08.07.2015 Culture, Community, and Business

Our Road to B Corp

What is a B Corp? Time For Homework

Before ThinkShout, I’d never heard of a B Corp, but there it was, one of the first projects I undertook upon my hire: “Get ThinkShout certified as a B Corp.”

Educating myself was step one. I watched the video “B the Change,” read the book “The B Corp Handbook” by Ryan Honeyman, and combed the www.bcorporation.net website to get a better and deeper understanding of what this movement was all about. I was blown away!

As stated on the site, “B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.” (We’ll get to the ‘rigorous’ part in a bit.) B Corp companies don’t want to be the best in the world - instead, they strive to be the best for the world. The change of that one word is transformative.

I realized how meaningful the B Corp movement is and how it would transform our company by making it a better place for our employees, a better steward of community and the environment. It’s the trifecta of awesome - there’s something for everyone and it’s all a force for positive change.

Getting Certified: Capturing the Data

In order to become certified as a B Corp, there’s a rigorous ‘Assessment’ process. Think of it like the final exam in the toughest class you’ve ever taken but you have to pass it in order to land your dream job. On the Assessment, a score of 80 out of a potential perfect 200 is considered passing. Don’t be fooled into thinking, “Only 80?!” A lot goes into the scoring process, and data is pulled from multiple areas: Human Resources, Building Management, Purchasing, Financials, Employee Benefits . . . it’s all gathered, compiled and scored.

This assessment is hard. We’ve been in business for six years. During that time, we’ve experienced a significant amount of growth and change. Like many companies, we have policies, procedures, and values, but there wasn’t a consistent set of written procedures, or a practice of putting philosophies to paper. There was a general cultural ethos, but without it being written and established, we weren’t going to get points for it on the assessment.

The Assessment is organized into 6 parts: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, Impact Business Models, and a Disclosure Questionnaire. I haven’t counted how many questions there are, but if you print it out, it’s 35 pages. A typical question, “What percent of full time workers have participated in external professional development opportunities or lifelong learning opportunities (paid in advance, reimbursed or subsidized by the company) in the past fiscal year?” 35 pages of questions like this and reaching a score of 80 on our first Assessment starts to feel like more of a substantial accomplishment.

Admittedly, it took the better part of a year to complete the Assessment, and if I had prepared better at the onset, that timeframe would have been much shorter and perhaps less stressful - although no less of an accomplishment!

It Could Have Been Better

Because I was a new employee to ThinkShout, I wasn’t prepared to answer the kinds of questions required by the Assessment. By the time I put into place much of the infrastructure needed to complete the Assessment, I realized that the Assessment had already been started by my predecessor. Not knowing how she calculated some of the information was initially confusing, but it also encouraged me to dive deeper into the data. What ensued was about six months of reports, writing, and entering data into the Assessment until we were within range of the certification.

Now that we’re certified, I can look back and think about how I could have better prepared for this process. Take my advice:

Becoming a B Corp changed my relationship with ThinkShout. It gave everything I do a deeper meaning. Now, for example, when considering employee benefits, our B Corp status is part of the equation. Are we taking the welfare of our employees into consideration when we make changes? When we consider office space, we think about the location and its proximity to public transportation. We think about the energy and water usage. It reminds us of our own values: when we engage with a potential new client, we think about their own mission and what change they are making in the world.

I’m proud that ThinkShout is a B Corp. When I’m talking with someone who is interested in working here, I can tell them about the B Corp certification and what it means. Almost immediately, we establish whether or not the B Corp message and mission aligns with their values.

Shortly after we certified and announced it to the office, a new employee shared that she’d never worked for a company that made their employees and the community such a high priority. Yeah. That is amazing.

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