During the pandemic, the Polish company won the prestigious B Corp certificate. Like Patagonia and Danone, it is in a global group of sustainable and socially engaged business.
For companies with a B Corp certificate, profit has the same meaning as a higher goal and social commitment?
They assume that business has two parallel roles. It is not only about economic value, but also about being useful, remembering that business is to serve people, to create things that people need.
Therefore, these companies do not invent new, previously non-existent needs, and then sell them.
They are aware of how they affect the world. That is why the B Corp certificate has the media group The Guardian, the clothing brand Patagonia and over three thousand other smaller enterprises. Our labor cooperative, ANG Spoldzielnia, has had it for several weeks.
However, many companies in Poland talk about the need to be useful, about pro-social activities or responsibility for the state of the environment. Why is getting this certificate different?
There is a lot of talk about it, and there are many other certificates, awards, rankings.
These companies also take specific actions
Only these are often actions taken out of context. For example, if, as a company, we decide to plant trees, this is an excellent campaign, but does it mean that we have a responsible approach to business and its impact on the environment? Such action says nothing about how we treat our employees, what plan we have to our clients, what relations with the local community.
It does not affect the entire business of this company. You have to go a long way to get into the B Corp community. A very extensive survey is completed, which covers all areas of the company’s business. There are many questions about environmental impact, but there are also questions about how the company is organized, how decisions are made, how it treats its customers or employees.
The next stage is verification, during which we have to document our answers and declarations. After such an audit, the whole process is checked by a second analyst to rule out potential oversights and inaccuracies. The criteria are stringent. The long one builds the credibility of the B Corp initiative.
It shows that a company that has received this certificate, which has entered this community, is earnest about its impact on the environment, both social and environmental.
Obtaining this certification is a summary of the company’s ten years of existence. From the beginning, we think of our work as providing financial services to people that they can understand, need, and for which they can pay a fair price.
Our approach to partners, the environment, and the form of organization we have adopted have always been the same. Of course, we made mistakes, but we wanted to be a committed, expressive company with a unique identity.
Now we are in an active community, and we can derive support for our activities. The next audit will take place in three years, so now we can set ourselves short-term and long-term goals, which we want to improve.
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At the entrance, you achieved a high score in B Impact Assessment – 93.1 points. The lower limit is 80 points.
What critical conclusions did you draw from the first audit?
One of the aspects we will be working on will describe and formalize various processes in our organization accurately. They result from our organizational culture and the way we operate, but they have not been included in rigid procedures.
One can discuss whether this is good or bad. However, as part of the audit, not only the practice is rewarded, but also the recording of certain operating principles in the form of application processes. I understand this because formalization makes such rules more binding for everyone, including company authorities.
We also saw areas in which we could be more active. We will put more emphasis on reducing our negative impact on the environment.
Such a broader view of the organization also allows us to see what makes us different. In our case, it is a non-standard organizational structure and culture. It is also how important it is for us to counteract missing, i.e., misleading customers, not informing them about the risk or additional fees.
It so happened that shortly before we received the certificate, a Declaration of Responsible Sales was announced, of which we are a co-initiator and signatory.
Your company became B Corp during a pandemic and economic collapse.
Is this the moment when other Polish companies will introduce new and better business practices?
The pandemic showed the helplessness of the current economic paradigm, thinking about innovation, and the direction of society’s development.
I just don’t know if this reflexivity, which appeared in business, can be turned into a real paradigm shift into more care for people. In 2019, members of the Business Roundtable initiative issued a statement, signed by 181 heads of the world’s largest companies, saying that the goal of the company’s existence should be to care for all stakeholders, not just economic profit.
The year 2020 and the pandemic came, during which some of these companies showed themselves from a very bad side, making decisions dictated only by economic calculation without considering the well-being of employees, partners, or clients.
It seems that a pandemic turned out to be a kind of test, I “check” for business. To what extent are the declared goodwill reflected in real activities? What’s behind a beautiful facade? I also think that hard times increase the value of communities.
In this case, the cities of companies that support each other in building a business that is the driving force of change for the better.
We were still at the stage of working on the survey, and during the audit, we had the support of other companies that have already passed this path and shared their experience with us.
And will you help other businesses applying for this certificate?
Many Polish companies think similarly, have a sense of mission and reflectiveness in business. It’s nice for them to join this movement.
Even if the first approach to the survey that we mentioned does not end with certification, it is a great tool to support building a positive impact on the organization.
Access to it and the entire certification process is free, so it’s worth using it. Membership fees only appear after receiving a certificate and joining the community.
We are happy to share our experiences. This is something that I like about this initiative that companies do not compete with each other for any awards or places in the ranking, but they support each other honestly.
Everyone wants to expand this community, and the more we are, the more good we can do. And the tool for assessing the impact of an organization is, as Artur mentioned, extremely helpful in looking from a broader perspective on your own business and finding places to improve.
That is why I encourage you to get involved in this topic, and we will gladly support the knowledge and experience we have already gained.
It’s also worth emphasizing that getting this certificate, joining this community is also just a wise business decision.
It is a confirmation of who we are and why it is worth choosing us as an employer or reaching for our products or services for the environment.
The material was created in cooperation with a partner. Magdalena Mitraszewska is a CSR Manager, and Artur Nowak-Gocławski is the president of ANG Spółdzielnia and Fundacja Nienierespresponsible.