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To B Corp or Not to B Corp?



INFLUENCER: Standing up for your values and investing in good is not only good for your collective moral core, it’s also good for business, writes North's Rebecca Armstrong

To B Corp or Not to B Corp?

Agencies have typically been pretty mercenary places, focusing primarily on whatever it takes to meet client demands and their own bottom line. Volunteering is something agency execs feel like they’re already doing as they work on the 15th draft of a presentation, or when delicately shifting a pixel 1mm around a monitor at 3am to make the logo stand out. Historically, giving back to the community in the agency world involves lavishing all the extra money on the local hostelry.

But a growing generation of creative agencies are taking a stand for social and environmental causes - so much so that they’re becoming certified as B Corporations. B Corp Certifications are to business what Fair Trade is to coffee: a sign that business will be conducted with an eye for social good, transparency, and accountability. In 2016, North, a Portland Oregon-based creative agency, was one of the first creative agencies to become B Corp certified. It’s joined by other creative agencies such as Baldwin&, UK agency And Rising (formerly 18 Feet & Rising), and Grady Britton (another Portland agency).

It’s not easy being a B Corp. It took us 18 months to wrap our heads around adherence to the mandatory stipulations and completion of the dreaded forms. Admittedly much of that was the result of pure avoidance and procrastination. But in the end, with some very helpful coaching from other B Corp businesses and the B Corporation staff, we met the threshold for B Corp-dom. Much of it involved the codification of behaviours that were already in place at North like formalising an annual goal for pro-bono work and volunteering. Some of it required us to put new behaviours into practice like committing to prioritising local vendors and publishing a master list of them for all to use. All of it has done wonders for agency positioning, hiring and, to an extent, new business.

In truth, having B Corp status is not the primary reason for engaging a particular agency in a new-business conversation. But it does give clients a meaningful secondary reason to buy. B Corp status proves that we 'mean it' as much as clients like Guayaki Yerba Mate mean it. We indeed put our money where our mouth is.

Having a 'do good' perk has also helped us find like-minded talent. Beyond a dogs-at-work policy and unlimited FIFA on the Xbox (not qualifiers for B Corp status), North now offers a week of paid time off each year to do volunteer work on top of four week’s vacation and unlimited sick leave. Employees these days care about more than a paycheck. They want a workplace that helps them nurture the causes that are dear to them. And we want people who have causes they feel strongly about. We’ve found that a team of creatives who actively engage in society brings a broader, objective viewpoint to their work. By helping our employees have time to give, we get a lot back.

So at a time when moral turpitude seemingly threatens our communities, it handily turns out that standing up for our values and investing in good is not only good for our collective moral core, it’s also good for business.

Rebecca Armstrong is Principal and Managing Director at NORTH

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North, Fri, 19 Oct 2018 08:40:42 GMT