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Earlywork #33: Will B Corps Change The Way We Build Startups?
Featuring roles from Culture Amp, Sendle & Raisely + an interview with Amy Silver (Co-Founder @ The Dough Co)
Ello ello Earlyworkers!
Baked fresh for you today is Earlywork #33, a careers newsletter providing free career resources, news, jobs & interviews for young Australians in the tech & startup landscape.
This week, we’ll be diving into an alternative business model that shakes up how businesses balance profit and purpose, but before that, let’s kick off with some community updates…
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❓Uhhhh… bee corpse?
Ever seen this logo on a brand or company you know?
Much-loved consumer brands like Patagonia, Allbirds, Ben & Jerry’s, The Body Shop, Warby Parker, TOMS, Bombas, T2, Veja & more all seem to bear the ‘B’ mark.
Even old mate Jamie Oliver got his hospitality portfolio into the mix!
When you first look at it, it looks like a company grading system (and it kinda is), but nope, no A-Corps.
So what’s the go?
Core idea: the B Corporation (B Corp) certification is a private, third-party accreditation scheme aimed at businesses that aim to balance profit and purpose.
Specifically, it focuses on highlighting companies with a track record of positive social & environmental policy and impact, and provides a way for consumers and businesses to more easily and consistently identify these companies.
Hold up, so what’s the B?
It’s short for benefit/beneficial, with B Corps often closely aligned with the similar but distinct legal concept of a ‘benefit corporation’ in the US.
Now in terms of where this all began, the B Corp certification was started by a nonprofit called B Lab back in 2006, which bizarrely, was founded by 3 entrepreneurs who had previously built a leading US basketball shoe brand called AND1.
These days, B Lab’s certification now covers 4,000 small, medium and large businesses in 74 countries and 150+ industries, and in 2019, it partnered with the United Nations to build out a Sustainable Development Goal performance measurement platform for businesses.
Not too shabby.
⚙️ Yeah cool, like the vibe, but how do companies actually become B Corps?
Landing the B Corp stamp isn’t just a cheeky Google form and boom, tick, you’re done, and you won’t have B Corp representatives knocking on your office door to ‘award’ you a certification out of the blue.
They’re a voluntary, paid certification which requires an initial assessment, documentation audit, and interviews in order to obtain. Beyond that, companies commit to a high degree of transparency & accountability in continuing to report on environmental, social and governance factors, and need to re-apply every three years to maintain their certification.
The process takes 6 to 10 months to complete, and only 1 in 3 firms that apply end up being granted the certification, with prices starting from $1000 for the annual certification fee (which goes up to $50,000 for the big hitters!)
Given the effort involved, what are they actually measured on?
Compared to the formal focus of public companies on shareholders, the B Impact Score methodology covers 5 impact areas across a wider stakeholder view:
Governance (the measurement and policies in place to ensure that the firm’s impact on the other four factors is clear)
Companies are asked tailored questions based on their size and industry, and ultimately receive a B Impact score out of 200.
80 is enough to get the certification, but remember, that’s only the top third of companies who apply, and the companies who apply are already a more ethically-conscious subset to begin with. The average score for businesses is around 51.
Despite the financial & administrative complexity of applying and maintaining certifications, when I first discovered the model, I was super buzzed about the emergence of a formal framework to guide businesses looking to make a positive social impact.
Beyond this, there is incentive and power of the B Corp certification as a ‘marketing tool’ and tangible competitive advantage to reward businesses who go above and beyond in ESG commitments.
But wait… are we seeing adoption in the tech & startup space, where many of the leading businesses of tomorrow are being built?
A ‘hyper-growth’ path seems like it can clash with the notion of sustainable business, and are startups willing to put in the admin to get certified when they have 100 other fires burning and product-market fit to worry about?
On the whole, it does seem to be less common for public companies to take up the accreditation in part due to operational complexities, and VC-backed companies tend to go this way.
However, there are a growing number of tech players jumping on the trend, including crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, insurtech Lemonade, BNPL Sezzle, help desk Help Scout, file sharing platform WeTransfer, and (formerly) Etsy.
When you hear that major global consultancies like PwC are looking to hire 100,000 employees to advise clients on climate and diversity reporting, it’s clear there’s a growing appetite among investors, consumers and companies themselves for an easily digestible one-stop shop to assess ESG practices, with startups like Responsibly and Avarni exploring measurement tools here.
In capturing the high performers across the board, I’m bullish on B Corps as a recognisable standard for forward-thinking companies to easily and reliably showcase that they index highly on these factors.
But how are our emerging businesses faring locally?
🌟 Who are the top B Corps in Aussie tech & startups?
In the past few years, B Corps have really started to get some buzz in the Aussie tech scene, with startups like Culture Amp & Envato leading the way on certification and AirTree Ventures building a guide for Aussie startups considering the certification.
But the visibility of which startups have the certification isn’t something that I’ve seen a clear guide around for those searching for impact-oriented startup roles.
If you’re buzzed after reading this and think, hey, I’d love to work for a place like this, we’ve gotchu!
Here’s our curated list of the top 10 Aussie startups who are currently certified B Corps:
#1: Culture Amp
What do they do? An employee experience platform to help workplaces better collect, analyse and take action on employee feedback.
What do they do? A leading marketplace for creative digital assets, from stock videos, music, sound effects, graphics templates, photos, fonts & more.
What do they do? Australia’s first 100% carbon neutral delivery service, which provides door-to-door parcel delivery.
What do they do? Ethically-conscious stock investing platform (now run by Douugh) that vets its selection to remove companies in Fossil Fuels, Tobacco, Fur, or Military and Weapons.
What do they do? Platform for renting designer clothing, with a goal of reducing clothing purchased for one-off locations that ends up going to landfill.
What do they do? These folks are almost a household name toilet paper brand in Australia now, but aside from their cheeky branding and sustainable packaging, what makes them stand out is that they donate 50% of profits to help build toilets and sanitation infrastructure in low-income countries.
#7: Beckon Capital
What do they do? Growth equity firm with a focus on impact investing and social enterprises.
#8: Beyond Essential
What do they do? Healthcare management and analytics tools designed for remote and under-resourced locations.
What do they do? A vetted platform for purchasing sustainable packaging, aiming to replace traditional plastics in the supply chain with reusable, recyclable or compostable materials that have been certified for sustainability.
What do they do? Connecting parents with high-quality, at-home child care, ranging from support workers to early intervention educators and allied health professionals.
What do they do? Okay, these folks are technically Kiwi, but a friggin awesome brand. The quick pitch: scrap your usual plastic shampoo and soap bottles, and switch to solid bars for beauty, health and haircare that are vegan, all-natural, sustainably sourced, and come in biodegradable packaging.
Keen to discover more? Check out the full Australian B Corp directory here.
Want to keep track of jobs at B Corps? Check out their dedicated job board, B Work.
🤔 But it ain’t a perfect model…
We’re big fans of the B Corp model, but there are some caveats to consider:
No dedicated directory of former B Corps: If companies discontinue the certification, there’s no clear visibility around which companies fall into this bucket and why. Etsy decided to discontinue its B Corp status because of the complexity of legal transition to a ‘benefit corporation’ as a public company in the US, but going to the B Corp website, there’s no way to see companies that have decided to discontinue their certification or have lost it.
B Corp responsibilities are not legally enforceable: If a company fails to meet the B Corp obligations, there are no financial or legal penalties to the board or the company, unless the company has separately incorporated as a ‘benefit corporation’ or some other special classification. The need for legally binding principles around stakeholder-minded business is why we’ve seen policies like the Accountable Capitalism Act proposed in the US, to place B Corp-like standards on all companies above a certain revenue level.
A parent company’s subsidiary may be a B Corp regardless of the parent company’s practices: Unilever, for example, is home to several B Corp brands like Ben & Jerry’s and T2, but the company as a whole is not a B Corp, and as of 2020, had a pollution footprint that spanned 11 football pitches a day (70,000 tonnes per year). To be fair, they are making moves to reach net zero emissions by 2039 and carbon label all products, but the point is that larger companies can use the B Corp brand to attract customers without going all in.
Companies can score well on the core factors but still contribute to industries that have broader ethical concerns or engage in unethical business practices: Some examples of industries with certified companies include private prisons, alcohol, cannabis, for-profit education, buy-now-pay-later, animal products. There’s a wide range of opinions on these industries, and so the callout here is not that they’re inherently good or bad, but that B Corp certification in of itself may not be a sufficient filter for investors, consumers and workers to make responsible choices. Separately, there have been cases with B Corps engaging in tax avoidance, union-busting, and so forth.
📚 Dive deeper with these recommended reads
B Corps - A Guide for Startups- James Cameron, Partner @ AirTree Ventures
How Startups Can Achieve B Corp Status (and Why it’s Important)- James Chin Moody, Founder & CEO @ Sendle
A Look At The History of the B Corp Movement - Triple Pundit
Why Companies Are Becoming B Corporations- Harvard Business Review
Working To Benefit Society, Not Just Companies- New York Times
Are B Corps An Elite Charade For Changing The World?- Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-Founder @ B Lab
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Some of our favourite roles shared in the community recently. Join here to access our job channels.
1. Product Designer @ Culture Amp (Melbourne)
2. Technical Writer @ Sendle (Sydney + Remote)
3. Software Engineer @ Mindset Health (Melbourne)
4. Junior Web Developer @ Raisely (Sydney + Remote)
5. Customer Success Specialist @ Fast.co (Remote)
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1️⃣ 🕐 💪 One Minute Hustle
We are back once again with One Minute Hustle, a bite-sized interview with an emerging Australian young startup founder or operator. This week, let’s get inside the noggin of a uni student who turned a COVID-inspired baking hobby into a ready-to-bake cookie business…
Amy Silver, Co-Founder @ The Dough Co
⚙️ What are you working on?
I co-founded a ready to bake cookie dough company called The Dough Co. with my Dad.
Our cookie dough only takes 8 minutes in the oven, is allergy-friendly (egg and nut free) and is two months fridge stable.
🌱 How’d you get started?
Like everyone, our family got swept up by the baking craze that hit Melbourne during the prolonged lockdown at the back end of 2020.
We then thought, what if ready to bake products weren’t just confined to a lockdown activity, and instead could bring families together with a fun, mess-free activity.
As my Dad’s corporate catering company in the CBD was closed due to the work from home orders and my university (studying Arts/Law at Monash University) was shifted online, we had plenty of time on our hands to start a COVID-inspired side hustle.
The whole family chipped in, with everyone helping to develop the recipes and taste test the flavours.
6 months later, we had perfected all our flavours, developed the website and got our branding down pat.
🤔 Why do you do what you do?
Before we launched The Dough Co, we interviewed 100 families and 65% said that the mess of baking with young children deters them from engaging in the activity.
Therefore, we do what we do because we want to enable every family to have the opportunity to spend quality family time together in the easiest and least messy way possible.
We also have a special focus on ensuring our cookie dough is allergy-friendly. I am anaphylactic to nuts and used to be allergic to eggs.
I know how hard it was growing up to find exciting food products I wasn’t allergic to – so I wanted to make sure people with allergies could enjoy our product too.
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