Balancing purpose and profit: B Corp companies aim to do better
If you’re one of the many Aussies increasingly concerned about the impact of their money on the planet, then you might want to add the B Corp certification to your checklist when looking into a finance provider.
B Labs is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to hold businesses accountable for how they treat their employees, whether they give back to the community and what kind of impact their operations have on the environment.
We spoke to Jonathan Buck, joint chief executive of B Corp certified Aussie insurance company Huddle about the certification process and how being a B Corp helps the company do better and be better.
The B Corp certification process
“It’s not just answering questions,” says Buck. “You have to provide evidence and you have to back up what you say.”
According to Buck, the B Corp certification process reviews a company from multiple angles, including how the business is structured, how employees can take part in the ownership of the business, how transparent the company is with its employees, how the company works with suppliers, how it chooses its energy provider and even how it rents office spaces.
To become a B Corp, businesses must have been operational for a minimum of 12 months and score at least 80 points out of a maximum 200 on the B Impact Assessment. According to B Corp’s website, business owners can seek guidance from B Labs on how to improve their business and achieve the certification.
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B Corp charges companies an annual certification fee, which can be anywhere from $500 to $50,000, depending on how high or low the business’ yearly sales are.
B Corp certified financial services in Australia
There are over 3,000 B Corp certified companies around the world, nearly 300 of which exist in Australia and New Zealand.
You may even recognise a few familiar faces, including creator of the reusable coffee cup KeepCup, outdoor apparel and equipment retailer Kathmandu and footwear brand Allbirds. Among the growing number of B Corps in Australia are a number of financial service providers including:
A customer owned bank with branches in South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Western Australia, Beyond Bank was the first Australian bank to achieve the B Corp certification. This is a fact that general manager of strategy and community development, Peter Rutter says the bank is very proud of.
“Achieving this certification was a rigorous process, but a process that we welcomed because it allowed us to show that we are really genuine about ensuring that the environment, sustainability and the wellbeing of people sit alongside profit,” says Rutter.
Rutter says that being a B Corp aligned well with Beyond Bank’s values from the start. “The very nature of being a B Corp member means we have to measure up to very high standards of transparency and accountability across everything we do and commit to using business as a force for good.”
Aussie fintech company Huddle offers home and contents, car and travel insurance.
Buck explains that he and joint co-founder of Huddle James Wilby were both determined to create a company that left a positive impact, not only on the environment but at every level, including for the employees, the community and the customers.
“When we saw the B Corp framework it really was a great manifestation of the ideas we had in our head, before we started the company,” Buck says. “Every time we make a decision in the business, whether it’s about a specific claim for a specific customer or a broad strategic decision at the board level, we look at what it means to be a B Corp.”
Ahead of the game, superannuation company Australian Ethical was the first Aussie business to be publicly listed as B Corp certified back in 2014.
So what’s in a name?
Well you guessed it, Australian Ethical’s whole MO is ethical investing. Each new company or venture that the superannuation company invests in has to pass the Australian Ethical Charter, proving that it supports people, innovative technology or sustainability.
As well as being B Corp certified, superannuation company Future Super is also certified Gasfield Free and has achieved a certification from the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia.
Some of Future Super’s investments include renewable energy, recycling and sustainable timber production. It does not invest in stuff like fossil fuels, factory farming and live animal exports.
Navigating the world of conscious capitalism
Doing the right thing can be tricky, but where you put your money can make a difference.
If you’re concerned about companies that invest in harmful industries, such as fossil fuels or live animal exports, then the first thing to do is look on the company’s website.
Often companies that are seeking to do good will shout it loud and proud. In fact, what a company doesn’t say is often more telling than what it does, so you’ll have to become a master at reading between the lines.
The next thing to do is to cross-check your findings with other resources. You can use the environmental campaigner Market Forces’ website to find out which Australian banks don’t invest in fossil fuels and you can even look up Aussie banks on the international website Don’t Bank on the Bomb.
So, while certifications like B Corp can be a good sign, if you want to be sure that your bank aligns with your values, it's never a bad idea to do a little more digging.
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