August 24, 2023
Putting people and the planet above profits may not appear at first glance to be a recipe for financial success for a company like Wellworking, but becoming a Certified B Corporation company is proving good for business and something that the furniture industry can play a big role in. You may have seen the B Corp logo on a shop door or the back of a van and wondered what exactly it means. Well if I could sum that up after a certification process that has been rigorous, challenging and above all, rewarding, I would say that it’s about putting people and the planet first.
One of Wellworking’s core principles is to work towards a sustainable and socially responsible future. B Corp Certification has provided us with a framework with which to approach this. The B Corp certification covers five key impact areas of Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers. Wellworking had to reach a benchmark score of over 80 while providing evidence of socially and environmentally responsible practices relating to energy supplies, waste and water use, worker compensation, diversity and corporate transparency.
This isn’t simply a nice to have, marketing exercise. To give a sense of that, in order to complete the certification, our directors legally embedded their commitment to purpose beyond profit in the company articles.
We have also introduced measures such as annual environmental training for all staff and this has already led to colleagues coming forward with suggestions of how we can reduce waste at our sites and how we can buy more sustainable office supplies. We have increased transparency with our staff on the company’s financials, health and safety data and sickness stats so that all employees can engage with improvements.
So why go through all of this if the result is potentially adopting more expensive approaches that might eat into profits at a very tough time for our industry in particular? Having been through the certification process, it becomes obvious that the value of becoming a B Corp far outweighs these concerns, in many different areas of the business. Our customers rightly demand the highest standards of environmental and social behaviour from their supply chain, so being able to provide measurable proof of our commitment in this area is important.
Likewise, we expect the same standards from our own supply chain and can support them better to deliver on those now. Our colleagues want to know that the company they work for will treat them with the highest levels of respect as employees. There’s also a real sense of pride that they are working for a B Corp which has such a focus on making a difference, both locally and for the planet.
And what we’ve learnt is that being a B Corp isn’t about standing out from the crowd. In many ways, it’s actually the reverse, because we are now part of a global community of businesses committed to working in a more transparent and accountable way.
The B Corp community in the UK is made up of more than 1,400 companies, including The Guardian, innocent, Patagonia, The Body Shop and organic food pioneers Abel & Cole. That’s an incredibly valuable support network showcasing best practice and providing opportunities to work together.
However, it’s fair to say the furniture retail industry is not as well represented as it should be, given the impact we have and the role we can play on the nation’s sustainability agenda. So one of our goals at Wellworking is to share our experience with other companies who might be asking the same questions we are about how to do business.
What we’ve realised is that becoming a B Corp is not the finish line. Instead, it’s the start of a programme of continuous improvement as to how we act as a company, how we treat our colleagues and the role we play in providing a more sustainable future for our planet.