We're incredibly proud to announce that First Wealth has become a Certified B Corp! Certified B Corp status is awarded to companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental challenges and make the world a better place. Achieving B Corp status is an indication of who we are as a business and importantly, our ambition for the future.
The world has changed dramatically over the last year, and the speed of change has only increased with the global pandemic. I am more convinced than ever that people no longer want to work for an organisation, they want to work for a cause they care about. We’ve set ourselves the significant challenge of changing the perception of financial services in the UK forever. So, we have work to do!
So, you want to become a B Corp? Great. Buckle up.
Becoming a Certified B Corp has been a journey that has spanned over 18 months so far - but really this is only just the beginning. B Corp certification is a fantastic endorsement of what we have achieved, but the real driver for us becoming a B Corp is forward looking.
The appraisal stage dug deep into all aspects of our business. The team from B Lap evaluated all areas, including our energy use, recycling policy, remuneration structure, investment philosophy, employee benefits, exam policy, involvement in our local community, pro bono work, external suppliers, employee contracts, and many, many more factors to give us an overall, holistic score. Finally, in August we were awarded the certification, and now it’s time for us to do even more!
I remember vividly the first time I came across the B Corp standard, I was at a business owner meeting where we share good practice and the challenges facing us. My interest was piqued with the mention of a business utopia ecosystem. I have a habit of bringing wild ideas back to my team, in this case Kerry Burgess (our Practice Manager), who luckily instantly jumped onboard and agreed this would be an ideal venture for our business.
‘I remember the conversation clearly. Anthony came back from the meeting buzzing with excitement at the idea of connecting with similar businesses in different sectors. It’s so easy to talk to people in your own remit and lose perspective of the real world. I am passionate about diversity and ensuring our business reflects the whole of society, so I was equally excited about the prospect.’ – Kerry.
I thought about how great it would be to join this incredible global movement for change. I looked at our business, who we were and how we operated and felt confident we had what it took. As a business owner, I am focused on making First Wealth the best in every aspect and I knew this would put us to the test. From employee benefits, to carbon footprints, to how often we speak to our customers, no stone was left unturned by the vigilant folks at B Lab.
Building a legacy
When we started First Wealth, we were focused on becoming the best Financial Planners we possibly could be. We have invested in the development of our services, and although we are constantly looking to get better, I am proud of the quality of financial planning and service that we provide. It would be easy to sit back and feel good about this and I’m sure some people do, but that isn’t in our nature. For us, it’s not good enough to be great Financial Planners, we want to be a business for good. We are now hyper focused on building a business that does more for, not only our clients, but also our employees, our environment and our communities. We want to be a force for lasting change.
Becoming a Pirate
It’s not easy to do new things, especially if they oppose the status quo. To help us adopt the mentality of innovation and encourage pioneering ideas, we have introduced a fun internal concept; to become pirates.
Pirates have a history of disrupting the way society does things, which is exactly what we are aiming for; to disrupt the financial services industry and be the catalyst for change. Pirates invoke feelings of rebellion and strength against traditional bodies. They are simply entrepreneurial, in its core meaning which encapsulates our spirit. While we aren’t reaching for a sword or a bottle of rum, we are reaching for something very different to what the financial services sector has seen before.
As Steve Jobs famously put it, ‘I’d rather be a pirate than join the Navy’.
Everyone in or team share a similar ethos around business for good. It’s not something we have actively recruited for but has occurred naturally as we have developed our brand manifesto and culture. Caroline Johnpulle, one of our Technical Analysts, has a particular passion for purposeful business and business for good. Caroline has pioneered us all through the process, ensuring deadlines are met, bringing great ideas to life and being a constant beacon within our team. I feel this energy and commitment is essential throughout the scoring process and into the future. Our next B Corp milestone is in three years where we aim to achieve a score of at least 120 (we achieved the benchmark score of 80 in our initial assessment).
The unforeseen advantage
Without a doubt, the most surprising and beneficial aspect of becoming a B Corp is being connected to a hub of great businesses who share our passion. The positivity, collaboration, diversity of experience, innovation, and joy of being part of a global community that shares your core values and a clear sense of purpose is what inspires, motivates, and energises us to continue to develop and do better every day. We are exposing the world of financial planning to other industries and sectors, sharing our knowhow and receiving new insight in return. As we aim to disrupt the business-as-usual-model within our own industry, we are partnering with similar businesses from different sectors, to become a stronger and more united voice for change.
How does B Corp measure up
- Research has revealed that businesses within the purpose-driven B Corp movement are growing 28 times faster than the national economic growth of 0.5% https://www.edie.net/news/7/B-Corp-businesses-grow-28--faster-than-national-average/
- As of today, there are 3,564 Certified B Corp companies in 74 different countries
- The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the amount of interest in B Corp https://fortune.com/2020/07/07/danone-emmanuel-faber-b-corp-movement/
B Corporation status can be achieved by receiving accreditation from B Lab (a non-profit organisation). Certification requires a score of at least 80 (out of 200) against 5 areas of impact: Governance, Community, Workers, Environment and Customers.
The initial step is to complete an on-line assessment (B Impact Assessment). After completing this assessment, B Lab then assesses and verifies that your score, and gives you feedback on areas you can improve to move towards to benchmark score for inclusion. As part of this process, you meet virtually with the B Lab team to submit any confidential documentation and to sense check your responses. After our second submission, lots of hard work from Caroline and Kerry, and a nervous wait, we were thrilled to find out that we had met the certification standards. Certification needs to be renewed every three years; making sure standards are maintained and improved!
Peaks and troughs
With the added impact of COVID-19, our journey to B Corp certification took longer than we could have foreseen. I remember key milestones such as completing the legal requirements (to consider the impact of our board decisions on the environment and our wider team) last November 2019 which gave us the sense that we were almost there, spurring us on to complete the next set of tasks. I also remember being faced with a list of 180+ complex questions and wondering how we would attack this mammoth task alongside our already packed work schedules; thank you again to Caroline and Kerry for steering us through this and keeping the whole team motivated. There were peaks and troughs, but we were never deterred from our goal.
Was it worth it?
Yes! The whole team shares an enormous sense of collective pride in this achievement. The B Corp certification gives us a road map to work towards and improve further in the key assessment areas.
The next steps
We are focused on developing all areas of our business. One of the first projects we have undertaken is something we feel simply cannot wait; to become carbon neutral. We understand the impact that global business is having on our environment and we want to begin to reverse this trend. We are changing our service providers and suppliers to those who also share this vision and are well on our way to calculating our carbon footprint.
We are finding through experience that one thing often compliments another as we are entering a cycle of business for good. For example, we have adopted a fully flexible and homeworking culture for everyone at First Wealth. This means we get to work to our own strengths, prioritise our life in accordance to our values and spend time with our loved ones. Personally speaking, it is an invaluable alteration to my life, and I know many members of the team are also feeling the benefit. Not to ignore the significant decrease in carbon emissions from a much-reduced number of daily commutes.
As part of our mission statement we talk about our passion to make great financial planning accessible to everyone, which is why we have embarked on a project to impact and educate the lives of the mass consumer landscape. We have created a sub-brand ‘Let’s Talk About Money’ which looks to provide basic financial education to people that our core business may not usually appeal to. We believe in the value of knowledge and bringing essential education to help the lives of many is a huge motivator to work with. Just like every business has a business plan, I believe every person should have a financial plan.
I am proud that First Wealth is now a B Corp, and even more proud of the team who are taking us to the next level and beyond. I think about the future and the opportunity we have; to disrupt this powerful industry and be a force for good globally. I am driven to continue our development and learn as we go. We are well on our way to the business that Rob and I have envisioned for many years now, and I’m excited that it’s beginning to take shape.