In Practice; Becoming a B-Corp accredited architectural practice

Published on 22nd June 2022 by Collette Raine

Certified B Corporations, or B Corps, are companies verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. The B Corp Community is a global movement of businesses who provide leadership by demonstrating their commitment to people and the planet. There are now over 5,000 B Corps in 82 countries and covering 156 industries. - B Lab -

We started to notice the B-Corp logo on products that we knew were from ethical and sustainable businesses, such as our ‘Who Gives a Crap’ toilet paper and our morning granola, but didn’t really appreciate the meaning behind the logo. At least not until Wendy’s recent GS10KSB course at Said Business School.  A talk from Karen Lynch, former CEO of Belu Water, re-introduced B-Corp through and inspired further thought over B-Corp. Why would an evidently purpose-driven business be motivated to go further and seek such accreditation? Why would PAD studio become a B-Corp accredited practice?

From the research, we concluded that it’s a great way to hold companies accountable for their social and environmental performance. After wrongly assuming it was just for manufacturers and not service providers like ourselves, we found Kate Chapman. We found Kate, Midori Consulting, via a LinkedIn discussion on B-Corp. She explained the accreditation process and identified how she could help businesses, including those in the service industry. As it turns out, she lives in our hometown of Lymington, so we got her to pop in for a coffee and enlisted her help to bring B-Corp to PAD studio and hold us accountable for our performance.

What is B-Corporation accreditation?

Awarded to businesses that balance commercial success and purpose. B-Corporation accreditation is a lengthy and rigorous process which covers all areas of business across five categories: governance, workers, customers, community, and the environment. To pass the initial assessment and proceed to submission to become a certified B-Corp you need to gain 80 points, out of 150-200 dependent on the size of the company. This initial assessment submission is audited and you have to demonstrate that you genuinely do what you claim by providing evidence. Certification is currently taking up to a year and in our experience, the website and assessment process is intuitive, once you have the know-how, enabling companies to engage when time allows.

Why seek B-Corporation accreditation?

Here at PAD studio, we place environmental issues and people at the heart of everything we do. We embed the principles of sustainability in all our practices, and we aim to balance our profits with our people whilst not detrimentally impacting the planet. We, therefore, saw becoming a B-Corp accredited Architecture practice as a good test to see if we measured up to our claims and to find out what we can do better as we grow.

How are we doing this?

To start Kate, Midori Consulting, spent the day with us working through the initial B-Corp assessment process. Delighted with achieving an initial score of 96, well above the 80 required, she also highlighted areas of improvement. Many improvements we have been instinctively implementing.

With the proper processes and documentation, we can identify these to employees and clients. An example of this was our Environmental Policy which is now on our website for all to access. Highlights measures we have in place, such as providing staff with additional leave for undertaking charity work, fostering social benefit. We have also made simple and immediate changes, such as using Ecosia as our web browser and changing stationary supplier. Other changes, such as moving to a more ethical bank, will take longer to implement but the process has begun. To ensure continual improvement every B-Corp business is re-certified and required to improve its score every three years.

What have been the Challenges?

We find it hard to make time for paperwork, as creative designers, but we realise that it’s important. Across the board, we are reviewing our processes so that PAD studio and its employees have good governance and clarity.  To support this we are also looking into appointing a non-executive director. They will bring an independent and experienced voice to decision-making as we grow.

Listening and considering our tribe, which includes our staff, clients, collaborators, the environment, and society as we grow will help us to grow with people who share in the values of our purpose-driven business and everything we stand for. March 2023 is our tenth birthday, coincidentally also B-Corp month, and we hope that by then we will be B-Corp accredited. We create sustainable places and spaces that nurture the soul, and we intend to get better and be better as we do this.

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