7 Jul 2023

Doing right for the planet… and its people (Part 1)

In 2023, at Monahans we took the decision to pursue B Corp certification. This is a universally recognised and revered standard that is awarded to organisations who can demonstrate a commitment to making a positive impact on their people and the planet. Should we be successful in our application, we’ll join a prestigious network of some of the world’s most ethical companies, such as Patagonia, Innocent Drinks and Pukka Teas, to name a few.

But make no mistake about it, the process of becoming a B Corp is lengthy and intrusive. It involves exploring many of the internal workings of each organisation, as well as the organisations they partner with, the sustainability of their supply chain and much, much more. So why would we want to open ourselves up to such scrutiny?

For some time, we have been increasingly concerned about sustainability, our impact on the environment and the wider the climate crisis. But B Corp certification goes deeper than encouraging our colleagues to recycle in our offices; it is about making a positive environmental and social impact and employing ethical practices across our working process and relationships with employees, our clients and our suppliers.

It is also more than simply something to shout about. Indeed, too many companies are getting caught out in the deplorable practice of greenwashing when they want to be seen doing something good, rather than actually doing good. So, the B Corp framework gives us a number of clear indicators against which we can work and to benchmark ourselves. Because it’s nice to know what we are doing well, but it’s more important to identify where we need to be better. And we’re fully aware that we’re not the finished article.

Of the various parameters that the process assesses, arguably the most important is ‘employees’, looking at whether the business actively ensures development of its colleagues and how it measures and seeks to improve staff satisfaction. Because what do they say is a company’s greatest asset? It’s people, of course; looking after our people should be our number one priority and that of every organisation. Not least for the purposes of attraction and retention, especially now, when hiring is an issue for many businesses.

So, where to start?

Well, change will be led from the top. At Monahans, we have taken great care to allocate the appropriate level of resources to implementing changes, including Partnership accountability. If there isn’t the support from leadership level, colleagues will be less inclined to see changes as a business priority. As much as your HR team can try to get buy-in across the business, it won’t come unless initiatives become part of the fabric of the organisation. From there, you can engage with colleagues and encourage them to be part of the change.

At Monahans as part of our aim to create an inclusive and empowering culture, we’ve been eager to involve our people in our B Corp journey wherever possible. After all, it’s their B Corp journey too.

On which note, if your policies should sit intrinsically with your business values and vision, you’re already off to a good start. For us, this is ‘To be recognised in the marketplace for delivering great service to our clients and creating an environment for our people to flourish and grow.’ So, you can see how we’re intent on improving the outcomes of our colleagues.

To make effective changes, though, you have to understand the people who will be affected. That requires communication, engagement and seeking regular feedback. There are many ways in which we engage with our teams and listen to them, including running regular surveys to determine what improvements can be made, holding focus groups and regular briefings and creating a suggestion scheme – all crucial in ensuring we stand out as championing a culture where colleagues are able to thrive.

Among the areas you can explore are training and development for colleagues, how to help them to progress in their careers, health and wellbeing approaches that make a difference, the strength of workplace relationships, workplace diversity and last but not least, how we can engage more with the communities around us, in order to make an impact. There are many more, but the trick is to identify two or three areas and plan how to make wholesale changes in these areas for maximum impact. If you try and change everything, you’ll end up attempting to a lot of things half-heartedly when it’s actually far more effective to do a small number of things really well.

Aside from it simply being the right thing to do, there are a number of incidental benefits. Those entering the workplace now are increasingly aware of social and environmental impact and expect a prospective employer to be playing an active part in managing this. It is becoming an important differentiator in the hiring process, with companies that take this seriously able to attract top talent that will be more engaged with their work, if the organisation's values mirror their own.

This then filters into the service that we provide our clients, and also allows us to support them in their journey by advising on improved ways of working. In addition, it allows us to attract new clients, who value this way of doing business. It also helps to create strong links with local communities, by supporting charities and working to improve the lives of many around us.

Speaking of ‘journeys’, we’re still on ours. We have worked hard to build high levels of employee engagement through regular surveys, so we have a good understanding of what our colleagues want to be able to do their jobs better. Even so, we are not complacent and continue to make changes to our communications processes and review our workplace policies and ways of working.

There’s a fair way to go. But if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Of course, it’s a shame they’re not.

If you would like advice on B Corp certification – what it entails or how to employ better working processes – get in touch with our team today.

Sophie Austin