It's important to us at ArcStone to not only focus on growth and profit margins but also to commit to greater responsibility. We're excited to share that we are now on the journey of obtaining B Corp Certification, an accreditation from B Lab that shows a company meets high social and environmental standards.
This is a reflection on our certification process and the changes we made to better our impact.
What is B Corp Certification?
B Lab started in 2006 to hold organizations accountable for their impact. B Corp Certification is accreditation for socially and environmentally responsible companies. Companies must pass the B Impact Assessment, make a legal commitment, and provide transparency on their website to receive certification.
The assessment has five sections: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. The questions vary depending on the industry and size of the company. Requirements range from formalized ethics policies to sustainable supplies and water usage tracking. Companies earn points for each standard they meet and can support with documentation.
Many companies don't receive a passing score at first. But, the B Impact Report will highlight areas for improvement. After making changes to result in a passing score, the assessment can be submitted to B Lab for review. The review process can take several months. Once approved, a company can display its accreditation.
Having a B Corp Certification shows that you value responsibility and are willing to do the work. This is important if you want to partner with an organization with similar values.
You Don't Know What You Don't Know
The first step in the process is to take your ethics temperature and determine how far you have to go. A passing score is 80 points or above on this assessment. We scored 44.9. ArcStone has some work to do, but the results show us where we need to improve.
Our first observation was that we needed to formalize the processes we were doing. Documentation and tracking are necessary to receive this certification. In other words, they need receipts.
We consulted with a colleague who recently went through the certification process. She was clear about two things: B Corp Certification is exceptionally rewarding and it is a lot of work. Not only do you have to put in some elbow grease to become certified, but you must also submit an annual Impact Report and re-certify every three years. It wouldn’t be an accurate or effective accountability tool if it were a one-and-done model.
Our colleague recommended a local consultant who knows the process well. She also recommended a lawyer who could help amend our governing documents. Before meeting with anyone else, though, we had some things to take care of ourselves. We first needed to dissect our Improvement Report and identify some low-hanging fruit.
Our next step was to draft several policies and statements for internal and external use. We made a checklist of things to tackle, including a formal Code of Ethics, a Whistleblower Protection Policy, an Ethical Marketing Policy, and statements providing purchasing preference to local or sustainable suppliers. Again, these were already stances ArcStone had but needed formalization.
The internet is a trove of policy models, some (much) better than others. We drafted policies based on our values using a few published examples. There are some great examples on the sites of companies listed in the B Corp Directory.
Our Code of Ethics is a brief outline of the ethical posture and behavior expected at ArcStone.
The sections we included are:
Do the right thing
Each section includes a short description of the expectation. The policy includes language from our handbook and core values to provide consistency. This is a prime place for a company to communicate to employees what it stands for and how they'll be treated.
The Whistleblower Protection Policy was not as conducive to creative language as the Code of Ethics, since it does cover serious legal topics. It's important to keep the content easy to understand, no matter how dry it may be.
This policy exists so that witnesses feel safe reporting illegal or corrupt activity. But, if the policy provides clear definitions of “legal-speak,” the person will likely understand that they are safeguarded from retaliation. A well-presented Whistleblower Protection Policy will encourage people to speak up when necessary.