Behind the Scenes of a B Corp with X+Why
B Corps are on the rise. You may have spotted them from that minimalist black and white logo on the packaging of products, or proudly displayed on a company’s website.
But what’s it really like being a B Corp?
Is it just another marketing trick to make us believe that brands care?
Or does it go beyond the CSR hype and walk the talk?
To find out what it’s like being a B Corp, I interviewed Phil Nevin, Co-Founder of co-working space X&Why.
What inspired you to become a B Corp?
Making sure that we adhere to our mission is what inspired us to become a B Corp. It’s like our North Star in that it ensures that we never lose sight of our vision and who we are.
This is important because the difficulties that most companies face as they expand, centre around preserving their culture and soul. The B Corp framework is a means of cementing the intangible elements of a company into its endoskeleton, ensuring that these core values are not traded in return for scope and scale.
How does being a B Corp influence your company culture?
At the heart of our company culture is an adherence to the Triple Bottom Line – people and planet, alongside profit. This means that while we house a diverse array of start-ups in terms of background and industry, they are all united by a common vision and mission: to change the way the world works for good. This inherently fosters a more collaborative and cohesive environment.
How does being a B Corp influence decisions that get made as a business?
Being a B Corp is about widening the lens and redefining what it means to do business – by moving away from shareholder supremacy and towards stakeholder primacy. This is ultimately a shift of responsibility, putting autonomy back in the hands of the consumer.
We are seeing similar models being built in the world of Web 3 using Blockchain Technology. Here, this moves us away from the extractive model of data harvesting by large companies as we serf the web and instead allows us to surf the web by giving us back control and ownership of our data.
When it comes to business, it means we are measuring the qualitative impacts of commerce and not just the quantitative – the wider impacts on people and the planet, not just the bottom line.
Do you think it’s a possibility that one day all businesses might be run this way and what is stopping governments from making it mandatory?
We are part of the Better Business Act, which is an offshoot of the B Corp movement in that several people that are involved with B Lab are also involved with lobbying government, but it is a separate entity in and of itself. This Act is seeking to make the major brushstrokes of B Corp mandatory. The absolute knub of B Corp is a shift in the articles of association at Companies House – to be held accountable to people and planet, as well as just the bottom line. In that sense it’s a shift towards stakeholder primacy, and not just shareholder profitability.
I absolutely believe that it will be possible for all business to be run this way one day, and it’s becoming increasingly vital that this movement becomes more mainstream.
What’s stopping the government from making this happen is a tough one, others are better qualified to answer that than me! There are though encouraging signs of B style behaviour being made policy – such as Rishi Sunak’s move to require listed companies to release net zero plans by 2023.
Is there really a difference between traditional CSR and becoming a B Corp?
The main difference between traditional CSR and becoming a B Corp is accountability. Many CSR goals are well intentioned but do little in the way of impact as they often serve more of a window-dressing or greenwashing purpose. Because the B Corp community requires a 3rd party to validate the model using a rigorous process, certified B Corps are continually held accountable to the long-term impacts of the promises they make.
How does being a B Corp influence your business strategy?
Being a B Corp positively influences our business strategy because it gives us a more holistic, systems lens with which to view our problems and solutions. Ultimately, B Corps are collectively working to enact a paradigm shift in the way we deploy capitalism – one that will move us away from the extractive model that is plundering our finite resources to benefit the hands of a few, and towards a more sustainable, regenerative and circular model that caters to the many.
What we need to bear in mind, is that this is ultimately a process that requires a shift in mindsets and perspectives, and that while we may have control of the process, the outcome is never a guarantee because there are always unseen emergent properties that impact the overall system. This means acknowledging a state of constant flux and transformation while adhering to an ethical guideline and mission as a North Star.
How long did it take for you to become a B Corp?
We became fully accredited within 2 years of opening (passing with a very pleasing 98.3 on our first B Impact assessment), and we are now able to work with B Lab UK to host our own Why B sessions – helping other start-ups and individuals to navigate the initial stages of a rigorous process.
When it comes to the past, present and future of your B Corp Journey, do you have any key insights from each stage?
We first filled out our BIA in December 2018, and ended up becoming a B Corp in early 2021. So it’s been a long journey, we were pending for a full year, then covid hit which delayed us for while before receiving accreditation. But when I reflect on the process, it was reassuringly tough.
When you first go through the assessment, it’s normal to find yourself being knocked back on your initial score. B Corp are very thorough in that respect, and it’s great to see them doing their thing.
In terms of where we’re at now – we’re celebrating B Corp month company wide, with lots of exciting get-togethers and events post-COVID. As a company, it’s great to spend time together again, and we’re already beginning to target goals for our re-certification in 2024. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved during such a turbulent time as the past couple of years, and part of that resilience has been thanks to really embedding strong B Corp values within our business model.
When it comes to focusing on the future, it feels promising to have a clearly lit pathway as to how we can continue to improve our business. It’s important not to be limited by the tool, but it does help to have clear signposting, as well as a great network of people that are all looking to push the barriers and go beyond baseline requirements.
What are your sources of inspiration and what motivates you?
With my background in business, property and having set up Big Change Charitable Trust, I’m really interested in the space between charity and business. I feel like we are living in a time where the two are moving closer together and borrowing from one another, and that excites me.
How has what you do changed you as a person?
I have 3 daughters so thinking about the type of world they’re going to grow up in, and what type of world we’ll be handing over to them as parents has changed my outlook on many different levels.