Measure What Matters Most: Testing The B Corp Handbook, Part Two

(3BL Media and Just Means) - It was one of the happiest days in my new company B Storytelling’s business history: a certified letter from Tallahassee was waiting for me in the mailbox. B Storytelling now has the paperwork to prove that we are officially a Florida Benefit Corporation. This means we can submit a copy of this letter, sign the Pending Certification Term Sheet and mail in our $500 filing fee to B Lab. In return, I have full access to the “Certified B Corporation, Pending” logo. This buys me time as I continue to work through the B Impact Assessment, putting Ryan Honeyman’s B Corp Handbook to the test.

Before You Dive Back In to Your Assessment:

The B Corp Handbook Tip: Talk to B Lab. Reach out to other B Corps in your industry.
In The Quick Start Guide (page 158), Honeyman encourages you to reach out to B Lab staff members as you work through the assessment. I was so glad I did this. They helped me to remember to focus on what matters most and helped me to contextualize the assessment for B Storytelling. Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed to ask for their input.

My Experience:

In Part One of this series, I got stuck in the Environmental Practices section of the B Impact Assessment. I was reading “Good for the Environment,” (page 94 in The Handbook) and was inspired by the B Corp stories of Preserve and Ditto Hangers who were doing so much for the environment. I continued to wrestle with how to measure the environmental impact of B Storytelling. We are a young company and right now, it’s just me. So, what does it mean for B Storytelling to take ownership of our environmental footprint? How do I score high enough on this section so that I can increase my score from 55 to 80 and finally join the B Corp movement?

What I found out was . . . I can’t.  If you’re a manufacturing company or have a supply chain of any kind, sure. But most aspiring B Corp solopreneuers—especially those of us in a consulting or contracting field like Ryan Honeyman and I—need to focus less on the Environmental Practices section and more on the Community and Impact Business Models sections.  I was unnecessarily pulling my hair out trying to figure out how I would measure the electricity of my laptop in the co-working space I share in a local wine bar which shares space with a larger condominium.  Amidst my crazy attempt to track this output, my husband gave me the genius idea to just call B Lab and ask them what to do. So I did. Katie Oberwager, Standards Analyst at B Lab, encouraged me to focus on what’s most important to B Storytelling: supporting other B Corps. I should put my focus on the services I provide and the impact my clients are making. I also called Ryan Honeyman for additional moral support.

“Don’t bang your head against data where you can gain more points in other places [in the assessment],” he told me. “Your true impact is to help tell the story and get the word out.”

Lesson learned. Less hair pulling and more focusing on why B Storytelling exists in the first place.

Continuing the Assessment
Focusing on What Matters Most: Community

The first several questions of the Community section (Questions CM3.2, CM3.5, CM3.11, CM3.12) ask about the diversity of staff, board members and suppliers. I know I’ll obtain points in this section because part of B Storytelling’s mission is to empower women freelancers. Our Board of Advisors is entirely women-run and we have a company policy which gives preference to women suppliers.

The B Corp Handbook Tips: Two things caught my attention in the Good for Community Chapter.

1. Take Honeyman up on his suggestion to complete the Quick Assessment of Community Impact on page 74 before you start the Community section. Within five minutes, you’ll know exactly the types of changes you’ll need to make. Honeyman spells it out in a yes or no fashion. Here are a few examples:

  • “Do you create jobs for underemployed populations such as at-risk youth, homeless individuals or individuals who were formerly incarcerated?”
  • “Do you have a diverse management team and employee base?”
  • “Do you match charitable contributions made by employees?”
  • “Do you bank with a local independent bank or credit union?”  

All I could think as I read this section was, “That’s a great idea. I should create jobs.” Or, “I want to give away more of my profits!” (My Board of Advisors, though very generous women, might first suggest I make more profits =) 

2. Grab your sticky notes (or improve your environmental impact and write in your Handbook!) because the Good for Community Chapter will inspire you. I love Honeyman’s suggestion on page 79 about reaching out to local organizations who work with the disabled, homeless or marginalized to see if there’s an opportunity for job creation. He suggests running a pilot project to see if it’s a good fit. Right away, I thought about anti-trafficking and domestic violence shelters in South Florida. Here’s a couple of notes I made in this section:

“Could B Storytelling offer writing, photography and design classes to survivors? What would a storytelling training program look like for survivors? Step one: Find out who’s working in this space and what they need.”

This Chapter spurred me to immediate action. I started by reaching out to a local foster care and safe home organization in Palm Beach County called Place of Hope. I took a tour, learned more about their work and found that their most urgent need is for storytelling training for the communications team. We’re planning to do this in April. It’s a great place to start as I build a relationship with them and hopefully, it will develop into a long-term partnership.

Don’t Forget: Focus on what matters most for your company. Remember why you exist, your impact priorities and channel your energy into those sections of the B Impact Assessment. If I were to start over, I would begin in the Community section and end in Environment.

Next Time:  I hope this has been helpful for you in your own journey. Feel free to reach out to me with questions or stories. In Part Three of this series, I’ll dig deep into the Impact Business Models. Stay tuned!

Read Part One of this series. Take the B Impact Assessment. Learn why you should. Order The B Corp Handbook. Check to see if your state has passed the Benefit Corporation legislation.