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Robson Laidler – first business in the North East to become an accredited B Corp

World Leaders at COP26 are convening to discuss sustainable finance and how this will impact a carbon neutral future. in 2021, Robson Laidler Accountants became the first business in the North East to become an accredited B Corp.

Managing Director, Graham Purvis has been telling NEECCo what a B Corp is and how being legally required to consider the environmental impact of business decisions can drive a global movement to net zero.

BECOMING A B CORP

Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to 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 business as a force for good.

To become B-Corp certified, businesses must meet achieve 80-points or more in the B-Corp Impact Assessment which measures the impact of both a company’s day-to-day operations and their business model.

The advantages of B-Corp are clear. Not only is a commitment to the environment and society now on everyone’s agenda, but many stakeholders look for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) when researching a company.

For some, it is a key element in company statements, while for others, it is an opportunity to achieve competitive advantage, as well as benefiting the wider world.

In 2021 Robson Laidler became the first business in the North East to become an accredited B Corp.

With offices in Newcastle and Durham, Robson Laidler joined 4000 businesses globally and 400 in the UK who have certified as B Corps reinventing business by pursuing purpose as well as profit.

Robson Laidler’s Managing Director Graham Purvis works to ensure Robson Laidler’s vision is met, while continually improving the service offering. Robson Laidler’s vision is:

“To leave a legacy by becoming the firm of choice, growing our business in a way that makes us proud, focusing on both purpose & profit.”

As well as this vision the Firm’s main purpose is to make a positive difference to people’s lives and this spans across all its stakeholders from clients to its staff and the local and global community.  

Specific examples of how Robson Laidler are more sustainable / what the firm does to ensure B-Corp certification.

Message from Graham Purvis:

Graham Purvis, MD of Robson Laidler

When I took on the role of MD back in 2016, the firm set out on a five-year business transformation plan to take us up to our 100th anniversary. This plan included investing in our people, premises, software, training and community.

I first heard about B Corps in a book called The Business of Good and after working on defining our purpose as a business becoming a B Corp fell naturally as one of steps to demonstrate that purpose. B Corp Certification is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance.

The B Corp Impact Assessment scores the business in the following areas:

  • Governance
  • Workers
  • Community
  • Environment
  • Customers

We scored better in some areas than others, due to certain initiatives we had already implemented in the business but going through the assessment process helps you identify the parts where improvement is needed.

In terms of some of the specifics we addressed the following:

Governance – Certified B Corporations are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on all their stakeholders, so we have changed our governing documents at Companies House to include a commitment to a ‘triple bottom line’ approach (People, Planet, Profit) to business. Our Articles have also been amended so that, when making decisions, a range of ‘stakeholder interests’ – including shareholders, employees, suppliers, society and the environment – will be considered.

Workers – areas to focus on here include financial security, health, wellness and safety, career development, and engagement and satisfaction. New initiatives that we have introduced in this area include:

  • defined career pathways to give our people guidance and transparency on the key competencies, behaviours, and technical abilities they should possess if they wish to develop with their careers; and
  • Developing on our Better Health at Work awards with health and wellness initiatives and the introduction of an overarching Wellbeing Policy for the Business.

Community – with B Corp there is a big play on being a community-based business, focused on serving your local economy. We are proud ambassadors for our wonderful region and giving back to the North East, through economic impact, community engagement and giving, is high on our agenda. Our next 5-year plan has double digit growth to provide more jobs for local people using local suppliers whilst continuing to have more than 85% of the people we serve based in the North East of England. We will continue to evolve our local community giving from our £180k contribution over the last 5 years to introducing our own Community Foundation.

Environment – All B Corps sign a Declaration of Interdependence stating the belief, “That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered […] and thus we are responsible for each other and future generations”.

We have committed to be net zero by 2030 and as such we have plans to limit, measure, offset and reduce our carbon footprint. We are working with one of our clients to increase our wastepaper recycling and offset our offices’ current monthly carbon footprint by;  

  • planting 72 trees.
  • rescuing 8kg of food, and
  • providing 2 months of access to a solar lamp to families in need.

We will be looking at our procurement policy and supply chain to review how we work with other businesses that fit in with the B Corp ethos including sustainability.

Customers – because of the business we are in this is fundamentally geared around customer engagement, feedback and quality of service. I am exploring more “out-of-the-box” solutions for the bigger picture of how what we do can address a social or economic problem for our customers.

We hope that our commitment to doing business differently will be an inspiration to others and really help spread the idea that we can redefine success in business to be as much about people and planet as it is about profit.

Robson Laidler is happy to talk to any business leader who would like to find out more about how their organisation can become part of this movement.