It’s our one-year anniversary of B Corporation certification, bringing us a chance chat to Steven Pyne, Holden & Partners’ Managing Partner, to find out what it’s all about.
So first, what is a B Corp?
Certified B Corp businesses 1 have demonstrated that they balance purpose and profit. They consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using businesses as a force for good. 2
Well lots of brands are thinking of the environment more now, what’s the big deal with this?
In a world of greenwash and marketing, eco and ethical claims are made by so many companies. That’s where B Corp comes in. It really is the gold standard for knowing that every area of a business has been independently scrutinised and held to account. It’s a bit like the Fairtrade accreditation but for business – covering all aspects of how a company treats people and planet.
Why haven’t I heard more about B Corporations?
B Corp began in 2006, but it’s been the past year that has seen its profile really rise. You’re going to be hearing much more about it! Household brands have gained accreditation, such as The Body Shop, Innocent Drinks, Baukjen, Veja and the Jamie Oliver Group.
There are now 3,720 companies certified across 74 countries globally and it is growing by the day. 3
With a year already under our belt, you could say we were ahead of the game!
Why did Holden & Partners seek to become a B Corp?
Since the very start of Holden & Partners in 2003, sustainability and ethics have been at the heart of what we do. It is the very essence of our purpose and ambition as a company. While it has been great to see so many other businesses, not just in the financial services arena, publicly embracing these causes, it can be frustrating when claims are hard to verify. Going through the extremely rigorous B Corp process means that we have the evidence to support what we are saying.
We strongly believe that society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and non-profit organisations alone. By harnessing the power of business, B Corp organisations use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment. It’s incredibly exciting and motivating to be part of this change.
Can ‘doing good’ really make sound business sense?
It’s fascinating and heartening that working in a more sustainable way is genuinely excellent for business. In fact, UK B Corporations have performed better than other businesses, with metrics such as growth in turnover and higher expectations about future growth.4 It’s similar to the effect seen in investments, that ESG funds have tended to outperform the market.5
So what have you achieved as a B Corp in the past year? Maybe tell us about the way the business operates first.
Yes, we’ve looked closely at the running of the office and practical, logistical matters. We’ve put lots of measures in place that have helped us reduce our electricity use (which is all from renewables) and reduce our waste (for example by cutting back on printing, and using a circular recycling company whereby our wastepaper is reprocessed to form new paper). Of course, closing the office due to pandemic restrictions did lead to a massive cut in electricity use, but we are confident the changes we’ve put in place would have led to reductions – albeit less dramatic!
A key part of being a B Corp is that outward looking approach, always thinking about how we can add to the community and wider world around us. We offer staff two charity days a year that can be used for volunteering or fundraising. Payroll giving has also been introduced, with really good take up from the team.
We’re really pleased to have raised over £6,000 for charity, including for Age UK and Richard House too, a children’s hospice that’s had a tough time due to reduced charitable giving since Covid-19 struck. Our fundraising has certainly involved some interesting challenges!
In 2019 we had two teams in the London Triathlon, and last year four members of staff broke the Guinness World Record for pedalo-ing the Thames!
Goodness, we’d better see the photos for that.
What about the investment side of the business?
Well we cover this in detail in our recent Impact Report, but, to summarise, we offer eleven risk-rated sustainable model portfolios (discretionary offered in partnership with AJ Bell, and advisory) 6 to ensure our clients’ financial needs can be properly addressed whilst still maintaining a strong sustainable approach. We follow many careful steps to ensure portfolios really are meeting our strict definition of sustainability.
We’re pleased to say that more than £180m (that’s over 40%) of assets under our management are invested in environmental, or sustainable funds. Also, all of our sustainable model portfolios generate revenue from the 12 investable UN Sustainable Development Goals 7– that means they are making a positive impact on globally recognised targets.
What’s next on the B Corp journey?
One of the most important aspects of becoming a B Corp company is the focus on continuous improvement. We are forming our own B Corp team to look at how we can follow the B Corp principles even more closely this year and beyond. One of the areas we are keen to explore is how we can help to bring more diversity into our industry and I’m really excited about the ideas we are developing here.
We’re ambitious and excited for our future as a B Corp, leading the way for sustainable investment.
We have received lots of positive feedback about our updates. If you’ve found them useful and informative, we would be delighted for you to share them with friends, family and work colleagues. We are always keen to spread the word about our unique approach to financial planning and investing.
Please note that any thresholds, allowances, percentage rates and tax legislation stated may change in the future. The content of this communication is for your general information and use only; it is not intended to address your particular requirements. This communication should not be deemed to be, or constitute, advice. You should not take any action without having spoken with your usual adviser.
7 Worthstone, a company that conducts focused impact research on sustainable and impact funds, (worthstone.co.uk) deem 5 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are un-investable, therefore they map against the remaining 12 investable SDGs.