assessment, the steps we are taking extend into shaping how we work together.
Like most other teams at Random, the Sustainability Team consists of a producer, designer and developer, headed up by Bente. We also have a member of the studio’s leadership team deeply involved from day one, allowing us to move more autonomously and quickly. As a small studio, everything is connected and the team has blended into the Random ecosystem. Having this sustainable microcosm working away in the studio has already been a huge help in gathering information, reaching out to the rest of the team and diffusing the changes we want to make. ‘It’s not an HR manager on the 5th floor of a huge building,’ she explains. ‘We have a lot of trust and freedom.’
A Practical Process
The initial assessment earnt us 60 points out of 200 — and a lot of self-reflection on what we had considered as sustainability up until now. ‘It was like a mirror. When you have the 60 points and you look at it, it was like wow, only this? Why don’t we do this? Why don’t we do that? I think everyone who does the assessment wants to do everything,’ Bente reflects.
Taking stock and focusing on what is most important — and possible — helps keep the process realistic. For us, the internal work process and the people involved were at the core. ‘You start at the roots and really make sure that everything is handled healthily, that you treat each other right and you have these values in place that then you take outwards to your projects,’ says Bente. Soon you begin to see that every small detail adds value.
As a studio, we have always functioned like a close-knit family. The assessment required that we formalised some of our existing values, wrote some new policies and set up ways to document and track our progress. For example, we have recently formalised our non-harassment policy and put into place measures like a formal grievance process to ensure a safe environment for everybody at our studio.
A Collaborative Process
If we achieve B Corp status in 2021 it won’t be the end; it will be the beginning. We have come to see all this work as a training process of sorts: to understand and define what it actually takes to be sustainable. Our main goal now is to cement it in the way we work every day in the studio, with the knowledge that we can always do better.
Starting from the bottom up, our bigger picture is to have a knock-on impact in our field. If there’s a way we can nudge how our collaborators work by offering sustainable solutions and involving them in our way of working, we’re on the right track.
For us, sustainability now means taking responsibility. As well as looking inwards, we’re very excited to join the bigger movement that’s changing the world and working towards making businesses accountable for their impact. Becoming a B Corp means joining a global learning community and a large pool of resources. Special thanks to other agencies like GRRR, who gave us valuable advice, and Wholegrain, who published some great articles on their own process. We’re proud to say we have started our own journey.