Walking the talk: being a B Corp
Joining the B Corp community, and achieving certification in 2019, has probably been Wildwood’s most transformative decision to date. It’s provided clarity about the kind of business we want to be and how we want to conduct ourselves. It’s enabled us to establish a distinct identity, set out a vision and values, and, ultimately, distinguish what makes Wildwood different from the rest. But it’s one thing to adopt the B Corp code ‘using business as a force for good’, it’s another thing altogether to put it into practice.
Wildwood Ecology is proud to have been conceived and born in Wales. Our founding director, Richard Crompton, was influenced by Oliver Rackham‘s conception of the “Wildwood” in the ‘History of the Countryside‘, which provides a fascinating account of the sometimes subtle and sometimes radical ways in which people, fauna, flora, climate, soils and other physical conditions have played their part in the shaping of the countryside. I personally have taken great inspiration from a book by the writer, broadcaster, and film-maker Roger Deakin, who died in 2006, after completing the manuscript for a book entitled ‘Wildwood – a journey through trees’. Published a year after his passing, Deakin’s tale describes sleeping under the stars in the open attic, or in an abandoned wooden railway carriage in the orchard, “listening to the cool oboe notes of owls and their shrewicides in the meadow and along the lane”. Wonderful words and a wonderful book. I believe that in those few lines carries an enormous sentiment of what the natural environment meant to both the author and to us all if we care to stand and stare.
“listening to the cool oboe of owls and their shrewicides in the meadow and along the lane”
My career choice was a simple one: I am an ecologist because I love the natural environment. It gives me all I need; clean air, fresh water and wholesome food, spectacular natural landscapes and wildlife, seasonality, resources and opportunities to make my life comfortable and enjoyable.
After working for public and not-for-profit organisations since graduating from Cardiff University, I joined Richard Crompton as Co-Director of Wildwood Ecology in 2010. Working together to grow the company, focusing on both ecological consultancy and training, we parted company in 2016. Richard Crompton is now an established ecological projects advisor and trainer, where he assists ecologists and commercial clients with complex ecological projects, especially those involving bats and other protected species.
Vision and Values
It is easy for business owners to relate to the idea that their journey ultimately shapes the vision and values of their company. It would be incongruous to hold strong personal principles and yet contradict these in a working environment. It might be possible to do so for a short period of time, and it might even be possible to convince some employees and clients, but typically, this road inevitably leads to frustration, compromise, inconsistency, and often failure.
Wildwood Ecology understands its responsibility to both the environment and society, which may go beyond any legal or regulatory requirements by which a company must abide. My colleagues and I, Deakin and many others, believe that the protection and enjoyment of the natural environment is vital to the continued existence of us all. Our actions and advice in developing the built environment as ecological consultants must seek to halt and restore biodiversity loss, address our own impacts on human induced climate change and help create a better planet for the benefit of future generations.
Since Wildwood Ecology’s conception we have been on an evolving transformative journey. Of course, we have made many mistakes along the way, and will likely make many more, but we strive to learn. We want to be a better business tomorrow than we are today. Easy to say, harder to deliver. However, this is a marathon and not a sprint. We do not adopt cheap labels such as “the number one ecological experts” but we do have a strong vision and values that bind us, and, I believe, make us a better business.
We will not knowingly work on political vanity projects or any development where the natural environment is either side-lined or ignored.
A Force for Good
We use our vision and values as our rulebook. They remind us to recruit and reward our hard-working and principled ecologists, to deliver an outstanding level of service to our valued clients, and how we choose our suppliers. This approach enabled our discovery of sustainable and ethical business practice, and we began to notice a recurring pattern.
Many of the companies we sought to emulate were associated with the B Corp movement. Having never heard ‘B Corp’ before, this was a completely new and intriguing entity.
In late 2018, I attended the Homebuilding & Renovating Show in London, where I met ecological design company, Green&Blue, who were showcasing their beautiful bee bricks, bird, and bat boxes. What was most impressive was their passion, not only for creating a sustainable product, but a sustainable business. They share our commitment to the natural environment and believe that every new home built also needs to provide a home for wildlife. They had recently been certified as a B Corp, and as that discussion progressed, it re-enforced my own attitude that all businesses can, and should be, a force for good.
The B Corporation vision
On my return from the show, I began to research the B Corp movement in greater depth and began to see a real alignment with my own small ecological consultancy.
Skip forward a few months, and in July 2019 we became a proud member of the B Corp community. It puts us at the heart of a global network of more than 4,600 companies that are committed to acting in a sustainable and transparent way, whilst meeting the highest environmental and social standards.
To become a certified B Corp, businesses are required to complete a survey, Business Impact Assessment (BIA). It’s not just any survey, it’s one of the most comprehensive and challenging tools out there for assessing the real social and environmental impact of a business.
The BIA is operated by the independent non-profit B Lab. It allows businesses to measure the impact their business is having on the Environment, their Workers, Customers, and the Community, as well as looking at their Governance structure. Businesses must meet a minimum of 80 points out of 200 to certify, as well as make a legal change to their business to place impact on people and planet on the same level as profit.
On first certification we scored a mere 80.6 points, scraping in by the ‘skin of our teeth’, so we know we have a lot to do to make any real impact. You can compare our result with the likes of other great companies, including many instantly recognisable companies such as Patagonia, The Body Shop, Cook and Tridos Bank, and some industry specific companies including Kennedy Woods Architecture and Stride Treglown.
Since July 2019, we have made significant changes to the way we conduct our business. Here are a few things we have done:
- Shifted our business account to The Co-operative Bank
- Become a signatory as a Living Wage Employer
- At the end of 2019 we committed at COP25 to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030
- Chosen Fairphone as our dedicated mobile phone for employees and switched to Honest Mobile as our network provider
- Integrated social and environmental performance into decision-making, including performance reviews that formally incorporate social and environmental issues
- We offer a salary sacrifice scheme supporting employees to switch to an electric vehicle
- We monitor and seek to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol calculation tool for Scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions
This is a small list of the things we have changed and we recognise we still have a long way to go. There is a plan and strategy in place to get us there that will require real action; action that impacts the way we do business. B Corps are required to undergo the verification process every three years to recertify, ensuring standards continue to be met and promoting long-term resiliency. As such, we will go through our very first recertification programme in July 2022. I’m really looking forward to having these improvements validated and finding out what our new impact score will be.
Play your part
Why should you seek out purpose-led companies?
Every time you buy a product or service from a B Corp, you’re taking a small step towards a more sustainable world, and casting a vote for a new way of doing good business.
As a B Corp, we have changed the way we conduct our normal business activities that benefits all our stakeholders and not just our shareholder. We have chosen to monitor, review and, where necessary, change the way we operate and conduct the way we interact with our clients, customers, suppliers, employees, and our communities. It goes beyond giving money to a charitable cause, volunteering, or offsetting our carbon emissions.
We actively seek change in everything we do and live by our vision and values. Sometimes we may not get it right, but you can rest assured that we will never cease trying to do so and learn from our mistakes.
Also, perhaps consider that people want to work for companies and organisations that stand for something beyond just making money. Time and again, we see brilliant individuals wanting to join our team, and stay with us, because they believe in our vision and share our values. A business can make a positive change if they listen to and support the growth and development of their most important asset – their employees!
We’ve got a busy year ahead and we’ll face lots more challenges. But by collaborating with others, spreading the word about B Corp and focusing on our vision, we can prove that business truly can be a force for good. And that as we grow (and we are growing both our consultancy and training division, The Ecology Academy), we can play an even bigger role in sustainably building an environment that considers biodiversity loss, as much as the climate crisis we all face.
Richard Dodd, Managing Director