Now's the time for businesses to double down on shared challenges and values

To seize opportunities for progress and achieve the pace and scale of positive change required, the world needs business at its best. That's why there has never been a more critical time to put B Corp values front and centre of every responsible business.

Now's the time for businesses to double down on shared challenges and values

There’s no question the UK faces major challenges this year. The pandemic continues to put a severe strain on communities, businesses and the economy – and the climate crisis will continue to be in the spotlight as we build up to COP 26.

To seize opportunities for progress and achieve the pace and scale of positive change required, the world needs business at its best. That’s why there has never been a more critical time to put B Corp values front and centre of every responsible business.

Businesses of all sizes and sectors went above and beyond to help vulnerable communities in 2020 – but doing business in the best way for people and planet must be a fundamental way of operating that stays core to every company. Although we might all, understandably, feel a bit drained by everything that’s happened since last March, we cannot afford to lose the sense of collective endeavour that was so prominent.

Despite the tough commercial realities many companies continue to face because of Covid-19, using business as a force for good certainly can’t afford to take a back seat. The intertwined relationship between business, society and the environment – which has always been important – will be integral this year.

Together, businesses must continue to step up, not step back – and the B Corp community is a vital way to help provide renewed vigour for tackling the issues we face. For those who may not already know, B Corps are for-profit companies certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. And once certified, B Corps are legally required to consider the impact of all decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. 

There are now more than 3,500 B Corps around the world, spanning 150 industries. It’s a growing community of like-minded businesses that want to collaborate for positive change. Now, to ensure a more equitable, sustainable and thriving future for everyone, we need many more businesses to join the movement, and for existing B Corps to galvanise even greater business leadership.

It’s not just the moral imperative that should compel organisations to put B Corp values at their heart; there is also the clear business case. More than ever before, people want to work for, buy from and partner with businesses they trust to make a positive impact for society and the environment. Indeed, 72% of the UK public think businesses should have a legal responsibility to people and planet.

Like many responsible businesses, Danone is built on a dual project for balancing profit with purpose. As part of Danone’s company-wide commitment to using business as a force for good, we are working hard to certify all our global operations as B Corp by 2025 – bringing forwards our previous schedule by five years. For an organisation with 100,000 employees around the world, it’s no small task – but it’s critical to the way we do business.

Having previously been the first UK dairy company to achieve B Corp accreditation three years ago, Danone Essential Dairy and Plant-based UK recertified as a B Corp in December. Employees were central to improving on our 2017 score, helping to drive our agenda on key environmental and responsible business topics such as packaging and food waste. We encourage everyone at Danone to contribute working time to support the community, and during Covid-19 we were able to continue doing so through our unlimited remote volunteering programme.

For us, as with all successful B Corps, being B Corp certified is so much more than a label. It’s a philosophy and way of doing business that is embedded and lived throughout the whole company. And as with all responsible businesses, we know we must keep pushing ourselves to do more and keep improving. Collaboration – one of the fundamental B Corp values – is critical to this.

For example, we recently partnered with Terracycle and fellow B Corp Ella’s Kitchen to launch a Kid's Food Pouch Recycling Programme with over 500 public drop-off points across the UK, helping to standardise the collection of hard to recycle pouches. This contributes to our UK Plastics Pact commitment to help ensure 70% of packaging is effectively recycled or composted.

If more businesses come together to tackle shared challenges, we can accelerate progress on areas ranging from community engagement to packaging, and from biodiversity to food waste. If we are to deliver a prosperous society in which nobody is left behind, and a just transition to a carbon-neutral UK, businesses must set aside notions of rivalry and prioritise impact. Business collaboration and coordination is essential.

2021 will be a crucial year for people and the planet. Being ‘good’ won’t be good enough – we need real responsible business leadership.

Adam Grant, regional VP of Danone Essential Dairy and Plant-based UK & Ireland

B Corp

Topics: CSR & ethics
Tags: Corporate Social Responsibility | ethics | social value | Corporate strategy | waste management
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