Vivobarefoot is partnering with business support charity, Hatch Enterprise, to encourage more small businesses to become benefit corporations (B Corps).
The regenerative shoe brand’s CEO, Galahad Clark, recently participated in an interview with a founder from the Hatch community to share best practice around attaining the score of 80 needed to become certified.
B Corp is a global certification that demonstrates that a business is a force for good, with over 700 businesses now registered in the UK.
The certification is only attained when a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving, to supply chain practices and input materials.
Vivobarefoot became a B Corp in 2020 and is continually working to improve its score, stating: “We believe in working regeneratively – mindfully, thoughtfully and compassionately.”
Galahad spoke with Mahira Kalim, a small business founder who has been through the Hatch Enterprise business support programme for her ethical cleaning brand Spruce.
While incredibly rewarding, Mahira advises business owners keep in mind that the journey to attaining the B Corp certification is not an easy one.
The process is a rigorous one, and it requires a commitment to ethical values across a wide range of criteria, as well as a genuine transparency across all business operations.
The following five points were the main pieces of advice shared by Galahad and Mahira for any small business looking to pursue this accreditation.
1) There has to be complete buy in to the process
The evaluation process to meet the requirements of becoming a B Corp involves a holistic assessment of all areas of the business, and a good score cannot be reached if the efforts are isolated to one segment of the organisation.
This is one of the benefits of pursuing the accreditation as a small business, as most processes are still overseen by the founder, or small central team, rather than having to coordinate an integrated approach across several large departments.
2) Embrace difficult conversations
Becoming a B Corp is not an empty certification, it is a full commitment to a different way of doing business, and as a result it will be challenging at times.
Galahad explains that the process of certifying Vivobarefoot, “created a lot of really healthy tension and discussion.”
“It’s such an extensive thing to do. If you don’t do it really seriously and really use it in the governance of your business, then it’s not worth doing it.”
Through taking the process seriously, and really interrogating the central structures of their business, founders can achieve long lasting positive change through this process.
3) Business should be regenerative, not just sustainable
Mahira is passionate about the interaction between cleaning products, and the health of people and the planet.
From the toxins often present in chemicals used in the industry, to the damage done by single use plastics, many products are having a profoundly negative impact.
“Not to cause further eco anxiety, but we have reached a point where just being sustainable and sustaining is not enough.”
This is where regenerative practices come into play, and regeneration is a concept very central to the B Corp process.
Galahad explains, “we’ve got to make a net positive in absolutely everything we do.”
This is the driving force behind businesses with a B Corp status, and ties in with the ethos of many small businesses which are often a product of their founder’s desire to make a difference in their community.
4) Transparency is key
Trust is what is often missing from the relationship that businesses have with customers and the B Corp certification is a way to build that trust back up again.
Small businesses are at an advantage in that they often have much more direct relationships with the communities that they serve, and through being open and honest about internal processes and structures, this relationship will only be strengthened.
All businesses that go through the B Corp process submit themselves to a comprehensive review every three years, and Galahad explains that Vivobarefoot self-assess every year in between as well to ensure they are on track.
The scores resulting from this review are publicly available, adding to the transparency and trust built into the process.
5) Progress over perfection
The B Corp scoring process requires a score of 80 to become accredited, and then an assessment every three years to keep that accreditation.
Mahira says, “I would say don’t get daunted by the score that you get in the very beginning. You are not supposed to score very high in the very early years of your journey.
“That would mean you are perfect and no business is perfect, especially in the beginning. With B corp it’s a commitment to continuing to improve.”
Galahad agrees, “you have to be used to tremendous failure all the time as it were and coming up short, and it’s progress, not perfection ever.”
“The average business in the world would get a B Corp score of 50, but to become a B Corp you need to get a score of 80… if we could move all the businesses in the world, get the average to 80, what a better world we’d live in.”