Telecoms firms reveals advantages of winning B Corp status

The owner of a telecoms firm has spoken about the importance of joining the B Corp Community.

Mark Burland is the founder of First Class Comms which is based in North Somerset.

He said it has taken a year of hard work to achieve the gold standard in business sustainability but the hard work was worth it.

He said: “It was something we were keen to achieve. Not just because, like everyone, we care about the impact our work has on our staff and communities, but because it also means we can continue to improve our business practices and make us the best we can be.

“Lots of companies greenwash their operations, ticking the boxes necessary to help them appear that they’re a force for good. For us the B Corp assessment is so thorough that it means that First Class Comms, as the first telecoms reseller in the UK to achieve the status, can be proudly stand as an example in our industry for others to follow.”

The process of applying and submitting for B Corp was an onerous one – not only the process itself but also the work needed to make sure the application was successful.

The B Corp accreditation requires a deep dive into every aspect of your business, from how you treat  customers and staff to the commitment to supporting the community and the environment.

It’s worth noting that not every business will score highly in every category of the B Corp assessment.

Mark Burland: “However part of our reason for doing this was so that we could identify areas of business in which we were strong and other areas in which we could continue to improve.

“Fortunately we were able to deploy a member of staff, our business analyst Steve Payne, to take on responsibility for the application. He worked closely with an external sustainability consultant to help guide us through the process.

“Essentially we were required to submit information about five key categories of our business model and operations – governance, employment, community work, environment and customer service. Each was evaluated for how the business is set up to make a positive impact, with points allocated to each area.”

Mark Burland added:  “Small businesses like ours looking to join the B Corp community are at the same time at an advantage and a disadvantage.

“In some ways it’s easier, because smaller companies have less to analyse, are closer to the action and leaders are more likely to be involved in a broad spectrum of the various facets of the company.

“Indeed that’s why we believe strongly that the future of ethical business will be led by smaller companies who are flexible enough to pioneer in good practices and set examples for others to 2follow. We’re proof of that through this accreditation.

“However the challenge for smaller firms is to find the resources available to undertake the process of deep analysis and reporting. I’ve mentioned Steve’s work already and we have been fortunate to enjoy another profitable year despite his deployment to this task. I’d suggest that company owners make sure that they can genuinely commit to the process, and that it doesn’t suck to much oxygen out of the daily running of the company. We also decided to enlist the support of a consultant, Andy Hawkins from Business on Purpose, to steer us in the right direction.

“My other piece of advice would be to treat the process with the respect it deserves. Achieving B Corp status isn’t something you can just do through the application process itself. It demands sustainable business practices to be genuinely embedded through the company – you need to have put the work in before starting your application.”

He added: “Our industry needs to adopt a new approach to its CSR practices, with a holistic appraisal of every aspect of how a business is run. For me, it’s not up to the regulator to drive change in helping telcos to become more sustainable businesses, whether that’s in respect of their employment practices or their approach to environmental issues. Change needs to come from the bottom up, by companies recognising the benefits of greater sustainability and by encouraging each other to do better. That’s why we have worked to achieve B Corp status – not because we were told to do it, but because it was the right thing to do.

“Sustainability is a very broad area and it can take a great deal of investment in time and finances to implement schemes throughout a business, particular for larger firms. However there are some quick wins which all companies can achieve relatively easily. A good start would be to share those experiences, providing a collective foundation which we can build on together.

“The great thing about B Corp is that it offers a standardised model by which various aspects of sustainability can be measured and scored. So you can see exactly where a business is doing well – across its employment, customer services, environmental approach, governance and community outreach – and where it’s falling short. Adoption of a standardised assessment model for telcos would help companies work out where they are, see how the industry leaders are doing better, and discover how they can improve.”