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B Corps because…

By Jilly Forster

24 September 2015
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There was a time in the late 20th century when any new social change movement came in from left field, pushed hard, prompted and pressurised, before being replaced by a newer, more sophisticated idea. How times have changed! Today, in a mainstreaming culture, new ideas have to focus on rapid assimilation. It helps if they can grow from the centre as well as move in from the margins. That’s why I like the B Corp movement and why I am very proud that Forster Communications is one of the founding members in the UK.

The B Corp movement originated in the US and is fast becoming an international phenomenon.

Inspired by an alternative vision for the role of mainstream business in society, B Corps (‘Benefit Corporations’) are ‘for-profit’ businesses of all sizes, independently certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

If you’re thinking this is just another sustainability accreditation, please know that, if I thought that was the case, I would not have committed Forster Communications to the process of becoming one of the UK’s first certified B Corporations.

B Corps members adopt 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. Not something you’d want to enter into lightly, yet neither an oppressive nor onerous commitment to worthiness for mainstream business.

I see the B Corp movement not so much as a challenge to conventional ways of doing business, as a way of signposting a better way to do business.

It’s a hearts and minds initiative, already with a proven global reach. It certainly carries a promise – that business can fully realise its potential alongside government and NFP sectors in driving sustainable solutions to some of society’s most intractable challenges.

For our part, we relish the opportunities for collaboration and helping to build the movement’s momentum and authority – a movement that will be owned and shaped by its members and supporters, while being driven by a coherent vision.

Having now achieved B Corps certification ourselves, Forster is proud to be an early standard bearer for the movement in the UK.  In many ways, we have effectively been operating as a B Corp ever since we set out in 1996, 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.

B Corps plays to our pioneering spirit as a first mover and allows us to share our ‘Business to Society’ agenda more widely. The B Corp movement squares with Forster’s core intent to help deliver material positive social and environmental change, while at the same time offering the opportunity to collaborate with, and learn from, like-minded for-profit businesses on a growing global platform.

At last, there’s a growing scale movement in the UK through which companies can collaborate to create shared value – by uniting business success with positive social impact.