B Impact Assessment. Launch Event at Co Workers Space in East London

An introduction to the B Impact Assessment: Launch Event with Mark Cuddigan.

On Friday 29th July we kicked off our B Impact Assessment Programme with a launch event hosted by CEO of Ella’s Kitchen, Mark Cuddigan. Mark was joined on stage by Rupert Dean, CEO of x+why, and Chris Turner, Executive Director at B Lab UK. Here we summarise Mark’s wise words, and answer 5 burning questions that were asked at the event.

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Mark Cuddigan, CEO of Ella’s Kitchen

Mark Cuddigan, CEO of Ella’s Kitchen

Chris Tuner, Executive Director of B Lab UK

Chris Tuner, Executive Director of B Lab UK

Rupert Dean, CEO of x+why

Rupert Dean, CEO of x+why

The B impact Assessment Programme is a collaborative scheme designed by B Lab UK and x+why - intended to help businesses measure their impact and, also act as a great support on their journey to B Corp certification.  Four sessions hosted by a B Leader, will guide CEO’s through the assessment and offer the opportunity to network, learn, and ask questions at key points.  This programme is designed to help enterprises already on their way to B Corp Certification, but also smaller start-ups and entrepreneurs who will find the assessment an invaluable tool for simply completing their business plans.

To launch the first cohort, we were excited to welcome Mark to x+why, to talk about the benefits of becoming a B Corp member, and his personal, and very positive experience, of the journey with Ella’s Kitchen.  He spoke passionately about three very motivating reasons to consider becoming B Corp certified.

  1. The financial rewards for the business 

  2. The endorsement of values (publicly and internally) 

  3. The community of like-minded businesses 

  1. The financial rewards 

Having certified as a B Corporation over three years ago in February 2016, Ella’s Kitchen was only the second company ever to certify whilst being part of a PLC, after Ben Jerry’s with Unilever.  This is in itself confirms the financial rewards that come a result of certification, and something that Mark spoke openly about.  

“My duty is to maximise shareholder return.  B Corp is simply about rebalancing that and putting all of the stakeholders (including your people, and the environment and the planet) on an equal footing. By doing this you will make more money”

His assertions are supported by a recent survey commissioned by B Lab proving that recertifying UK B Corps reported an average growth rate of 14 per cent, 28 times higher than the national average of 0.5 per cent – demonstrating the power of the B Corp certification in driving bottom-line growth.

Mark even went on to appeal to the triple-bottom-line-cynics in the audience insisting - “Even if you’re only interested in the commercial impacts of your business. It’s still a no-brainer”

 

2. The endorsement of values 

Mark mentioned a conversation he was having earlier this year with a brilliant business - already leading the field on their social impact, and with an excellent working culture to boot. Their CEO asked, “we’re already doing so much that’s good – why do we need to become a B Corp?”

The answer is simple. 

“B Corp is about something bigger than any one company or brand – it’s about creating a world where businesses compete to be the best for the world, not just the best in the world. More than anything it is a mindset change, where business works for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.”

For Ella’s Kitchen, becoming a B Corp provided independent proof that they met the highest standards of social and environmental impact and was a resounding endorsement of their values and mission.  This is invaluable in attracting new, and retaining old, audiences - from consumers to suppliers. And as the global competition for talent continues to heat up, almost half (48%) of UK B Corps have found that prospective employees are attracted to their business by the B Corp stamp of approval.

 

3. The Community of like-minded businesses 

Finally, Mark praised the community of over 2,700 businesses who were B Corp certified, describing them as ”absolutely amazing” and urging everybody in the audience to come “join the cool kids”.  He shared a story of how when faced with a serious shortage of Banana puree, it was actually a competitor, and fellow BCorp member, who came to their rescue. Living proof that this is a collaborative and supportive community willing to cross the imaginary but very deep lines in business, in order to do what’s right. 

And you don’t have to just take Mark’s word for it, 81% of UK B Corps say a big motivator for certifying was to join a community of like-minded businesses – with a common goal.

Following his presentation, Mark, Rupert and Chris, opened the discussion up to questions.  Here are five that may also be on the tip of your tongue 

Q: What’s the most tangible evidence of being a ‘better’ business? Can you define ‘better’?

Mark: In honesty, I could give ten pieces of evidence.  But the most compelling is probably profitability. Ella’s Kitchen’s EBITDA has increased from 10% to 19% following certification.  In addition, we have a Net promoter score of 82% - which is embarrassingly high! 

We have been in the Sunday Times top 100 companies to work for three years running.  And finally, the engagement of our team has also drastically improved, demonstrated by an industry low turnover of staff.  And, in fact, the last two employees we hired joined because of our B Corp status. 


Q: How have you brought your suppliers on the journey? 

Mark: It varies. Some don’t really want to know. They just don’t want to do it. Which means that we have to consider the thought that in the future we don’t want to do business with people who don’t see the world the same way.

It comes down to needing to appeal to people in different ways - to tailor the message to our audience.  And yes, we give them lots of help. We have a Head of Sustainability who is an expert when it comes to the Assessment - and so we send him in! We know it’s de-risking our supply chain, and so we know it’s worth the investment.  

Ultimately, for most partners, it’s such a great and inspiring message - why wouldn’t they want to do it?

Q: We’re a Swedish company, which means we have a different legal entity. A lot of our functions are still run in Sweden (e.g Finance). Would we have to do the Assessment for all the different sections? 

Chris: With things like this, we do it on a case by case basis. There is the legal change and there is the assessment.  If all the subsidiaries are owned by the parent - for example in Sweden - we would do it there. We try to bundle things up and make it as painless as possible.  We want to help you achieve certification! 

Q:What’s next for Ella’s kitchen? Where do you want to improve next? 

Mark: We want to continue to grow - because as we grow, we can do more good, and we can spend more money on our mission. 

We want to launch in more countries.  We want to spread the B Corp message. Oh and we want the number one spot in the Sunday Times best companies to work for list. 

Q: What’s in it for small businesses and startups? 

Mark: The assessment itself is an incredibly comprehensive and powerful tool for growing a business. You are asked really relevant and pertinent questions, that force you to really look inside your business, and consider your vision, mission and principles.  It’s an amazing business planning tool - whether you are a business driven by purpose or not.

Chris: Mark mentioned it’s a powerful internal tool - a useful lens to look at your company through and solidify everything within your business. This is invaluable to smaller organisations and start-ups who are working on business plans. But to add to that, the certification is also incredibly powerful at embedding mission from the beginning. It can help to set the course for your business, before unwelcome principles and practices become embedded.  

It is becoming an increasingly important marker for attracting talent, as well as a differentiator.  And as we know, talent is one of the most important things for small businesses. 

Then there is the Community - and the opportunity for collaboration.  We hold regular social events, where small businesses can actively learn and benefit from the experiences of other businesses 

“I would argue that the positive impacts are even more tangible for smaller businesses” 

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If you have questions about the B Impact Assessment Programme, or just want to find out more, drop us an email at BIA@xandwhy.co.uk

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