New frameworks for a new world

We all remember the meme on January 3 2020. Day 1: seems to be going well so far, Day 2: Australia is on Fire, Day 3: Trump Declares War. We all nervously laughed but quietly wondered, “holy shit what is happening to the world?!”. Who could have thought that by the end of the month, 10,000 people worldwide would have contracted coronavirus, and that this figure would go on to rise to over 11.8 million as I write this article.

COVID-19 has been a rude awakening to the fragility of life and the fragility of our planet. We can’t go back to how things were and every business has a part to play in rebuilding a world that’s better for people and the environment.

Back in 2018, long before elbow bumps and virtual pub quizzes were a thing, purpose was the trendiest word on the business block. While some wrote it off as a whimsical fad, we’ve increasingly seen that people want to buy from, work for and invest in companies that have mission and impact at their heart. Now Board Directors are sitting up and seeing the importance and financial value of a business with purpose.

One way businesses can make sure they are making a positive impact is by becoming a B Corp. I first heard about B Corps at last year’s BITE LIVE, while listening to Xavier Rees, CEO of Havas, speaking about his agency’s journey to becoming one. Rees gave a very honest portrayal of his agency’s challenges, how they originally scored very low and the work and change that needed to take place to put People, Planet and Profit on equal footing. It was inspiring and motivating.

Listening to his talk, I felt that being purpose-driven in this way was at the core of Kemosabe’s being anyway, and to certify it would only formalise the ethos by which we already stand. Easy. I was wrong.

Naturally and admirably, a B Corp certification is hard to come by. After starting our own B Corp journey last November, I have had to wake up to many of my own subtle biases. For example, we have had to question our supply chains. Beyond making sure we were working with good, honest folk that we enjoyed collaborating with, I had never stopped to question our suppliers or the fact that so few of them were run by women. And I call myself a feminist.

It’s scary the things you get used to and that you feel are the norm until you are made to shift your perspective. B Corp has taken the structure in which we thought we were running a good, ethical business, and dug 50 miles deeper and asked the most difficult questions to ensure our strength and longevity in the new world we face.

We are now less than 15 points away from achieving B Corp certification (hurrah!). Each question of each category is aligned to one of the United Nations SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). While we have been aware of these goals for many years after working with our social enterprise client Thankful, until B Corp, we’ve struggled as much as anyone to find a tangible way to instil them into our businesses.

I’m by no means suggesting all businesses should become B Corp certified. I understand that being a 15-person agency, we are more nimble and able to do so. My hat goes off to Havas who led the agency charge and the many other creative agencies on their B Corp journey. I do believe that all businesses should review themselves against the framework of B Corp, because it will unearth questions that you may have never even thought to ask your business. These small, incremental changes could make all the difference in the post-Covid-19 planet that awaits us.