Sustainable Business: The future has always been NOW

summer field of green wheat at sunset

Matt Hocking’s Cornwall Chamber of Commerce Sustainable Growth Conference Keynote

I’m passionate about doing business the best possible way, aligning every action and decision with our triple bottom line values of people and planet, as well as profit. Leap became a B Corp in 2015 and it immediately became an easier way for me to translate what we’ve always done since day one. The future has always been NOW. Leap’s now was October 4th 2004.

Why we need businesses to step up

This decade will be pivotal, if tumultuous, in creating the future that we want. A decade in which we have our best chance at bringing about sustainable positive change to reinvent everything that we are and do as a society, to grow and flourish interdependently with the natural ecosystems that we are part of. Creativity is the key to the best possible future, and challenging everything that we know for the better. Our current economic system doesn’t work. People are increasingly looking to business for answers, and B Corp is, in my opinion, the North Star

What is B Corp?

Certified B Corps are a new kind of business that fundamentally embed purpose into their DNA and the heart of what they do. They are demonstrating a successful new operating system for business, and they are doing this by becoming more stakeholder-orientated, innovating to improve their positive impact on the community and environment, and by balancing a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. B Corporation is fast becoming the gold standard certification for sustainable and responsible business, allowing organisations to revitalise and prioritise their business model towards becoming a force for good. It also provides the B Impact Assessment (BIA) tool for companies to measure their impact

The B Impact Assessment

Why would you not use a free framework to help you to be more sustainable and better in business? You are probably already doing great things, whether for your team, your community, through your products or in pursuit of a defined purpose. The B Corp framework tool is there to help you coalesce what you are already doing and what you could be doing into one place where you can measure it and move forwards from. As well as this valuable tool, you get to join a global community who use their businesses as a force for good and create profit for people, the planet and the future.

Measurement is key

Measuring and understanding is key to a sustainable future. Without measuring, how do we know what our annual carbon budget is for operating our businesses (and reducing it), how happy our people are, and the scale of the changes that we have enabled in the world. The free to use B Impact Assessment (BIA) tool is available for any company to measure their social, environmental, community impacts. A business may already measure these areas but the BIA allows them to target new areas, enhance existing areas, and ultimately work towards a true science based target for net zero. It’s such a useful tool for any business, from start-ups, to scaling SMEs, to established businesses of all sizes, wherever you are located in the world.

Measure what matters

When we talk about measuring, measure what matters. For instance with our business it’s understanding the carbon and material footprint of everything that we do for both ourselves and our clients. When we make a website we can measure the carbon footprint of a page view in grams of CO2 equivalent. I spoke about this recently at a G7 fringe event, and pointed out that as an example the official G7 website used 1.2g’s of CO2 per page view. Based on 10,000 monthly page views that’s 144.19kg of CO2 or 304kWh of energy, which is enough electricity to drive an electric car almost 2000km (1,943km, to be precise). Once you know an approximate footprint, action can be taken. The first order of business would be to make the website as efficient as possible and host it on a server powered by renewable energy.

The end goal

Remember that when it comes to sustainability, it’s not about getting to a set standard and then saying, “we are done”. It’s about constant improvement and on-going learning. The BIA brings global knowledge and huge possibilities to our businesses. The outcomes are a better business, a better way of working, a better environment for employees, being more attractive to new clients, customers, talent, and investors, increased resilience and a better legacy. Why would you not want all this?

How to take that first step

Assess the impact of your business. If you measure and report on your impact then you have already taken that first step. You can also reach out and talk to existing B Corps local to you, or within your sector from other parts of the world. We all have a collective interest in helping others. There are often B Corp events online or in your local area. Share on your social media channels that you are researching or starting your B Corp journey and that you’d love to talk with others who have already been through the process. You’ll be amazed at the support that you are offered. Collaboration is key, so don’t feel that you have to do it alone. You won’t have to.

What if you’ve done the BIA but haven’t scored high enough to certify?

Keep at it. What works for your business, your customers, and your employees that you can take action on. This is no quick fix or easy win. Creating better takes time. But action is needed, now.

Ultimately, the future is now

So much of this work can sound idealistic, too rigorous and unattainable. However, data shows that business leaders are waking and stepping up to these challenges, taking action and taking responsibility. The UK is now officially home to the second-largest community of B Corps in the world, with 500+ certified B Corps across 48 industries representing more than 22,000. I’m proud to say that Cornwall is also the second largest cluster of B Corps in the UK.

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