“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention’ - Oscar Wilde.
Here’s the problem: everyone running or working in a business knows the world and society are facing a crisis, existential in the case of the environment. And yet businesses are seen as existing for one purpose only: to make money for their owners, ideally at a better rate than the rest of “the market”, whatever that is. So the managers employed to run these businesses have an intractable problem: to either protect their careers by keeping their financial masters happy or to do the right thing for the planet and society but thereby risk financial performance and their jobs. Happily there is a solution to this dilemma. It’s called the B Corp movement.
COOK has been a certified B Corp since 2013. The mission of the movement is to use business as a force for good with the goal of creating shared and durable prosperity for all. There are now over 3500 certified B Corp companies in 70 countries including many of the most progressive companies in the world such as Patagonia, Natura, Etsy and Innocent. The reason why I love this movement is that it is not a movement of ‘grand intentions’, which unfortunately tends to characterise the corporate world’s approach to our planet’s problems. Rather, it is a movement of action and empirical measurement – of small acts of kindness, if you will. A bullshit-free zone.
You cannot become a B Corp because you like the idea or the positive PR potential. You can only join once you have passed a necessarily onerous assessment that measures your company’s impact on the environment, your workers, the communities where you operate and also your overall standards of transparency and governance. On top, you have to change the legal status of your business so you consider the wellbeing of all stakeholders, not just financial shareholders.
Whilst difficult, the B Impact Assessment provides a fantastic framework through which a company can improve. It asks questions that you won’t have even considered and helps you prioritize, rather than seeking to do everything at once. The pass mark for certification is a high bar and, what’s more, the bar is being raised constantly so when you come to take the assessment again – as you must do every three years – the scoring has got tougher. This is how you bake integrity into a movement.
If you are an owner, you will be wondering about the financial performance you may be sacrificing. Fair enough. All I can say is that since COOK became a certified B Corp our financial performance has been consistently robust. By setting your company on the path to being better for society and the environment through small, measurable ‘acts of kindness’ you will be creating a business with more engaged and loyal teams and customers. Do the right thing and it’s funny how the business gods tend to reciprocate.
COOK has helped dozens of UK companies on their path to B Corp certification and we want to help hundreds more. If you are interested then get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will do whatever we can. We have always been energized by Mother Theresa’s quote: ‘You can do what I cannot do, I can do what you cannot do, together we can do great things.’ Change must happen. Grand intentions won’t get us anywhere. Rather, we need to commit to countless small acts and the determination to get stuff done, together.