The journey to B Corp certification – and why it’s worth it

Joel Trethowan
By Joel Trethowan | 14 December 2021
Joel Trethowan.

Joel Trethowan, Managing Director, Alchemy One

In early 2019, we made a big decision at Alchemy One. 

We were growing quickly (we still are!) - particularly in taking on work with brands and partners who were already B Corp certified, or well on their way. We wanted our purpose-driven work to be more than just a few clients, and to make our values core to the entire business - from our hiring and leave policies to our electricity provider, to how we give back to the community.  

So, we decided to pursue B Corp certification. And we were certified with a score of 91. This makes us the highest B Corp-rated media agency in Australia, and only the second media agency in the country to certify (shout out to our friends at Benedictus Media).

B Corp is an independent, third party certification. More than 4,000 businesses are certified worldwide, across every industry you can imagine. The team at B Labs comb through every single aspect of your business, using the framework of five “Impact Areas”: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers. They’re extremely thorough, asking hundreds of questions. It took four of our team 12+ months to compile all of the information required to enable B Labs to assess our application. It’s a commitment, there’s no downplaying that. But so worth it, as a business, for the media industry, and the wider community. 

The application itself can feel a little daunting and a challenging road in putting it together. It took a team of four of us internally just under 12 months to finalise our application, with lots of challenging questions which in itself is such a powerful body of work to undertake before you even begin verification.

Our B Corp certification process itself had an incredible impact on our company culture. As we’ve grown over the last three years, we’ve done things based on heart - and we are extremely proud that this has equated to scoring highly on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. In a similar vein, we were  pleasantly surprised at our strong Governance score. This showed we have naturally embedded a B Corp philosophy into new business over the last three years, such as declining any new business from the fossil fuels, gambling or tobacco industries. Having these values validated by the B Corp certification has made our team stronger than ever.

The B Corp certification has provided endless opportunities and ideas for how we can continually strengthen our business - and our B Corp score. All B Corps are reassessed every three years and held to a higher standard at every reassessment. Our certification really commits Alchemy One to continually improve our social and environmental standards and impact.

Ultimately, the B Corp movement is about building and growing the “B Economy” - transforming the way we work globally to put people and the environment, rather than profit, at the centre.

We all know it’s not uncommon to see agencies profile their purpose-driven clients front and centre. But if you dig just a little deeper, their client list has coal or gas companies, gambling and tobacco brands, or a team culture that just isn’t putting their people first. 

The minimum score for B Corp certification is 80, and average non-B Corp companies have a median score of 50.9. It’s easy to see how B Corp certification is a tangible way we can improve our industry. 

The journey doesn’t stop here, it just begins. Over the next 12-18 months we are reshaping our community contribution, aligning with volunteer networks, fundraising initiatives, investment in staff training on core social issues and taking on more pro bono work as the agency grows.  

If you want to build a purpose-driven media industry, and world, We strongly encourage you to look into the B Corp movement. Or give anyone at the Alchemy One team a call to hear more about our passion and the process.

Don’t be too daunted by the application process and instead see it as an incredible opportunity to reflect on your businesses current practices and where/how you could make even some minor improvements to align with the best in class practices. We have learnt so much from the application process itself and our journey is just beginning as we keep challenging ourselves to always set the highest standard for the industry in all that we do.

My advice would be just to kick it off, of course answer the easy questions first, but then start to tackle the harder ones progressively, there are so many resources internally and externally that would all love for the B Corp movement to continue to grow so lean on help for answers and to challenge you to get there. We would love for more media agencies to join the B Corp movement.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. We humbly join this group of business leaders, including Patagonia, Bank Australia, Future Super, Guardian Australia, Small Giants and fellow media agency Benedictus Media. 

Our B Corp certification signifies our commitment to our clients, our staff, our industry, and our planet. We all can, and should, strive to make our industry as purpose-driven and ethical as possible. 

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