Learning Series | Becoming a B-Corp with Andy VandenBerg

September 16, 2022

Ben Sampson: All right, Andy, we're back another WeHero Learn interview this time around something super exciting, which is WeHero became a B Corp. And we could talk about that all day, but I'm more excited to talk to you today about the process of us becoming a B Corp, because I think there's a lot of companies out there that are considering this. There's only, I think it's just over 5,000 B Corps right now, globally, but I know there's a lot of companies in the pipe that are trying to get the certification. And so I think the goal today is you spent so much time and effort getting our B Corp certification. We wanna share those tips and tricks with our audience in case they're going after that certification. And maybe agood place to start for both those that may not be familiar with B Corp is what is a B Corp. And then we can dive into just the process we took in getting this done.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. B Corp is really a company that has made the choices to build their business in what I view as to be the right way. So it's really it, it measures the quality of a business in building it from a social as well as an environmental standpoint and doing things the right way means a variety of different things. And we can get into those, but it's really a standard that businesses are held to related to how you treat your employees, the environmental impact you have, and factors like that. And basically a qualification. So you reach X score. You can be qualified to be a B Corp. If you don't reach X score, they'll help you get to a qualifying score. So that you can share with the world that you are a B Corp and you're choosing to do things in the right way.

Ben Sampson: Yeah. And I think it's the highest certification or the highest level of achievement you can get in regards to social impact and environmental impact for a company. Which is really cool. Now let's just break this down really simple for folks, like, what is the first step? Is it like just reaching out to people at B Corp? Is it you doing that contact form on their website? Like how do people dip their toes in the water actually figure out what the process is and, and just get started?

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, the first thing I'll say is a lot has changed. You, you know, I think we're living in an incredible time where more and more companies want to take part in this. And so I think if you had asked asked me that question two to three years ago, it would've looked very different, but now there's a much more streamlined process, streamlined not in time sense, but in a way that you apply. And so you go online and you make a B Lab's profile for your company, which it'll ask you a survey questions around what your company does about how big it is, and that will create the generic profile that then you need to go in and answer a ton of questions about your company. And these are what I'd say are qualifying questions. So questions to get a sense of you know, what could be problem areas, what could be areas that you do really well.

Andy VandenBerg: And those categories are so governance of your company your employees and workers, there's the community aspect of your company. And then there's the environments. And then it's the type of companies you serve. And so each of those five categories probably has five subcategories and probably a total of 20 to 30 different questions that you need to answer. And this gives you a rough B score. And so by answering all these questions, it gives you a sense of where you fall in the spectrum. And then that's when you really begin the human aspect of this. And the one thing I'll say is it's very different for the different types of business that you are. So if you are a food or beverage manufacturer, you are gonna have very different questions and things they're gonna wanna focus on. And if you're a consulting business or like us, we're a little bit of a unique case and that our business model is really about helping other people do good.

Andy VandenBerg: And so those three things kind of have different factors that they will weigh. And so once you've completed the online form and questionnaire, and I think I probably spent 20 to 40 hours just onthat initial questionnaire to give people a sense of the time and level of details. And candidly, a lot of it is database questions that you may not know about your company. For example, one of the things that was really healthy forus to go through was, you know, we had to compare living wage for a family of four in every location that an employee worked. And how did we fare against that from a percentile standpoint? And so these are things, you know, we built this company trying to treat people the right way. And so my, in the back of my mind, I knew we paid people well above the living wage, but I needed to figure that out and really do the research.

Andy VandenBerg: And so each question takes a fair bit of time and requires you to dive in and get the data. So once you've completed that you'll actually speak to someone whose job it is to audit those questions and that person will introduce themselves and you will go through your questions and they may have specific questions. They had a lot of questions forus about our business model, but they may also ask about certain questions. from there, you need to provide the backup data for all these questions. So you can't go in there and choose random answers and hope that they give you a perfect score. You need to actually provide the data around this and you don't provide the data for all the questions. They choose a subset. I think for us, it was about 50 to 70% of the questions we had to provide hard data for and concrete answers for.

Andy VandenBerg: And so that's kind of phase two of the work that you have to do. It's, you know, living wage, I need to actually go in there, create spreadsheets, get copies of that, pay stubs and things of that nature. And so that's kind of phase three, and then there's the final review that they do. And you have to change your corporate structure and corporate documentation to call out that you are a B Corp and you are choosing to follow purpose as well as profit. So it's kind of a long process for us. It took over a year of trying to do this. And I think part of that is really due to the fact that they are swamped so more and more people are trying to do this. And so they're trying, B Corp is trying to onboard so many people to be the auditors and go through this with companies, but it just takes a while.

Andy VandenBerg: And so it took us a very long period. Iwill say, there are gaps in that, right? So I, we weren't working continuously for a year. But we'd be working really hard for a week or two. Then we'd kind of have this gap where we're waiting to move the next phase and just took time once we were assigned our auditor, I think it was three to four months of time that it took from meeting the auditor to to kind of sending in the check and signing it and becoming a B Corp.

Ben Sampson: So awesome. And it's so great to hear that there's so many companies that are jumping into that pipeline and that they're getting that busy with that many companies wanting to be purpose driven. I think it's also great that you touched on the human element of this. And if we could dive into that a little bit, that'd be great. Cause I think a lot of folks, you know, are going, how legit is the B Corp certification? Like, is this a green washing technique? Is it something like you talked about where we fill out a form and then keep our fingers crossed you walking through that process is helpful, because it's not, there's a number of reviews that take place and there's a huge human element to this. You know, what are some of the checks and balances that go into place, Andy, to make sure that this isn't greenwashing, that isn't just people providing false stated, does that human check really accomplish that? Would love to get your take.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, I mean, I think the first thing I'll say is, you know, they're not looking for perfect companies and I think that culture is really important because, you know, you have to commit to being truthful. And for us, like there's some things that we want to improve after learning and going through this things that we weren't aware of and that's okay, right. You don't need a perfect score to become this. So the score ranges from zero to 200 and you have to have a score of 80 to pass. We hear our score was 117, which is good, but there's still room to become perfect. Right. but just so you know, the median score for all companies that do this is about 50. And then for passing companies, it's about 83. And so with that numbers, I think the reason I bring that up is is that companies don't have to be perfect.

Andy VandenBerg: And so the incentive one is not to lie or to do anything like that. They want you to get in there to become B Corp and keep improving and they list out kind of the best companies. And so I I'd first say that the second thing I would say is, you know, someone could always lie and fabricate the data that you have to provide, but because there's the human audit, it's really less likely that that is truthful. And so because you have to report on the actual data, you, you know, we could say what percentage of our supplies are recyclable. We could answer 80%, but then I'd have to go and prove that. And it becomes a lot harder to do that. And do that over the span of 20 to 40 different data requests. And so yes, you may be able to cheat on one, but you can't cheat on all of them. And so I consider the audit to be the crucial part of it. Cause you really get the human approach that can take a look at what your business does and then ask the necessary questions and prove out what what you've claimed that your business does.

Ben Sampson: Yeah. Few more rapid fire questions for you, because I don't wanna make this too long. You talked about the time it took us. It was just over a year from a process standpoint, I think the other big question folks have is the cost, like what is this cost was the certification cost.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. It really depends on the size of your business. And so I would think of it as a few thousand dollars commitment when you're smaller scaling up as you're much larger. And so the financial commitment is definitely there, but it's not a massive financial commitment to the point where I'd advise you not to do it because of the cost.

Ben Sampson: Great. And is that a one time commitment or is that an ongoing commitment?

Andy VandenBerg: That's an ongoing commitment every year, but you do pay kind of a special fee the first year to become certified. But that's an ongoing commitment depending on your revenue size.

Ben Sampson: Let's say I'm a new company that's thinking about doing this. What is advice that you would give to best prepare ourselves for this audit process for providing the data any tips or tricks that you would recommend before we even jump into that process?

Andy VandenBerg: That's a great question. I think importantly, just track your data within your company. Well you know, use good software providers that have data, have reporting, use a good CRM, know your product categories, know all of that, cause I think that's really important. And the other thing is I would go in and do it and go in with the lens of there's so much that you can improve. You know, there are so many takeaways from doing that where we realize things we should change and needed to change. Even though we were have a passing score by long shot. There's still things you want to go in with and wanna change. And so I'd tell everyone to go in with that type of lens. But most importantly, it's just having the data and making sure that you can prove out the, your mission. Yeah.

Ben Sampson: Are there any, is there anything else that you think folks should know about B Corp about our process, about the process they might be jumping into before we wrap up?

Andy VandenBerg: I would just say, I think obviously a lot of people do it because of the brand, you know, benefits not only for, from a sales standpoint, but also for a hiring standpoint. But I think a lot of people, you know, overlook the, the network and community aspect of it, as, you know, purpose driven business leaders, I think Ben and I, we wanna support other purpose driven business leaders. And so there is a huge network effect ,not only from, you know, support or sales standpoint, it's really just, all right, when we want a perspective from a company, we're gonna go to one of those companies first and there's a really great they call it the beehive, which I think is a creative name. There's a really good community built around B Corp. And you know, we obviously are newly inducted into this. And so I don't know the full extent of it, but I'm excited about the potential of it. And look forward to what we'll achieve kind of over the next year, just networking with these companies.

Ben Sampson: We're super eager about that. Just to, like you said, just be working with other companies that are trying to do the same things in their world of business. Andy, I wanna thank you so much for sharing those tips and tricks and I'll wrap by saying, you know, please reach out to us if there's folks that are considering this or getting stuck and want our take, you know, we're here to help with these things and we've been through the process and Andy's done an amazing job, just putting the time to get us across the line. So please reach out. We're here to help. And Andy, thanks so much for doing this and, and for sharing those notes.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. Thanks Ben. It was a pleasure.

Ben Sampson: Thanks everybody.

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Andy VandenBerg
Andy VandenBerg is the co-founder and COO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Andy speaks actively about the importance of aligning strategy with social responsibility and how companies can pursue both purpose and profit. Andy’s past experience includes private equity and family office investing. If he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him in the Pacific Ocean or Lake Michigan.
Ben Sampson
Ben Sampson is the co-founder and CEO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Ben speaks actively about corporate social responsibility, volunteerism, sustainability, and how companies united with activism drive powerful change. Ben’s past experience includes leading product teams, building startups, and studying sustainable business strategy at Harvard. In his free time, he’s an avid outdoor enthusiast focused on skiing, surfing, and mountain biking.

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