Business Beyond the Usual
At the back end of 2022, we reached the end of a year-long journey: Something Familiar became a (drumroll) B Corporation – more widely known as a B Corp. We did it because we wanted a concrete way to demonstrate that we’re a creative agency with a conscience; something more than just our say-so. Being a B Corp shows that we’re part of a growing group of businesses worldwide which are working positively to create the kind of world we want to live in: one full of opportunities.
But becoming a B Corp wasn’t just a way to underline our ethical stance. It was a natural next-step in our growth as a business too. Having recently celebrated B Corp month, there might be lots of other businesses out there learning about B Corporations for the first time, so we thought this was a great time to talk about our journey, and what it means to us.
So, what is a B Corp?
B Corps make a commitment to balancing profit and purpose. Every decision taken as a business needs to consider its impact on people and the planet, as well as its impact on the bottom line. The real pulse of it is that we want to use business for good. As a group, we have a forward-thinking mindset that will help us tackle the challenges the world currently faces – and play an active role in shaping it for the better.
But actually becoming a B Corp is a pretty gruelling and occasionally stressful process! And even when you’ve got there, it’s something that you need to keep working on. Each B Corp recertifies every three years and must improve its scores (more on those later) each time.
Plus, every B Corp needs to make legally-binding changes to its articles of association, giving equal importance to people, the planet and profit – the triple bottom line.
In other words, it’s more than just a symbol in your email signature.
What’s in it for you?
So having read that, why would anybody want to put themselves through it? Well, the world’s not in a great place at the moment, and the more businesses that are working ethically and putting good out there, the better chance we have of turning it round.
That’s exactly what we’ve been striving to do since we first started. But in a world of greenwashing, where it’s easy to say you’re doing the right thing, how can you prove that you are?
Being a B Corp shows that we’ve been independently verified against a series of benchmarks. It’s the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. It’s a way for a business like us to turn our commitment to growing the business the right way, into a framework which supports, encourages and celebrates our progress.
It’s something real and tangible that shows Something Familiar, along with over 1100 other B Corps in the UK, stands for business beyond the usual.
How do you become a B Corp?
Once you’ve made the decision to commit to the triple bottom line, it’s time for you to take the BIA (B Impact Assessment). This is a deep-dive look at your entire social and environmental performance. It’ll show you how close or how far (gulp) you are away from meeting the B Corp standards, and covers five areas:
A big part of being a B Corp is transparency, which means that absolutely no part of your business is beyond the reach of the BIA’s 200-plus-questions. And importantly, once you have become a B Corp, anyone can look at how you scored.
Long story short, you need to score above 80 out of a possible 200 to qualify, with experts at B Lab UK requesting evidence to back up your answers. With so many moving parts in a business, it’ll be no shock to hear that most businesses don’t get anywhere near 80 on their first try. Luckily there are loads of tools and plenty of advice to help you improve the way you work until you hit, or ideally sail past, that magic number.
The B Corp certification is designed to encourage a business to keep developing by recertifying (and improving those scores) every three years.
This gives us a clear path to improve the business, whilst we’re getting better as a B Corp. We won’t just sit back and relax, but will keep looking at every aspect of the way we work. Luckily, we have the growing community of B Corps to support us. We’re not competing when it comes to working ethically, we’re co-operating, and we know we can call on any other B Corporation for help, just as they can call on us.
The growing community also flags up how important being a B Corp is to progressive businesses in the UK. The higher this number rises (over 5000 worldwide) the more obvious it is that the movement’s values are connecting to businesses of all kinds, and the more impact we can have. Ultimately, it can move us closer to legislative changes that put environmental and social focus at the top of the list. Not a bad idea, right?
Turns out the certification is actually just the start of the journey.
B Corp Month
In March we celebrated B Corp Month. We were part of a global ‘We go beyond’ campaign that helped to start ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ conversations about B Corps, highlighted what we’ve achieved together, and showed that you can be a commercial business with a social purpose.
All month there were things going on up and down the UK, from photo opportunities with the iconic ‘Big B’ as it travelled from Cornwall to Aberdeen (ultra-low emission vehicles only), to social-feed takeovers and B Corp products being highlighted by major retailers.
We celebrated B Corps by projecting an animation onto the wall of the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. Not only is this historic building our home, it’s also one of the most storied locations in the city. If you were in the area and you saw it. let us know. Or better still, have a chat with us about the many benefits of being a B Corp. We’d love to have you with us.
Thanks to all the lovely people and businesses who have inspired us and helped us along the way.