By Melanie van de Velde, PhD
More and more business leaders are aware of the importance for their business to become more sustainable. Because they want their children and grandchildren to live in a thriving world. Or because they realise purpose driven companies grow faster. Or because their customers and staff are increasingly asking for it. Or because of the increasing sustainability legislation and to prevent stranded assets.
Once you have decided you want to take the next steps on your sustainability journey how can you best move forward? Should you go down a certification route such as B Corp or focus on effective impact strategies for the best outcomes (or both)?
For those not familiar with B Corp, it is a framework to assess many aspects (200 questions across 80 areas) of your business to define areas that can be improved. As a ‘B leader’ I see the benefits of this holistic framework, particularly in getting validation for your impact.
But, ‘all-encompassing frameworks’ such as B Corp don’t easily let you see the bigger picture and what works well or less well.
For example, you may gain certification points for charitable donations, such as the TOMS Shoes ‘buy-one-give-one model’. In some cases a charitable approach is vital, but in others it can do more harm than good. When 2nd hand clothing donations ramped up in Africa, over 50 percent of the workers in local textile industries lost their job as a result. And is charity really fixing the issue? As SoleRebels Founder Alemu asks: ‘If you give a child a pair of shoes and it grows out of it, then what does it have?’ Instead Alemu applies a more structural approach with SoleRebels for better, longer lasting outcomes.
Or, a framework such as B Corp may give you points to up your recycling, but can you innovate products or business models to prevent waste and make savings on (increasingly scarce and costly) materials? (With recycling being the least effective circular design option).
Why would you invest in something that leads to temporary or ineffective outcomes, or in some cases does more harm than good?
It can be of real value to integrate B Corp certification as part of your sustainability roadmap. But if your aim is to effectively create the best outcomes in terms of impact and business benefits, it pays off to take a step back to look at the bigger picture.
Our Sustainability Business Strategy Masterclass can take you on an inspirational journey past successful examples from around the world. You will be guided to apply key insights that lead to better outcomes in your own context. I believe it is a very powerful way to get started or to move onto the next stage of your sustainability journey.