Image of a team of people working collaboratively as a B Corp business

Why Articulate Marketing became a B Corp (and what we learned along the way)

Posted by Matthew Stibbe Picture of Matthew Stibbe on 2 September 2021

In this blog, we're looking at how Articulate Marketing (Hey, that's us!) became a B Corp. We'll also be discussing the lessons we learnt along the way, because it's always lovely to see how far we've come. Stick around to find out:

  1. What a B Corp is.
  2. Why we chose to become a B Corp business.
  3. Why B Corp is the way forward.

We have a lot to get through, so let's get started.

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This blog is based on one of our recent webinars. You can view the original video here:

 

Why Articulate Marketing became a B Corp and what we learned from Matthew Stibbe on Vimeo.

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Becoming a B Corp: the origins

Image of a coffee cupWell, many coffee cups. Branded ones, at that.

Back in 2016, a client — in the spirit of ecological conscience — sent us reusable coffee cups.

In films, the moment where a character experiences a 'lightbulb moment' has a name- Anagnorisis. You could say receiving that gimmicky coffee cup was that moment for me. From then on, I knew that I wanted Articulate to shoulder social responsibility in a meaningful way. No gimmicks, no agendas and certainly no monotonous branding.

So, following this, I did my research. By 2017, I had discovered what it meant to be B Corp certified. Back then, only a small number of companies had certified and we wanted to join their ranks. By 2018, our application passed with a score of 86.9.

Since the days of gimmicky coffee cups, we've come far.

Our B Corp journey

Image of Articulate's B Corp score and award

So, yes, the idea did start with a coffee cup. But it didn't end there. Here's the timeline in a nutshell:

  • Committed to B Corp in January 2017.
  • Certified in October 2018.
  • Recognised as 'Best For The World' (top ten percent of all B Corps) in 2019 for the 'Governance' and 'Workers' categories.
  • Recognised as 'Best For The World' (top five percent of all B Corps) in 2021 for the 'Workers' category.

Why did we become a B Corp?

Let's clear the air: we're a B Corp — not for PR or marketing reasons — but because we want to make a good impact on the world. The PR and marketing stuff is an added benefit. But, it's not why we've sustained our commitment.

To give you a breakdown of why we've gone the B Corp path, here are some 'why we did it' bullet points.

  • B Corp embodies our shared values. To put it plainly, B Corp resonates with us. We like giving back. We like caring about the environment.
  • It provides us with valuable, quantifiable data on how we're doing. We actually get to measure our social impact. Trust us, this is underrated treasure. Being consistent with our certifications provides milestones for us. Upon each milestone, we reflect and celebrate.
  • We're big believers in the power of external validation. Validating yourself, and others, ensures you appreciate the good moments. It's important to celebrate how far you've come.

Think of the process as a spectrum. On one end, lies virtue. On the other end, there's profit (which, of course, keeps the business alive). And because we're an enterprise, there's no getting off this spectrum. We're all stuck on this morality line. And we all have the choice to decide which side we incline towards: virtue or profit?

We've made our choice: steadily, we plonk towards virtue. We're appreciating every step it takes to get closer. We're also appreciating the setbacks. We're appreciating the whole journey.

What is a B Corp?

If you look on their website, you'll find that B Corp certified businesses are: 'highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose'.

That last bit is super important. Because a B Corp business isn't a charity. It's a clear-cut enterprise, set out to make profits. The B Corp ethos redefines enterprise success, while building an inclusive economy with meaningful social and environmental impact.

Here's some examples of B Corp businesses that we admire:

  • Ben & Jerry's. This goes without saying because ice-cream. (And, social justice.)
  • Patagonia. Their directionality, determination and social consciousness inspires us. We've put them on our vision statement for the future.
  • Coutts. Banks can be B Corps too! Especially our bank.

Image of our CEO and CFO outside B Corp certified, Coutts Bank, pointing to the Articulate logo

(Here we are on Coutts' window of B Corps in London.)

Get our drift? It's more about 'how' a B Corp business does things than 'what' they do.

How do B Corps get assessed?

Because we honour and trust you, we'll let you in on the process. Transparency is a virtue. And, if you haven't already gleaned, we're making our B Corp goals all about virtue.

  1. An initial online assessment. This tends to be bespoke. For example, since we're a remote working company, our questions are oriented to our 'work from home' arrangements.
  2. An audit. Once you get over 80 points in your assessment, you can apply to have it audited. This means, the questions that you filled out on the survey are assessed for accuracy. In other words: if you've wrote about a policy you follow, you'll need to provide evidence that you follow it.

Image of an example question as part of B Corp audit

To ensure that the audit is accurate, validate each answer you give. That's what we did. A process that went a little like this:

A: 'Hello, co-worker, do we have the policy to back up this statement I am claiming that we do in Articulate Marketing on this B Corp survey?'

B: 'Hello, co-worker. Yes, we do! Here is the written policy/ evidence to support this statement proving that we practice this policy. I will now tick the policy off on our formal organisational chart'.

A: 'Thanks, B. You're the best co-worker I could ask for'.

True story.

Ahem, moving on. Here's some examples of the questions and how we scored, compared to others.

Image of Articulate's environmental score compared to others, as part of the B Corp audit.Image of Articulate's community score and how well we scored compared to others, as part of B Corp audit

What did we improve?

To put it plainly: a series of small improvements have made Articulate into the company you see today.

With the help of B Corp's validation, we can show you how far we've truly come. Here's some things we've implemented since I first laid eyes on a branded coffee cup:

  • The real living wage. No matter where our team lives, we pay above the London living wage.
  • Carbon offsetting. We've reduce carbon dioxide emissions as far as practicable. We aim to have a net carbon dioxide emission of zero by 2030.
  • Private health care. For each team member. When it comes to health and wellness, we don't play.
  • Volunteer days. Two paid days, per year, per team member.
  • Charity payroll. We give employees the option to provide a donation to the charity of their choice. Articulate then matches the donation: our tax-free way of helping out.
  • Investors in People. A certification which helps us improve our work-life balance in proactive ways. This also requires an audit from us, yearly. We just won Silver accreditation, in fact!
Image of our Silver Investors in People logo
What did we learn?

Short answer- quite a lot. It's why we've compiled this blog.

  1. For one, B Corp consultants aren't all that helpful. You're better off learning through trial and error. The process might take longer, but you'll learn with more impact with no external help. We're telling you that the reward is much sweeter when you've worked hard to achieve it.
  2. For another, enjoy the audit process. Treat it as a learning path to help you to implement better policies and processes for your business. Keep telling yourself it's not a test and you'll see yourself improving much more swiftly.
  3. Above all: the journey is the destination. B Corp is the roadmap; it keeps us on the right track and ensures we have checkpoints for reference. But, we're the ones driving the car.

And, in the spirit of travel metaphors, it doesn't hurt to stop and smell the roses during the journey.

The B Corp journey: start small

It all started with a coffee cup. Yep. A small, gimmicky, branded object to spark the flames of a B-Corp initiative. We like the idea of 'small' that the coffee cup represents, so we've ran with it. The gimmicky branded stuff, though? We've left that in the dust.

In fact, from the gifs we send to our one-on-one virtual 'poddles' (or 'virtual catch-ups'. Not to be confused with poodles) to our 18-person team, we certainly place value on small things. From small catch-ups to small action groups, down to the smallest of reaction icons on each others' comments: these are what make us Articulate.

Our B Corp journey has been, and continues to be, rewarding. The small details, the fine lines, the journey itself — these are what we'll take with us.

'Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take a step.'

Naeem Callaway, CEO

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