Today’s business environment is tough – rising costs of energy, materials and goods, climate and biodiversity crisis, social inequality, funding challenges, regulatory and disclosure requirements. Is the best way to navigate all this through effective collaboration? An example of a business community leading the way in collaboration and collective action is the B Corp community. Certified B Corporations, or B Corps, are companies verified to high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
B Corps commit to positively impact all stakeholders – employees, local communities, customers and the environment. Once certified they can join a local group, known as a ‘B Local’, where they work together to find solutions to shared challenges.
In Northamptonshire, there are 12 certified B Corps representing eight different industries ranging from construction, apparel, beverages and cleaning products to investment services, HR, PR and consultancy. They vary in size from micro to global.
The county’s B Corps are Akerlof, Alpro, Averil Phillips & Family, Bambino Mio, Fill Refill, Honeywell Bakes, Jelley Distilleries, New England Financial Solutions, People and Transformational HR, The People Experience Hub, QSA Partners and Warner’s Distillery.
Reusable nappy revolutionaries Bambino Mio, headquartered in Brixworth, trade in over 50 countries worldwide. As Guy Schanschieff DL, Founder, commented ‘we hope our commitment to doing business differently will be an inspiration to others.’
Guy is spearheading the formation of a B Local group in the county, along with Warner’s Distillery from Harrington, whose vision is to become the most nature positive drinks business in the world. Tina Keogh, Co-CEO intends to ‘raise awareness of how businesses can go beyond business as usual to have a positive impact on nature’.
The aim is to leverage the breadth of insights, experience and innovations across their indus-tries to share best practices within the county’s business community.
The B Local in Oxfordshire works with the Oxfordshire Social Enterprise Partnership and OxLEP Local Economic Partnership as well as the Oxford Said and Oxford Brookes business schools, to promote stakeholder-led capitalism and B Corp, and introduce these into their courses.
B Corp is a global movement with many examples of collective action. The B Corp Beauty Coalition has 60 B Corps across eight countries and three continents coming together to improve the sustainability of the beauty sector.
This is a cut-throat and environmentally damaging industry but through the coalition’s influence, companies such as Elemis, Weleda and Rituals are working to improve the social and environmental footprint of the sector.
In 2022 fruit producer Blue Skies in Pitsford launched the Fresh Produce Impact Hub (FRESHPPACT) in order to bring together retailers, manufacturers and agri-businesses to address the issue of plastic waste. The food industry is the single biggest user of plastics.
FRESHPPACT is funded by a UKAID grant and is an example of effective collaboration. The consortium of members, coordinated by the University’s Centre for Sustainable Business Practices (CBSP) includes Waitrose.
Simon Derrick, global head of sustainability at Blue Skies, wrote in the Fresh Produce Journal that ‘to attain the necessary scale of impact, we need seismic change, which can only be achieved through effective collaboration’.
Northamptonshire’s Chamber of Commerce represents over 1,000 businesses employing one third of the county’s workforce. Members benefit from essential services, events, networking, training opportunities, help with funding and marketing, along with business support. Sunny Singh, the Chamber’s Group Commercial Director, preaches and practises the ‘stronger together’ concept.
The KTP project (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) run by the Chamber and the University, funded by Innovate UK, is another illustration of business collaboration. KTPs support businesses to work with academics to embed new skills and capabilities.
Wellingborough’s Tingdene, a leading manufacturer of residential park homes and lodges, signed up for a KTP to address spiralling waste costs and change employee behaviour about waste. It was so successful that Jamie Wilkins, Tingdene’s Chief Technology Officer, reports
‘we are looking to another KTP to enhance our manufacturing.’
The business world is a mutually dependent ecosystem. Now more than ever we need to learn from one another, including businesses working with charities. Collaboration is essential for success and we are, without doubt, stronger together!
Who are you collaborating with to do good?