Fanfare or foundations. Are certifications worth the hype?

June 16, 2022

To B-Corp or not to B-Corp? Do I need sustainability certifications is something a lot of impact-first business owners ask themselves. So a huge thanks to Nancy Hyne from True Horizon for sharing her insights on whether an environmental or sustainability certification might be right for you.

Are certifications worth the hype?

It’s a fair question.

Regardless of the certification you’re considering, it’s a big commitment. And you’ve probably heard positives and negatives about all of them. So how do you know if it’s worth it for you?

Let’s take B Corps as an example. B Corps believe that business can and should be a force for good. This means putting people and planet at the heart of what they do, rather than focusing primarily on profits. The movement has taken off with over 5,000 B Corps now certified across the globe.

There is no doubt that this change is needed. We are facing a climate emergency and social injustice is on the rise. Companies need to act now to help fix a broken system.

Plus, the benefits of operating in this way are undeniable. Studies have found that leading with purpose has a positive impact on growth, diversity, innovation, strategic clarity and loyalty from clients and employees (Source:  Forbes).

But it’s important to remember that no certification is a silver bullet. It’s not a signal of perfection but rather a commitment to making continual – often imperfect – improvements.

Progress over perfection.

While certifications like B Corp are a great way to begin that journey, they might not be the most appropriate path for your business.

And that’s ok.

Ask yourself 3 questions.

  1. Do the certifications feel aligned with my business and its values?
  2. Do I have the time, resources and budget to make it worthwhile?
  3. Is there a reason I need this specific certification? (For example, it’s a client requirement.)

If the answer to any of these questions is no, I encourage you to investigate other options before making your final decision.

So how else can you make sure you’re building a business with sustainability and ethics at its core?

Here are my top tips

Know your drivers

Do your employees want to work for a conscious business? Are clients increasingly asking about your environmental commitments? Or maybe you’re seeking investment to grow your business and climate risk plays a factor. Understanding what each of these groups expects from you in this space is essential so that you can align your strategy with their needs and expectations.

Spread the load

Your impact on people and planet will play a part in the vast majority of your business decisions. Get input from different areas of the business and ensure you have allocated responsibilities to people with the right expertise. Don’t forget to include decision makers. Spreading the responsibility across the business helps to embed sustainability into everyday operations rather than it being an afterthought.

Measure your impact

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Simple. This is an ongoing process. Energy consumption. Business travel. Diversity. Start with a baseline and commit to getting better. Be very clear on the evidence you’ll need to monitor progress and how often you’ll check in to make sure you’re on track to hit your goals.

Don’t keep it to yourself

Talk openly about your journey. The good, the bad and the ugly. Just be honest. We don’t talk enough about our challenges which is a shame, and I believe we’re all poorer for it. Open conversations can inspire and educate. The more we collaborate, the better we’ll all become. That way everybody wins.

In short, certifications aren't for everyone. While there are a wealth of benefits to becoming certified, you can still build a responsible business without the label.

Certification can be a valuable tool in your climate crisis arsenal but it’s certainly not the be all and end all.

If you’re trying to work out how best to build your sustainability roadmap, my (virtual) door is always open. Let’s chat through your options to determine the best route for your business.

About Nancy

Nancy is the founder of True Horizon: a unique consultancy supporting brands to balance purpose and profit. Her mission is to help conscious brands do business in a better way to create a positive impact on people, planet and profit. For more information, visit https://truehorizon.co.uk.

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