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What differentiators does a public B Corp have for investors?

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The collective conscience of business leaders is becoming increasingly aware of the responsibility we carry with every decision we make. It’s easy to focus investor updates on profit to satisfy shareholders, but doing right by our communities and our environment is another matter.

It’s why we embarked upon the journey of gaining B Corp certification to ensure that everything we do helps the world work better for everyone. We have a duty to our investors, our clients, our employees and our future generations to build sustainability into every aspect of our work as a global digital transformation consultancy.

As we look forward to learning and growing as part of a global community of almost 5,000 B Corps (and counting), we sat down with Frances Brereton, Deputy Company Secretary at Kin + Carta, to discuss the journey we’ve taken to get here and why it provides key differentiators for investors who are looking to invest in a socially responsible business.

Why did Kin + Carta choose to become a B Corp?

The decision was made in tandem with the wider societal change of businesses having a renewed focus on broader stakeholders and reconsidering the role of business in society. The traditional view of business was very much that it’s about making a profit for the shareholders with limited or even no regard for other stakeholders, but we’ve now transitioned into a time when that’s no longer the prevailing view. 

In amongst that, our business was evolving from St Ives to Kin + Carta and that happened in conjunction with this wider, macro change. We were considering our approach to environment, social and governance (ESG) matters at that point, so we were acutely aware of different frameworks we could be using. 

We chose B Corp specifically, because it’s an independent assessment against the core areas of stakeholder interests. Beyond this, it embeds a corporate purpose into the company’s constitutional documents, whereby the company commits to promoting the success of the company for the benefit of its members (that is, its shareholders) as a whole, and, through its business and operations, to have a material positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole. 

That’s a change that requires shareholder approval and is, for all intents and purposes, permanent because, if we wanted to update that language, we’d have to go back to those shareholders and say: “Actually, we’ve changed our minds. We’re not committed to being a responsible, triple-bottom-line business anymore.”

This legal accountability to balance profit and purpose will hold true through changes in management, so it’s a permanent change to the way we think and operate as a business. It’s a key reason why we became a B Corp.

What did becoming a B Corp mean for Kin + Carta’s shareholders?

The intent to pursue B Corp certification was first disclosed in our annual report back in 2019 so we could start informing shareholders of this as an ESG approach and allow for opportunities to engage with them on the subject. As a public company, we’ve got a very broad shareholder base, so communications and maintaining an open dialogue were very important from the beginning.

We had to ensure that we were aligned with what our shareholders wanted, while also heading in the right direction for our employees and customers. We knew it was going to be a strong differentiator for us, particularly in terms of recruitment and customer retention given the macro societal changes, so we believed if we stayed focused on doing business in a responsible way and making a positive impact, we could demonstrate that a business can authentically and successfully balance profit and purpose. 

Thinking more broadly beyond Kin + Carta, it also creates a more inclusive community and helps the global effort toward environmental sustainability, so we had to be aligned with that not only for our shareholders, employees and customers, but for the good of the wider world, too.

If you were speaking to a public company that was considering becoming a B Corp, what tips would you give them?

The key item to be sure of is that leadership is fully supportive of the certification. The whole board has to be aligned with the direction you’re taking as an organisation.

It’s important to be prepared to spend time facilitating the process, collecting the data and communicating to shareholders. With the amount of data required, it really does demand a significant amount of time from a key individual to go to each aspect of the business and maintain those records because B Corp does verify your score. There is an audit process, so you need to be able to provide evidence of any of the disclosures that you've made in your impact assessment.

The organisational structure is worth thinking about, too. To certify your ultimate parent company, you need to either submit all of your applications from across the business - subsidiaries and ultimate parent included - at the same time, or already have the subsidiaries certified with the final submission being for the ultimate parent company. Maintaining an open dialogue with B Lab about the most practical approach to B Corp certification really helped us there.

It’s been a long and rewarding journey; we know it’s only the beginning for us now that we’ve got the certification. We’re more excited about the prospects than ever and we’d wholeheartedly recommend choosing B Corp to any like-minded public companies out there.

What was your favourite part of the investment journey of becoming a B Corp?

Good question! I think it was seeing how genuine the belief was not only in management, but across the whole company, in the value and integrity of becoming a B Corp. It had to be believed and embraced by every one of us and it was great to see that it genuinely does run as a thread throughout the business. 

Becoming a B Corp had to be underpinned by our behaviours throughout the business, lived and breathed at every level, especially at a time of significant change.
In fact, I believe it actually helped us build a more robust business with a good governance foundation as a result because we did it during a time of huge turbulence. Kin + Carta has only existed in its current form in the last two years of volatility, so the whole process of looking for better ways to do business and embedding them into our operations arguably made us stronger and more resilient as a whole.

It was also great to see it enhance our risk management, which may benefit investors and other stakeholders by ensuring that we’ve got the right policies and procedures in place for areas like anti-bribery and corruption and discrimination. It’s made us much more solid at every level of the organisation and that’s a positive, lasting impact to have on our people, the work that we do and the world in which we live.

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