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The Consultancy Growth Network

B Corp for consultancies – what you need to know

B Corp certification is a rigorous process to assess the overall social and environmental impact of a company. Boutique consultancies are certainly embracing the idea of B Corp, with many being a part of the doubling of British certifications in the last year, beyond a desire to ensure they are doing ‘good business’ members cite its increasing impact on winning business, attracting talent and bringing in investment.  

We explore B Corp with members of The Consultancy Growth Network who have travelled the B Corp path – including The Consultancy Growth Network’s most recent member to have achieved B Corp certification, Rise Beyond – delving into the benefits and challenges, what’s involved, and top tips for those considering the B Corp process for their consultancy. 

A strategic framework for purpose-led businesses 

It’s not just about the way we work with clients but also the impact we have on the environment, our supply chain, colleagues and community

For many businesses, whether achieving B Corp certification is the end goal or not, the process of B Corp assessment provides the crucial ‘how’ that underpins their ‘why’.   

This was the approach taken by Megan Taylor, MD at B Corp certified consultancy Rise Beyond. Having investigated alternatives such as 1% for the Planet and Climate Neutral, Rise Beyond chose B Corp as the best strategic framework to assess whether they were making a difference.   

Megan Taylor Annual Summit 2023 | The Consultancy Growth Network
Megan Taylor, MD, Rise Beyond

“Rise Beyond has been in business for ten years and took over as MD at the beginning of 2023.” Megan explains. “B Corp helped us re-look at our foundations for the next chapter and put our purpose into reality. The criteria seemed a very valid framework to use. It’s not just about the way we work with clients but also the impact we have on the environment, our supply chain, colleagues and community.” 

Balancing purpose and profit 

Evidence suggests that achieving B Corp status helps companies win business, attract talent and bring in investment

The B in B Corp stands for ‘Benefit for all’ – with the focus being to ensure that businesses operate for good, with positive practices across interactions with people, communities and the planet. In addition, gaining certification can help a consultancy stand out, which could also help with winning business, attracting talent and bringing in investment. 

Here’s a summary of the business benefits of being B Corp certified highlighted by our members: 

  • Internal audit – Going through the B Corp certification process acts as a rigorous internal audit, getting companies to scrutinise operations and realign around founding principles. It’s a great way to get your house in order.  
  • External validation – Certification can help with providing external validation of ethical practices and credibility when marketing services, especially when applying for social impact tenders. Being B Corp accredited can also expedite procurement by proving ethical practices in one swoop.  
  • Recruitment and retention – Certification signals a strong employee value proposition. Crucially, young talented people want to join purpose-led businesses, and B Corp is the marker of that. “We recruited for a role a few months ago” said Megan at Rise Beyond “all of the best candidates said the reason they applied was because we had B Corp certification. They knew it meant good benefits, good working practices, a good place to work. We were really impressed with the quality of the people who applied” 
  • Community – Belonging to the B Corp community (now 2000-strong in the UK) feels like being part of a growing movement and creates opportunities for networking and partnerships through the B Hive online community platform. 
  • Continuous improvement – Recertification required every three years encourages continuous improvement across people, environment, governance, and community impact. 
  • Better business practices – going through the B Corp framework sharpens ethical decision-making with accountability to standards and it provides a compass for navigating tricky situations. 
  • Winning work – while B Corp isn’t about generating new leads, it can help clients when making a decision about who to work for as Megan at Rise Beyond says, “We had a client say that we were down to the final two and we were chosen because we were B Corp, so from that perspective it helped us win.”
  • …and in terms of growth, B Lab UK says its certified firms reported an increase in turnover of 26% between 2017 and 2020, compared with a national average of 5%. This might also be because B Corps have traditionally been smaller companies with greater scope for growth. 

Some things to be aware of 

The consensus from our B Corp members is that B Corp has been worthwhile overall for driving transparency, accountability, and conversations about improving impact. But the process requires substantial commitment.

Resource intensive 

It is an arduous and very resource-intensive process, involving significant time and cost (around £1500 per year) for small businesses with tight budgets. The membership fee is scaled to revenue which also catches some larger businesses out. The process can be completed in 8 months with someone giving it their undivided attention but 12-18 months is a more usual timeline. For larger businesses, it would have to be a multi-year project.  

For Megan Taylor at Rise Beyond, it took 6 months to press ‘submit’ and then 5 months to hear back and go through verification process, which meant almost a year in total. And it takes a lot in terms of resource, “We dedicated an entire person to it for 6 to 9 months as a project which is a big undertaking when you need to focus on business development and all the other projects.” 

Broad standards 

Finally, it is worth noting that standards are broad and it is possible to score highly in some areas but only scrape through in others, so certification doesn’t guarantee excellence across all fronts. Some have questioned if B Corp has strayed from its original mission as major corporations such as Nestle and Coutts have been certified with possibly unethical procedures, prompting accusations of ‘greenwashing’.  

Changes to the certification process 

With changes to the B Corp framework in the pipeline for next year, including likely changes to the weighting to meet the criteria in each category (rather than rely on a good overall score as is the case now) those challenges should be ironed out – and larger companies in particular should find it a more inviting process to go through.  

Key takeaways from those that have travelled the path 

Here are some top tips from our B Corp member consultancies: 

  • Don’t outsource the work. It needs someone close to all areas of the business to put together and gather the evidence for your application – this will likely need to be a primary focus; Ideally the Director of Operations or the MD so that they can not only find the evidence needed but also make decisions to implement some of the practices if you don’t already have them in place.
  • Get the support from a B Leader, to understand what is needed to certify for your business. This will help accelerate the process. Also speak to your peers in member networks like The Consultancy Growth Network, they will have templates they can share so you’re not repeating the wheel. 
  • Once in place, leverage your B Corp certification by accessing and collaborating within the B Corp membership community. You can also use the certification to aid with marketing, recruitment and tendering given the increasing social value of the certification. 

Interested to know more?  

Read How to become a B-Corp – tips for consultancies here. 

Article | Strategy and leadership

Written by

Amy Rashbrooke

The Consultancy Growth Network