Why we chose to embark on the long journey to become B Corp certified and what we’ve learned along the way...
We all know that saying, ‘it’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it’. To achieve our mission to grow the amount of money invested in tackling social issues in the UK, our core business activities are undoubtedly contributing to real world impact . However, it's equally important that how we conduct ourselves as an investor and corporate citizen contributes to positive social and environmental impact too.
As an institutional investor, we have rigorous investment processes in place and hold our fund managers and investees to high standards through adoption of our Responsible Business Principles and ongoing engagement with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues and practices. But beyond this, we believe that we should, and do, hold ourselves accountable to the standards that we hold others to across the entirety of our business operations.
This is why we embarked on the B Corp journey – going beyond what we do to open the bonnet on our entire social and environmental impact as an organisation.
Big Society Capital achieves B Corp status scoring 137 points!
After a long cross-organisational effort, we are proud that in July 2023 Big Society Capital officially became a certified B Corp and joined the global movement of businesses striving for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. Upon certification, we join several of our fund managers: Bethnal Green Ventures, Bridges Fund Management, Charity Bank, Eka Ventures and Triodos as well as investees: Urban Jungle, Wagestream, Switchee, Oyster, Lettus Grow, Club Soda and Plend  who are already B Corps (learn more about B Corp here).
We are proud to have scored 137 points of a possible 200, significantly surpassing the minimum threshold of 80. This score is derived from assessing our practices and outputs across five categories: governance, workers, community, the environment, and customers. We’ve learned a lot along the way and naturally, there are some areas where we scored particularly well and others where we have room for improvement.
In the interest of radical transparency, we want to share a bit more about what we’ve learned and what we plan to do as a result with our stakeholders.
Where we scored well
Our highest scoring areas are governance (23.5 of a possible 25), customers (52.2 of a possible 65) and workers (34.7 of a possible 50).
Governance looks at our overall mission and engagement around social and environmental impact, ethics, and transparency. It is perhaps unsurprising that given our origins, mission and oversight, that we scored so highly here. In our role as market builder for the UK’s social impact investment ecosystem, we have always sought to share as much about our activities, impact and performance externally as possible. This level of transparency twinned with our strong governance structure and internal rigour helped us achieve nearly maximum score in this area. You can learn more about our organisational governance, financial and impact performance by visiting our website.
Customers looks at our value to our customers through the services we deliver. As an ‘impact business model’ we are part of a minority of B corps seeking direct impact through our core product or services. As a social impact investor, our core service is to increase the provision of finance to social enterprise and charities in the UK and our primary customers are the fund managers that we work with to help us achieve that. Our approach to active management of our investment portfolio and the dedicated resources that we have, focussed on impact practices and performance contributed to a high score in this area.
Workers looks at our contribution to our employees’ financial, physical, professional, and social well-being.
We recognise the importance of being a great employer and fostering an inclusive and collaborative workplace has been a big focus area for the organisation, spearheaded by our People & Talent team. Underpinning our approach is our organisational culture that shapes all our work. For more about our people initiatives here.
Where we scored less well
Whilst it’s encouraging that we scored so well overall, a big motivator for us undertaking the B Impact Assessment was to identify blind spots and areas for improvement. Our lower scoring areas were environment (3.2 of a possible 20) and community (22.6 of a possible 40) which present a huge opportunity to improve our impact.
Environment focusses on our overall environmental stewardship, including how we identify and manage general environmental impacts such as management of air and climate issues and water sustainability. Whilst achieving a low score on environment might seem alarming, this is largely reflective of our lack of measurement and formal policies rather than an indication of significant negative environmental impacts. As a services organisation, we do not have large and complex supply chains which have the potential to have material negative impacts on the environment and we do not produce high volumes of physical goods with environmentally harmful biproducts. That said, we need to do a better job at understanding and managing our environmental impact. There are a few immediate actions that we’re looking to take as a result which include: developing an environmental procurement policy to help better understand the environmental impact of third-party providers and develop guidance for our employees that help them manage environmental footprint whilst working from home. As a leaseholder we will also be working with our buildings manager to understand our environmental footprint through our energy usage and make improvements over time.
Community evaluates our positive impact on the external communities in which we operate covering topics like diversity, economic impact, civic engagement, and supply chain impact. Whilst our second lowest scoring area, we’re encouraged that our score is significantly above average for companies in our country, sector and size. We see a particular opportunity for us to improve our score through more proactive engagement with our suppliers on equality, diversity and inclusion. We also want to be more proactive in bringing together staff around community volunteering initiatives local to our headquarters in central London.
Just the B-eginning!
We are proud of our new B Corp status and excited to learn from peers in the community and experts at B Labs. We’ve learned a lot along the way and have plenty of areas that we can improve upon. Really, the journey just starts here. As B corps are required to re-certify every few years, we’ll be looking to build on our existing score over that time and hopefully achieve an even higher score in the future.
We’d love to see more organisations consider certification and if you’re interested in hearing more about our findings or learning more about our experience please get in touch.
 Plend are B Corp Pending