Not many people know this, but the vision for Indicium was first sparked way back in 2009 at a little café in Pokhara, Nepal. I had been in Nepal for a few months volunteering, and Mike had come over for a visit. We had just finished paddling around Fewa Lake in a canoe and were sitting at a local café chatting over some cups of chai. As it often does early in a relationship (we had only been together for 5 months), our conversation had drifted to thoughts about the future, and Mike, having worked in IT for 8 years at that time, was very excited about the prospect of donning an entrepreneurial hat and starting up an IT company of his own. Having recently completed some studies in International Community Development, I excitingly shared all the ways in which our company could give back and support our local and wider global community. We recorded all our ideas on a napkin (yes, very Glass Onion), and while this was lost during our travels, the key elements of our idea endured.
Fast forward to today, Mike and I have been together for 15 years and we’re raising a family alongside running a business. Indicium has been operating for 7 years and is embarking on a period of growth. Our team is growing, our scope of projects is growing, and our goal is to grow our business impact through the expansion of a national and global customer base. It has become very clear to us that now is the perfect time to consider and determine the values that will shape this growth. We have the opportunity to build an organisational culture, practice and processes that are grounded in the recognition of our original founding goals: to build a business that is committed to ensuring its operations support the ongoing health of the planet and the people who live there.
Occurring concurrently with this time of change and growth in the business, Indicium has been working with a global client to gather energy and water use data to support their recertification as a B Corporation (read more about this project). Our developing knowledge of B Corp certification, combined with a general awareness of the pressures on businesses to report their environmental social governance performance, led us down the path of exploring if this certification would be a good fit for us. We decided it was.
What is a B Corp?
A Certified B Corporation, often referred to as a B Corp, is a type of business entity that goes beyond traditional profit-driven models by placing equal emphasis on social and environmental impact alongside financial success. B Corps are companies that have voluntarily undergone a rigorous assessment process to demonstrate their commitment to meeting high standards of social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and ethical business practices.
What sets B Corps apart is their explicit intention to balance purpose and profit. They are legally bound to consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on a broader spectrum of stakeholders, including employees, communities, suppliers, customers, and the environment. B Corps use business as a force for good, recognising that a sustainable and equitable approach to commerce can drive positive change in the world.
As B Lab explains – "B Corps are businesses that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Certified B Corporations, or B Corps, envision a better economic system where businesses can benefit people, communities, and the planet”.
How do we become a B Corp?
To become a B Corp, a company must undergo a comprehensive assessment that evaluates its performance across various impact areas, such as governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. This assessment, called the B Impact Assessment, measures how well the company aligns with established benchmarks for transparency, accountability, and overall social and environmental performance. This assessment is a free digital tool that any business can use, even if they are not wanting to pursue a B Corp certification. If you are looking for certification, then you can submit your B Impact Assessment for assessment by B Lap, an independent body, which starts off a process of verification with an independent certification body.
Companies that successfully meet the stringent requirements and achieve a certain score on the assessment are granted B Corp certification (80 or higher). This certification not only signifies a commitment to responsible business practices but also connects the company to a global community of like-minded businesses dedicated to using their influence to drive positive change.
Why did we choose B Corp, and not one of the other ESG frameworks out there?
As we outlined in our previous blog post, the growing emphasis on the role of business on our planet, its people, and the environment, has led to the development of several frameworks that businesses can use to report on Environmental, Social and Governance performance. We are very aware that being held accountable to ESG principles and metrics is a growing expectation for businesses, and while the focus has predominantly been on larger public companies, this will start to shift to include smaller businesses as well.
While B Corp certification was the first framework we were exposed to in the ESG reporting space, it felt like a good fit. After exploring other frameworks available, the B Impact Assessment ticked several boxes for us:
1. It provides a HOLISTIC evaluation of our business impact – which means that it evaluates Indicium’s impact beyond solely environmental measures, and considers all business stakeholders including staff, customers, suppliers, and the wider community. Nestled under the broader Umbrella of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, B Corp incorporates metrics and principles from many of the existing frameworks to provide an analysis of all aspects of a company’s impact, incorporating non-financial factors such as the needs and concerns of stakeholders, and environmental impact. A breakdown of how B Corp certification overlaps with other ESG frameworks can be found here.
2. It provides a TRANSPARENT FRAMEWORK for reporting – the online tool is freely available and provides measurable metrics and benchmarks that make it very clear how our impact is being evaluated. In addition, it will allow us to track our progress over time.
3. B Corp certification involves INDEPENDENT VERIFICATION by B Lab, the non-profit organisation behind the B Corp movement. The independent verification process adds credibility to the certification, building trust that we are actually doing what we claim to be doing (no greenwashing here).
4. Working through the process of certification will help us better UNDERSTAND the different sustainability metrics that are assessed, which means we can build monitoring of these metrics into our solutions to better support the sustainability efforts of our clients, even if they are not on their own B Corp journey. We are beginning to understand first-hand the challenges involved in the collection of data required for certification, and we can use this knowledge to set up our clients for success in their own reporting efforts.
Where we are in our journey so far…
We are at the beginning of the path to B Corp certification, which means that we have reviewed all the questions in the B Impact Assessment and have identified the areas in which we are already doing well and the areas that require improvement. Initially, the idea of certification felt quite daunting and somewhat complicated, so we engaged with Grow Good, a New Zealand B Corp consultancy that runs group-based coaching sessions for small businesses wishing to become B Corps. These coaching sessions greatly demystified the process for us and gave us the confidence to realise that this certification was indeed achievable.
Here are some key takeaways from what we have discovered to date:
1. That becoming a better business is good for business. The process of certification will require that we develop closer relationships with our clients, suppliers, and broader stakeholders within our industry. We’re looking forward to building pathways for feedback, impact collaboration, and encouraging others to consider how their practices may impact the world. These conversations will help us to improve our own service offerings, including the way in which we create sustainability outcomes via our IoT solutions and software. Sounds amazing, right?
2. It’s deepening our understanding of the importance of data. Quite ironically, as a business that is centred around collecting and managing data for our clients, it’s become quite apparent that we will need to improve the way we collect and use data internally. This relates to a wide range of metrics, spanning from our emissions to the amount of waste we produce.
3. Our small size is an advantage. While our team has undergone growth in recent times, for now, communication between our team is easy, the complexity of our operations is low (we have one office location), and there is alignment between the values of our team with those of B Corp. Like us, most small businesses formalise their policies and procedures as they grow, and we have the opportunity to develop documentation that reflects and defines the way we seek to create positive impact across the varied B Corp pillars.
4. Certification will be a shared effort. Our ability to reach certification will require shared commitment and effort from all team members. Each of us recognises that it is our responsibility to undertake business in a way that does not further compromise the health of our planet for our children, nieces and nephews, and all young people. We will need to work together to build a shared understanding of how our combined efforts can help to achieve the ethical business values that underpin our business. I see some sustainability workshops in our future!
5. It’s going to take us a while. And we’re okay with that. The B Impact Assessment contains approximately 150 questions, which require the collection of data to illustrate evidence of practice. The assessment is comprehensive and will require us to examine all facets of our business, from our vision and mission, our recruitment and HR practices, and our selection of and communication with our contractors, suppliers, and clients. We’ll need to explore how we record and manage our own resource use and consider how we compare against industry averages. Certification is not something you can rush and involves consideration of how best to incorporate sustainability practices within business operations. It will also involve setting up mechanisms for data collection, which will take time to implement and review.
The next steps for Indicium....
Now that we’ve wrapped our head around the B Impact Assessment, our next step will be to develop a roadmap to certification. We’re exploring software options that can help us to project manage this process, which will allow for shared responsibilities and accountabilities across our team to build a body of practice and evidence that we can share with B Lab.
Our aim is to use our B Corp blog series to document our progress, as a way of remaining accountable to our vision, but also to inspire others to consider how they approach the concept of responsible business practice in their industry.
If you would like to follow our journey, please subscribe below. If you have any questions, please reach out.