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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Corse

B Corp Shouldn't Exist

2024 was not the dream start for Pineapple's Founder and CEO Andy Dewis when his home was flooded by Storm Henk - one of the many named storms we increasingly see happening in the UK. 


Famous for his optimism, Andy was determined not to waste a good crisis and looked for the upside.  


The first was community resilience. The second was reinforcing why Pineapple Sustainable Partnerships exists.


Even when Pineapple Sustainable Partnerships was just an idea, it was clear to Andy that his new company  needed to align commercial interests with positive impact.  


Enter B Corp, or Benefit Corporation.


B Corp represents a global movement of companies dedicated to not just being the best in the world, but being the best for the world. The much mentioned Impact Assessment where businesses meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, aim to balance profit and purpose and is universally recognised for its depth and detail. 


Not Just The Environment

The certification process is governed by the nonprofit B Lab, which evaluates a company’s entire social and environmental impact. From supply chain and input materials to what you pay your staff, B Corps are assessed and audited to ensure they adhere to the highest standards of verified performance across social, environmental and governance. The UK has one of the largest and fastest-growing communities of sustainable businesses with 1,000 certified B Corporations.


More Than Just A Label 

This movement is famous for being more than a certificate. It's about a community of leaders driving a global movement.


We sat down with ex-Schneider Sustainable Business Lead turned Founder and CEO of Pineapple Sustainable Partnerships, Andy Dewis, in his Oxfordshire home, to ask him about why Pineapple became a B Corp.


Do you remember the first time you ever came across the idea of B Corp?


When we were trying to set up the company, we wanted to look for meaningful ways to set up a brand new company that embedded our purpose and principles. We looked at a few different mechanisms, including  different organisational structures, Community Interest Companies, Social Enterprise structures, various different ways to operate as NGO and we made a conscious decision that we wanted to be a socially impact-led business. This is because our aim was to make business becomes agents of change for markets transformation. B Corp was without doubt the best fit even though it was still so new in the UK. 


Can you tell us about your experience taking those first few tentative steps into what was very new in the UK?


It turns out Oxfordshire was a great hub to live in because a lot of people working on developing B Corp were based here. Our first step was to speak to people we already knew including someone who set up the very first B Corp in the UK. The process was very organic and the people involved confirmed we were in the right place. Of course when you are a team of one it can feel an odd process to go through but I believe it’s easier to grow and scale a business with B Corp framework from the start rather than grow and then apply the guidelines retrospectively. 


Pineapple Sustainable Partnerships serves businesses. Isn’t the B Corp brand better suited to a consumer product. 


Without doubt there was an early B Corp movement around the food space and consumer brands and the badge did have a certain mystique which attracted sustainability-conscious consumers so it was a good marketing. For us, it gave us a reference point for how to set up our governance rather than a marketing exercise. Questions such as what our company recycling or IT policy are as a sole founder seemed irrelevant but these all become necessary as the team grow and soon those policies were needed. The B Corp process really guided us with that. 


Pineapple became a B Corp in 2019. There are now over 1000+ B Corp in the UK. What do you make of the growth of B Corp in the UK especially following some of the high profile controversies we’ve seen with Havas and BrewDog?

 

I see B Corp as a very personal decision. Being a B Corp is not a licence to make a company a good company.  You have to be an organisation that wants to run a good company in the right way and these controversies have shown that sooner or later, the truth comes out. B Corp insists on processes, rules and standards that if you adhere to, will help you run a company that’s better because you exist. It is really hard to get the certification and the recent controversies, while unfortunate, are now not unexpected given the movement is growing. 


As an SME, you don't know what you don't know. For us, B Corp gave us a framework to build our processes around.


How are you celebrating B Corp month?


We’re celebrating in many different ways but the standout moment is our team volunteering day at The Trap Grounds. In our employment contracts, we pay our team to volunteer a day a month. Our main initiative this month is supporting the regenerative and nature reserve in Oxford and we are thinking of how we can bring local Oxfordshire-based business community to volunteer their skills, not just their time. For us that means helping projects access funding and securing longer term support. The idea is to set up a skills exchange rather than just volunteering our time. We are going to return and spend a day at The Trap Grounds to continue nature restoration. 


We are facing a number of social and environmental challenges. What's one key message you want to share about the role and impact of B Corp?


B Corp shouldn't exist, right? The utopia is that every company and every body should operate as a B Corp. But until that happens, the B Corp community does bring more businesses behind initiatives like the Better Business Act, which proposes we balance fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to include a company’s environmental and social impact. It's a message that we need more than ever given the deep polarisation we’re being confronted at a time of very visible environmental and social breakdown. I think B Corp also needs to be careful not to create its own version of polarisation. I want to see the B Corp movement become a movement of business. B Corp Month helps raise awareness and hopefully in time can lead to more unity in a time of polarisation.


The Pineapple team in our pre-mud shot at The Trap Grounds.
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