So, it was whilst visiting the UN/EO conference last year that I realised I wanted to make this into something even bigger. Everyone was talking about it…what was B-Corp and how could they get it? B-Corp was 100% a la mode. It dawned on me that more often than not, B-Corp companies operate on a small scale. Here at the EO we are surrounded by entrepreneurs, with established companies, capable of substantial economic growth. I realised that together with the EO, bridging the two movements would surely pave the way for a better future. By encouraging EO-ers to become a part of the B-Corp movement, the impact, on a global scale, could be far more impressive due to the 14,000 members!
The first step in this initiative was to contact B-Corp Europe and form an alliance. We wanted both parties to embrace each other’s enterprises – thus recruiting new EO members, and EO-ers gaining B-Corp status. Our target was to get 5 newly qualified B-Corps enlisted by the end of the EO board year. In order to do this we created a series of masterclasses, where entrepreneurs, with businesses of all sizes – even the accelerators, were invited to join. We received an overwhelming response. Our initial plan to host three masterclasses over a six month period, with virtual updates in between, was blown out of the water. We were staggered at the amount of applicants, which meant doubling the amount of classes. The classes ran from January to April, with some modifications due to the Corona outbeak. And even with these additional pressures, we managed to enlist 8 new B-Corps within the EO community. A truly great start! And this is just the beginning – with a large number of EO-ers still in the certification process, we expect this number to rise. So, the mission remains, to maintain this momentum and inspire more companies to follow suit. It’s all about motivating and engaging entrepreneurs. We want to combine People, Planet and Profit for the ultimate commercial ‘business model of the future’. It works across all sectors – offering premium services, better clients, attracting more employees, plus incentivising and bringing some fun into the business world.
For me personally, the epiphany moment arose after reading Raj Sisodia’s ‘Firms of Endearment’. His research compared purpose driven companies with those ‘Good to Great’ – as written about by the renowned Jim Collins. Sisodia’s conclusion stated that purpose driven, or B-Corp companies out performed those in the ‘Good to Great’. This resonated with my core beliefs, about how we can make a positive change and ultimately deliver a superior business model. For example, if you look at what the think tanks from organizations, (such as the World Economic Forum), define as ‘the non state world’ – the belief that companies will find solutions, in place of governments – you are presented with some interesting concepts. Non government organisations have the ability to make significant changes,
without political restrictions. This can be highly advantageous and also separates the type of shareholders – are you profit or purpose driven?
We can all do our bit to support the socio-economic environment. However, becoming a B-Corp is more than just a large financial donation to a good cause. You need certification and this can be achieved, but requires rigorous assessment. (Details are found in this chapter). It’s far more than a ‘feel good’ that serves well on social media. The biggest impact is looking inside the company, figuring out the strong points and then using this to go one step further, thus contributing to a better world.
We did just this within our business model. Explaining how we operated was often difficult and lacked inspiration. So, we started with a number of partnerships, one being with Plastic Whale in Amsterdam, (we’re also co-investors). Before enrolling in our design thinking workshops, we use the company to go ‘plastic fishing’ with our clients, on board our ‘plastic’ boats – made from Amsterdam’s finest recycled goods. It’s a great enterprise – not only are our clients becoming a part of what we do, they get inspired. The plastic ‘catch’ doesn’t just end up in the recycling bin – far from it. It’s the start of a new life, we create value from this waste. As well as producing boats we also fabricate edgy office furniture, such as boardroom tables and chairs, which are being purchased by key influencers. This, in turn, provides a route to like minded companies. It’s literally ‘Trash to Treasure’ and profitable too. By actively engaging with our clients we are not only promoting what we do, but also offering a great starting point for them to generate ways in which their own companies can improve for the greater good of society. Our role is to assist with the technology, in order to execute successful strategies.
We’ve also implemented a new initiative – DesignWeek@school. As founding sponsor and developer, our mission is to give as many elementary schools as possible a kick-start in technological skills. Thus learning programming, computational and design thinking as a part of their regular curriculum. For children it’s all about creating a fun experience, whilst discovering a valuable skill set, which they can use in the future to create a sustainable society by working together. Led by experts, it’s interactive, inspirational and educational, plus a great way to reach a whole new audience.
So, where do I stand now? We have just closed a deal with a significant investment from Salesforce Ventures. With Salesforce being one of the leaders in corporate philanthropy, our alignment in purpose was one of the key reasons for this long term partnership. Together we can really make a difference. I’m also fully focused on motivating fellow EO-ers to get on board! The buzz I get out of winning new clients, who embrace and grasp our mantra is hard to explain. More and more people want to see that connection with society. This, in turn, forges new relationships – both with clients and employees alike. People want to work for those with a social conscience.
The IMPACT chair is really important to me and I owe that entirely to the EO. I envisage that together, we can mobilise our businesses as a force for good. If the EO worldwide can adopt this new business model – then we have a huge chance to make a difference on a global scale. With 14,000 members with B-Corp potential, together we can boost the movement and make business the true force for change.