What a small tech company learned from a B Corp assessment

Tom Feltham

Tech businesses have the potential to embrace a new purpose that makes our businesses sustainable, fair, and helpful for the communities we live and work in.

As part of our exploration of what this means for Prospect Path and our team, we have been working on a B Corp assessment. B Corps aim to “form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good” and their assessment tool is a great first step. One that we can all take.

The tool focuses on five key areas of business impact:

  • Governance - e.g integration of social and environmental goals in employees’ progression, impact reporting and transparency, stakeholder engagement

  • Workers - e.g payment of a living wage, benefits, employee health and safety, professional development opportunities

  • Community - e.g diversity and inclusion, job creation, civic engagement and philanthropy, supply chain management

  • Environment - e.g climate, water and energy use, sustainability, and impacts on land and life

  • Customers - e.g ethical and positive marketing, warranty and quality assurance of products and services, data privacy, data security, and more

To share our experience assessing these areas, here are a few things we have learned from using the tool.

Big opportunities lie beyond our four walls

There is a temptation to look at your business’s impact in your immediate surroundings (your customers, your colleagues). It is simpler that way. But when we all do this, positive change is realized extremely slowly and is created extremely inefficiently. Whether it is using resources sustainably in the places we work or supporting local suppliers, imagine how much easier it becomes when the people next door can help.

When we begin to discuss these opportunities, we also discover common ground we can already build on. For example, many of us pay the living wage to be fair and competitive while recruiting, but how many of us use this to advocate for the wide adoption of a living wage?

It is easy to overlook the obvious

So much of our impact is assumed. We’re good people, we hire good people, therefore our businesses do good. Right?

But these assumptions can leave a void where information and tools are not shared and advocating for positive outcomes becomes unnecessarily difficult. Because Bob on the desk next door isn’t chucking hazardous waste into the local river, we feel our job is done. We don’t provide any support to employees to repair, recycle, or safely dispose of old electronics, we don’t set up shared recycling facilities in our communities. We overlook the obvious.

We’re good people, we hire good people, therefore our businesses do good. Right?

This could be especially acute for those people working towards leadership. People who may not want to take the risk of assuming what the business “does” and “doesn’t do”. Perhaps we can proactively support these people with advice, policies, and training to challenge our assumptions and improve outcomes from the business.

We can’t leave it to big business

99.7% of businesses in the US are small businesses. These businesses account for 61.8% of job creation, 46.8% of private payroll, and 46% of non-farm GDP. 

Changing big business is probably not enough.

The challenge is that much of the work that needs to be done is seen as the preserve of big business, and only big businesses who care at that. Whether it is formal policies that support inclusive recruitment or advocacy for environmental standards, imagine what we could achieve if we combine the infrastructure of big business with the grassroots energy of small businesses.

Questions to ask ourselves 

Having completed the assessment, we’ll be starting to ask more questions like:

  • Does this work put us in a position to advocate for positive changes in the places we work?

  • Are the motivations for doing this work shared and formalised?

  • How will this work affect the team who will deliver it?

  • What underlying business conditions would help us deliver this work better?

We’ll continue to share our progress as we set goals for Prospect Path in these areas. In the meantime, let us know if you would like to chat about what we learned and why not start your own B Corp assessment.

What a small tech company learned from a B Corp assessment
Tom Feltham

Tom is the Product Director at Prospect Path. He writes about the intersection of design and social causes including climate change and wellbeing economies.

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