Forster Communications has just become one of the UK’s first certified B Corporations, joining the community of UK Founding B Corps which officially launches in London on 24 September 2015.
B Corps (‘Benefit Corporations’) are businesses of all sizes and types, independently certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
There is a growing community of more than 1,350 Certified B Corps from over 40 countries and over 120 industries working together toward 1 unifying goal: to redefine success in business.
B Corps constitute a movement inspired by an alternative vision for the role of mainstream business in society. They back this up by adopting legally-binding governing documents under which they formally commit to balancing the interests of shareholders with having a material positive impact on society and the environment as a whole.
The company’s certification comes in the same week it has launched its first annual Business to Society survey, which found that 57% of business leaders believe they should be doing more to tackle social issues, while 63% of consumers believe the same.
Talking about the company’s successful certification, Jilly Forster, Chair, said:
“For us, we have been operating along the principles of B Corps since we were founded in 1996, regularly publishing an independently audited, biennial Ethical Impact Report that charts how we are doing across all our stakeholder groups including clients, employees, suppliers, the community and environment. “
“The B Corp movement squares with our mission to help deliver material positive social and environmental change. It also gives us the chance to collaborate with, and learn from, like-minded for-profit businesses on a growing global platform.”
“We are proud to be founder members of the movement in the UK and, we believe, the first communications agency to gain accreditation. It really plays to our pioneering spirit as a first mover, and allows us to share our ‘Business to Society’ agenda more widely.”
“More than ever, organisations need to walk the talk, something we urge continually with our clients and we will be talking to many of them about the B Corps movement.”
The B Corps certification process in the UK is overseen by B Lab UK, a non-profit which exists to build and support a community of UK-based B Corps, enabling them to link up and collaborate with other B Corps around the world.
The B Corp certification process, which has taken the agency two months to complete from start to finish, has two core components:
- The Performance Test – the B Corp impact assessment is a quality system for the social and environmental performance of a business. It measures ‘the other two bottom lines’, and is structured to mirror the legal test (see below), with five sections: governance, workers, communities, environment and your impact business model.
To certify as a B Corp a company must achieve a minimum score of 80 out of a possible 200. Forster has scored 131 compared with an average B Corp score of 97. The very detailed assessment is completed online, needs to be backed up by full documentation to substantiate assessment responses , and concludes with a thorough Assessment Review call with B Lab in the US.
- The Legal Test – Companies and other business forms wishing to become a B Corp in the UK need to have or adopt governing documents which include a commitment both to a ‘triple bottom line’ approach to business and to dealing even-handedly with their various stakeholder interest groups. In practice, for us, this has meant securing the necessary Board and Shareholder approvals for having a new Objects clause written into revised Articles of Association, which were registered with Companies House last week.
Recertification is required every two years. The B Impact Assessment itself is also updated every two years, so recertification also gives companies the opportunity to set improvement goals against the most-up-to-date standard and benchmark their performance over time.
Forster Communications is increasingly working with progressive businesses who have a passion for social and environmental change and has recently launched a new service to support them on developing meaningful and impactful cause engagement programmes.