Beyond Green embrace the journey of continuous improvement
Insights from a B Corp about taking part in B Lab’s Inclusive Economy Challenge and what they’ve learnt so far
Beyond Green work with businesses to understand, implement and embed resource efficiency. They certified as a B Corp in August 2018 and in January 2019 they signed up to B Lab’s Inclusive Economy Challenge (IEC). The challenge is designed to encourage B Corps to strive toward tangible improvements in their business policies and practices and better support those most in need: under-served populations, underrepresented employees and an overburdened planet.
We caught up with their Operations and Communications Director, Lisa Bertrand, about how they’ve got on with the challenge and what advice they have for B Corps considering taking part.
How did you first hear about the IEC and what motivated you to take part?
I first heard about the Inclusive Economy Challenge in the B Lab newsletter in January this year and thought it sounded like a great way to engage the team with our B Corp certification and make improvements to our business practices and policies. Our founder and one other team member completed our B Impact Assessment, which meant most of the team didn’t fully understand the requirements for certifying as a B Corp.
We organised a B Social in September to celebrate joining the B Corp community and we invited the team, key stakeholders and other members of the B Corp community. However, I still felt we could do more to raise awareness amongst the team about some of the challenges behind using business as a force for good. What better way to do this than to work together on building a more inclusive business and take part in the challenge?
We believe it is crucial for business to create an inclusive economy and this is the only way society can fully benefit from a pool of untapped talents. We would be more advanced if we had an inclusive economy and, who knows, maybe the climate emergency wouldn’t be upon us…
Companies that take part in the challenge choose three or more goals from the Inclusive Economy Metric Set to improve on. What goals did you set and how did you go about choosing them?
We agreed on these as a team. I asked everyone to select three goals from the list, where they felt we could most improve and therefore have the most impact. The most popular goals were:
- Mission lock — Signed a contract or Board resolution committing to adopting a legal form that requires consideration of all stakeholders (e.g. signed B Corp Agreement)
- Monitoring greenhouse gas emissions — Company monitors emissions and sets specific reduction targets
- Facility energy efficiency — Equipment and Lighting improvement (although as tenants we are limited we see this as advocating to our landlord)
- Supplier ownership diversity — establish a baseline and aim for 30%+
- % of company owned by non-executive employees
What new initiatives did you adopt in order to make progress towards your goals?
We used the ‘Legal Test’ for B Corp in the UK document to understand how to include a commitment to a “triple bottom line” approach to Beyond Green in an agreed form. We chose to fast-track the amendment to our Articles, which was due in August 2019. It might sound cumbersome but I think it demonstrates our commitment as a micro-business to align with our ambition.
The UK Legal Test, including a reference to building a community of supporters with detailed side agreement, was shared, reviewed and agreed by all shareholders ie. Beyond Green’s founder and employees. Legal firm Anderson Strathern’s chair, Bruce Faqhuar, updated the company articles and this was approved by the majority shareholder following a written resolution proposal of the amendments at a board meeting. The company constitution was then filed to Company House.
Regarding the Supplier Ownership Diversity we’ve started using one main office supplies business located in Loanhead, near Edinburgh. This has helped us identify diversity across supplier ownership. We are also recording our commuting and business travel which is our main source of GHG emissions and we have an employee ownership scheme in place. But in order to achieve our goals we will need to progress and improve on both these initiatives; this could mean monitoring office energy consumption, upgrading our lighting and setting targets based on B Corp best practice.
Our biggest challenge will be improving on our facility energy efficiency as we are renting our premises and share the building with other tenants. It might come down to advocating!
We know Beyond Green is a small and busy team, which means making progress in all these areas could be challenging. What has been the biggest success and what have you learnt so far?
Keeping up the momentum is definitely a challenge, especially as a small business where changes such as on-boarding new team members and taking on new projects impact the whole team and can cause setbacks. However, when it comes to involving the entire team in B Corp, we’ve made really good progress; some employees are even talking to clients about B Corp as being a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit!
What advice would you give to a business that wanted to use the IEC as a tool to make progress in specific areas of the business?
Create milestones to check in on progress. It can be hard to make time or prioritise the IEC alongside the day to day running activities of the business and this will encourage you to do so. Assign a lead for each goal to an individual from the outset to ensure you spread the responsibility evenly and encourage more creative thinking and innovative action.
In addition to your selected goals, are there other areas you would like to work on?
I hope so as we have certainly learned from it in terms of improved internal processes and awareness raising. The way our team has now evolved, I can see management of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as inclusive hiring practices would be of interest as I think these are crucial for scaling a business successfully.
Want to help us create a more inclusive economy? Sign up to the Inclusive Economy Challenge here.
A first step for businesses interested in measuring their social and environmental impact is by using the free B Impact Assessment tool. Any company wishing to certify as a B Corp has its performance assessed by B Lab across all dimensions of its business. These companies are on a journey of continuous improvement to ensure business leverages its power to be a positive force in the world.