The Secret’s Out: B Corp Consulting is the Coolest Gig

Ryan Honeyman and Conscious Brands Give the DL on How to “B” an All-Star Consultant : Part 1

(Just Means and 3BL Media) - I just can’t get enough. In the best sense of the word, I’ve developed a fetish for the B Corp movement. And I’m not the only one. The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and NPR, to name a few, can’t stop talking about how rapidly the “B the Change” business movement is growing. A global chorus of supporters are singing the profit, purpose tune. Why? Because B Corp folks are the happiest, most motivated and productive employees. Because we know the work we do, whether that be manufacturing hipster eyewear, supplying Vermont with Cow Power or offering banking services for a localized economy, creates a more meaningful ROI than a lonely profit margin. Across markets, people are connecting themselves to this life-giving movement in as many ways as they can.

But I think the people who work in the sweetest, most satisfying, space in the B Corp movement (dare I say the world…!) are B Corp consultants. My assumption is that they are privileged in learning the ins and outs of supply chains, human resource tools and hearing the awesome stories of leaders who are mission-minded. I imagine a B Corp consultant wears the hat of expert, cheerleader and storyteller. So, when I heard Amanda Hachey from Conscious Brands, a Canadian-based sustainability firm, and Ryan Honeyman, Author of The B Corp Handbook and CEO of Honeyman Consulting, were hosting a webinar series called the “Secrets of B Corp Consulting,” I thought, “I knew B Corp Consultants lived in a cool and mysterious world. They even have secrets!” I have to sign up! (Like I said, I can’t get enough.)

Together, five of us sustainability-driven professionals from the U.S. and Canada, many of whom are members of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) are diving headfirst into the world of B Corp consulting during the month of September. My cohort is impressive, to say the least. They have guided businesses in sustainability for many years and want to add the B Corp model to their toolkit. As my fellow participant, Mark Frieden explained, “The B Corp model is the platinum standard of sustainability certifications.” But B Corp consulting isn’t only for people who know the ins and outs of GRI, LEED or other reporting tools. Our first insider tip from “Secrets of B Corp Consulting” webinar with Hachey and Honeyman revealed this:

Secret #1: You don’t need to be an expert in sustainability to help businesses improve impact.

 “The great part about B Corp consulting, the value that the assessment brings, is that you don’t need a long, deep history of sustainable knowledge to help businesses be better. You can start wherever you are and be a great B Corp consultant,” says Honeyman.

Honeyman, in fact, earned his master’s degree in criminal justice. Even B Lab, says Honeyman, calls itself a lab because it isn’t pretending to know everything about sustainability. It’s an emerging movement, constantly iterating and open to feedback and co-creative improvements. So how then does a B Corp consultant claim high pay expertise if the B Corp world is ever changing? According to Hachey and Honeyman, it’s by creating value in building capacity and strategic thinking around sustainability.

Secret #2: Only helping to certify companies as B Corps is not going to pay your bills.

It’s a foot in the door with a great company, but it’s only the beginning. Honeyman suggests offering value-added services like half day, company retreats to shape a core vision statement or a 10-year impact plan. The goal is to turn a one-off project into a monthly retainer so that the certification work for new companies can continue.

“30 percent of our work is actually certification,” says Hachey. “Many companies we worked with a few years ago in certification we are now helping with strategy between certification periods, resulting in projects like employee engagement, strategic sustainability planning, individual coaching and carbon counting identified during the assessment.”

Honeyman admits that in the early days of Honeyman Consulting he jumped from one company to the next, chasing certifications.

“One of the mistakes I made in the first couple of years was new certification, new certification, new certification. It doesn’t give you enough money to make it. Rather, it’s more about the new certification and asking, ‘how else do I add value to this company?’” says Honeyman.

To start thinking about creating value-added for real-time clients, our first homework assignment was to pitch the B Corp certification to a local company, i.e. our cohort acting and asking questions as the executive team. We each had two minutes to convince the “C- Suite” of the B Corp model.  From breweries and coffee shops to luxury hotels and packaging companies, we led with strong arguments about increasing employee engagement, joining the B Corp tribe and formalizing commitments to reduce carbon outputs. It was great practice and I learned a lot from the framing of each pitch.

Next week’s homework is to reach out to our chosen company and offer to do their B Corp certification at little or no cost in exchange for testimonials about our service. Honeyman Consulting and Conscious Brands offered dozens of their templates for pricing models, proposals and outreach. These tools are very helpful and worth the cost of the course by themselves. But I already feel hung up on one major piece: the ROI of B Corp certification. Can I approach Palm Beach County’s most luxury hotel to pursue B Corp certification without knowing how they will see the benefits to their bottom line? How much, in dollars, can a midsized company expect to gain after spending a few thousand dollars to certify? How does a B Corp consultant pitch bottom line results? This secret, and many others, waits to be unveiled in the coming weeks of “Secrets of B Corp Consulting.” To be continued….

Sign up for Secrets of B Corp Consulting for October and November. It’s exclusive, so do it now! Check the work of Conscious Brands and Honeyman Consulting. Order your copy of The B Corp Handbook.