What is SEO content strategy, and why is it important?

According to recent data, 93% of trackable website traffic begins with a search. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the performance and experience of a website to achieve better visibility in the search results of search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. SEO is a great way to generate more traffic, leads, customers, and revenue for your business.

Specifically, SEO is all about ranking in organic search results. In fact, 81% of all Google searchers click on organic results. Organic search is arguably the most valuable marketing channel there is. For this reason, a solid SEO content strategy is essential for any brand or business operating online today. Small. Medium. Large enterprises. Startups. Local businesses. Global brands. And sustainability-conscious organizations, too!

Yes, we know what you are all thinking: SEO is nothing new. And yet, many companies still fail to acknowledge its potential. At Quest, we are on a mission to help scale and accelerate impact-driven businesses, and we truly believe SEO is crucial to stand out in this overcrowded market tainted by greenwashing.

We can help you improve and optimize your online presence and overall website visibility with a customized and impact-driven SEO content strategy.

SEO Content Strategy pillars: Technical SEO, Keyword research and Link building

Local vs International SEO content strategy:  

Mastering SEO effectively can accelerate your impact-driven organization – but adapting your strategy to the right market is crucial. When it comes to SEO, people seem to understand this when there is an obvious language difference. But even when the language remains the same, a one-size-fits-all solution is rarely successful. At Quest, all our solutions are tailor-made to our customer’s needs. 

Local SEO content strategy focuses on overcoming your domestic competition in search engine results. We chose this approach when hired by the U.S.-based  Percent Pledge. Percent Pledge develops customized volunteer programs that are simple, engaging, and transparent. Percent Pledge turned to us to effectively motivate people to volunteer and donate while conveying the company’s fun, yet professional culture. We researched regional keyword opportunities and redefined the organization’s customer journey accordingly. We refreshed the company’s website with SEO-driven copy and multimedia content. Mixed-media imagery is not only central to Percent Pledge’s identity but also a critical factor for visibility in search engine results. 

There are 24 official languages spoken in the European Union alone and up to 200 regional languages. As the world opens up via the internet, various companies are trying to go beyond Europe’s regional fragmentation and market their products and services internationally. This is especially true for B2B businesses, which do not depend on retail distribution and can easily sell their services digitally.

Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) is the only multi-stakeholder organization dedicated to organic cotton. To achieve its goal of becoming the global, trusted go-to authority for organic cotton expertise, Quest Studio developed an international SEO content strategy. International SEO, also known as Global SEO, aims at creating a brand presence and gathering organic traffic from multiple countries. Through extensive keyword research conducted globally, we identified effective content pillars and topic clusters to maximize OCA’s web traffic through strategic internal linking. 

Local SEO is not just more effective for small to medium businesses like Percent Pledge but also works wonders on more homogeneous markets—especially in terms of culture and language—like the US one. While Local SEO focuses on a limited—although highly better targeted—geography, global SEO can open up your business to major international opportunities.

Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

SEO specialists agree that SEO without a proper content marketing strategy is like a body without a soul. Specifically, SEO is strategized around content marketing and content creation, as every website needs copy, articles, keywords, etc. To be successful, the two must go hand in hand.

The foundation of a successful marketing strategy is branding. A solid brand strategy should include clear guidelines on personality, voice, and tone. Successfully conveying your brand identity through your content is critical to achieving your overall marketing goals. At Quest, we create brands that inspire and evoke emotion. Brands that stand out. We make them relevant and recognizable, with compelling and consistent experiences across all touchpoints.

Understanding your customer’s needs and expectations helps you align your content strategy with the addressable needs of your market. When you understand your client’s thoughts and feelings, you can create content that best supports them when they consider your product or service. At Quest, we design sustainable services for customers and tailor finely tuned experiences to meet the needs of all users.

Are you a sustainable business that needs help standing out?

 

At Quest, we can help you scale your impact and accelerate conversions with a tailor-made SEO content strategy. Reach out to our team and help us design the future of impact.

In recent years, global sustainability issues have become increasingly compelling. Especially since the UN launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—which redefined the very concept of sustainability—companies have been pressured into rethinking their impact strategies.

However, while sustainability is a major concern in all areas, from energy to food to fashion, many would say it has quickly become just another buzzword. As active players in the sustainability space, Quest Impact Design Studio feels like the word has lost all meaning. Companies, organizations, and brands are all rushing to polish their green credentials to keep themselves relevant, without most having any real interest in sustainability.

Quest Impact Design Studio

As the demand for sustainability has rapidly increased, the number of sustainability agencies, ESG consultancies, climate action firms—you name it—has grown exponentially. But not all sustainable consulting firms are created equal. Some have the right intentions, many are not doing enough, and some are blatantly greenwashing. 

Founded in 2018 to openly combat greenwashing, Quest Impact Design Studio uses strategy and design as a force for good. But why do we call ourselves an impact design studio?

Impact Design

We view positive impact as an all-encompassing approach. While environmental issues are the most impending concern for the greater good, they cannot be the end-all solution. We have to take care of our communities, our people, and the way we run our businesses. For the planet and for people. For us, impact design literally means designing a sustainable future to align planet, people, and profit. We use impact design to build impactful systems that drive change through strategy and design.

We enact and advocate for positive impact by applying design thinking principles. Our Impact Design Thinking approach combines a holistic, customer-centric perspective with a sustainability-focused mindset. We use impact design thinking to develop creative and innovative strategies that are tailored to our client’s business goals and reflect their sustainable consciousness. 

We do this by learning first-hand from our clients. Instead of offering pre-packaged solutions, we take the time to find out what your business really needs. Quest Impact Scan gives organizations a complete overview of their sustainability practice by interviewing employees from all relevant departments. Then, based on user and employee insights, Quest Impact Accelerator aligns business efficiency and profitability: we co-create actionable impact strategies while upholding your company’s bottom line.

Change-making customers only

At Quest, our main KPI is if we are scaling positive impact. That’s why it’s our core policy to provide our expertise only to the “right” customers and projects. Those who truly want to ignite positive change. Ultimately, our work focuses on supporting our customers in growing and accelerating their businesses. It would be counterproductive to support companies whose businesses harm the planet and people. Not to mention that by doing so, we would miss the goals we have set for ourselves. 

That’s why we believe effective communication surrounding sustainable practices should be a priority for all impact-driven companies. Sustainability reporting allows companies to be more transparent and provides stakeholders and customers better insight into performance beyond the bottom line. Quest Impact Reporting helps companies become familiar with different reporting frameworks and standards and select the most relevant one depending on the sector and stakeholders.

As leading impact consultants, we helped Full Cycle design a more impactful brand presence. The California-based biotechnology company addresses three major global issues: plastic pollution, food waste, and climate change by converting organic waste into PHA, a compostable alternative to oil-based plastics. Quest Studio accelerated the company’s brand presence by refreshing its visual identity. The rebranding included simplifying its solutions to reinforce Full Cycle’s image and stance. Ultimately, the new website we developed facilitated the sales process and provided the company with new funds to further accelerate its impactful solutions.

B Corp Certification

B Lab is the nonprofit network transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet. The international network became known for certifying B Corporations, companies that meet high standards of social and environmental impact. As a certified B Corporation, we see the B Corp certification as an opportunity to further harness the power of impact design. As part of this global community of businesses, we are addressing society’s greatest challenges collectively to enact positive change

At Quest, we are committed to continuing to drive the global B Corp initiative forward. Through our Quest B Corp (Re)Certification, we help organizations determine if B Corp certification aligns with their broader impact strategy, providing intensive training and scaling their current social and environmental impact, all while providing full access to expert guidance and tools.

Quest Studio is also part of B Corp Way, a platform that enables businesses to find B Corp consultancies that can help them address impact challenges. As B Lab’s selected partner in Belgium, we offer mentorship focused on scaling impact through services like Radical Transformation and Marketing. 

Quest Impact Academy 

Ultimately, impact design is all about shaping the future of sustainability. We are committed to mentoring and training businesses toward radical transformation. Through our Impact Academy, we create and deliver custom training and keynotes. Our coaching is focused on inspiring and developing an impact-focused mindset in for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. 

In our Impact Design Thinking training, we teach employees how to apply the principles of impact design thinking and customer-centric innovation while considering the impact of an organization’s products and services. We also offer training on how to use business as a force for good. In the session, our experts present the key global trends and impact business models and inspire organizations with best practice examples.

Are you looking for an impact consultancy that will measure your sustainability actions AND further scale them across your entire organization? Reach out to our team and help us design the future of impact.

Years ago, when I was still in school, the term ‘accessibility’ started gaining momentum as this new and hip thing. The design teachers were all about considering color blindness in user interface design, while the developers instructed us to include alt tags while coding for screen readers. A good start to learn about inclusiveness, you’d say! However, I also remember nobody really caring about any of it. Everybody wanted website design to pop, and inclusiveness just wasn’t cool enough. Well, everybody back then was a fool.

During my years as a UX designer and developer, I have learned the crucial importance of inclusiveness, which is so much more than colors and alt text. And accessibility is just the tip of the iceberg. It is all about the people. And more specifically, about (not) missing out on your target audience. That is what we want at Quest – websites to pop for everyone.

What is inclusive design?

Inclusive design is a human-centered design approach that aims to embrace the whole range of human diversity. It considers cultural, social, and other needs, way past those of the perceived ‘average’ user. Inclusive design principles focus on exploring ways of taking into account a full spectrum of people to ultimately accommodate a diverse market and audience. This includes developing different solutions for different needs when necessary.

Universal design vs inclusive design

Accessibility and inclusivity are crucial in making sure that everyone can use a specific product or solution. Accessibility standards take into account a wide variety of (dis)abilities and needs. Variety is a crucial word here. For instance, there are so many ways in which one can be visually impaired: being blind is extremely different from being far-sighted or colorblind. To deal with these kinds of difficulties, UX designers make use of WCAG 2.1 standards (and soon, WCAG 2.2!). Web Content Accessibility Guidelines define how to make Web content fit for people with special needs covering a wide range of impairments, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological.

Universal design refers to the development of a single solution suitable to the greatest extent possible to all people regardless of their age, size, (dis)ability. Developed in 1997, the 7 Principles of Universal Design guide the design of environments, products, and communications. The notion of universal design originally comes from industrial and product design, and only more recently has expanded to include digital solutions and services.

The difference between inclusive design and universal design is the idea that it is possible—and actually preferred—to develop different solutions to respond to the needs of different groups of people, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Hand-in-hand with sustainable web design

For the longest time, it was believed that digital was greener than print. Luckily, there’s now a growing awareness of the negative impact digital products have on the planet. About 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions are coming from the internet every year. To put this into perspective, if the internet was a country, it would be the 7th largest polluter worldwide. Isn’t it crazy that the internet is polluting the environment, and nobody notices it? Thankfully, the latest web design strategies can lower a website’s carbon footprint substantially. Sustainable web design best practices include avoiding unused functionalities in the code or caring about the UX of the CMS.

The number of businesses taking action against the internet’s emissions is on the rise, and sustainable brands such as Organic Basics are taking the issue, particularly to heart. The Denmark-based company showcases a low-impact website view for its eco-friendly apparel label. The low-impact view reduces the regular website footprint by loading images only when actively requested, minimizing data transfer, limiting the amount of light emitted by the screen, and much more. By continuously adapting to reflect the amount of renewable energy it’s running on, the Organic Basics’ low-impact website reduces carbon emissions by up to 70% in comparison to its regular site. Adjustments like this one are not just more environmentally sustainable, but also more inclusive in terms of audience: users who have slower connections will thank you too!

Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi is also setting an example by committing to an all-encompassing sustainable business approach. It is already known as the B Corp Certified company that emphasizes working with innovative factories that ensure fair labor practices and prioritize workers’ input. Yet unknown to most, the company commits to an accessible web presence. Its website “strives to provide an accessible experience for users of all abilities.” Developed with accessibility and sustainability in mind, Cotopaxi’s website follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. At the bottom of their web page, users can find an “Accessibility Adjustments” section where they can choose the website’s view most suitable to their needs. The website covers a wide range of accessibility profiles such as seizure-safe, ADHD-friendly, and the possibility to adjust features such as content, colors, and orientation.

Cotopaxi's website inclusive design section

Do you want your website to be more sustainable?

Our impact and web design experts can help you tailor a digital strategy that increases your website accessibility while decreasing its carbon footprint.

Inclusiveness every step of the way

Every interface or website developed has multiple phases to go through, and every phase can be inclusive in its own way. When doing analysis work, UX designers can study the audience (which means actually talking to them). When designing an interface, they use their web interaction design expertise. When doing user tests, designers should select users as diverse as possible. Inclusive web design isn’t easy. We are still far from reaching the top of the learning curve, although we made enormous progress since it all started. So, next time you’re showing your amazing new project to your grandparents, be inclusive and make sure they can read the text in the sidebar too!

The magnificent seven are here! We are delighted to announce that Anna Soressi will join Quest as our newest Sustainability Copywriter & Content Marketer.

Skilled writer eager to drive change

A small-town girl with a hectic agenda, Anna set off to find her happy place in this chaotic world. She lived and worked in Italy, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain. As she joins the Quest team, she is coming back to a place where she already left a piece of her heart.

Anna describes herself as an open-minded and outspoken person, two traits that she believes are essential features of her writing skills. During her international experience, she had the chance to explore, both academically and professionally, global sustainability issues, from environmental to social. She got interested in Quest in the first place because she wishes to use her privileged stance to drive positive and impactful change in the world. 

International communicator with a literary flair

Anna majored in Foreign Languages and Literatures, with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies, and holds a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature and Publishing.

With her eclectic background, Anna is experienced in content development, copywriting, and SEO across a variety of industries from big corporations to dedicated NGOs. She joins Quest after a crucial experience in Barcelona at an impact agency specializing in sustainable food systems. There, she learned that every job can be, and should be, a sustainable job. She now seeks to put her expertise and skills at the service of social impact and development work to help guide and support impactful change, and we believe that Quest is definitely the right place to do so!

Through her sound knowledge of SEO marketing, Anna will be responsible for writing and optimizing content for all possible communication channels for both Quest and its customers. She’ll also play an integral role in defining communication and advertising strategies across several platforms and digital spaces.

Wanderer bookworm

In her free time, Anna makes use of her literary degree, devouring any written content she can find. When she’s not making her way through yet another page, she loves to travel, especially to visit her many international friends and all the places she once called home.

Resale is booming tremendously. We see brands announcing their new resale channel every day, and we see a lot of brands making the same mistakes. We listed them in this article so you can avoid them when setting up your own recommerce.

The rise of the resale market

Although buying second-hand was already gaining popularity before COVID-19 struck, the pandemic really accelerated the growth of the resale market. Right now we’re seeing consumers who combine tighter budgets (because of inflation) with a stronger desire for sustainable products. Maybe these consumers were clearing out their wardrobes during the pandemic, to find out they could very easily sell their used clothes through platforms like Vinted.

And then they discovered the art of finding the perfect second-hand catch. A lot of people are addicted to visiting flea markets. Now, many more people are addicted to the digital alternative: finding the perfect bargain on resale platforms. And it’s second-hand, so it must be sustainable. Guilt-free shopping at its best.

Enter the opportunity for brands: what if consumers wouldn’t buy their second-hand Hugo Boss shirt on Vinted but on a dedicated Hugo Boss resale channel?

  • A greener image? Check.
  • Increased customer loyalty? Check.
  • A higher customer lifetime value? Check.

It almost sounds too good to be true. That’s probably the reason why, according to Forbes, the resale market is growing 11 times faster than traditional retail. Also according to Forbes, the resale market is projected to reach around 77 billion USD in the next five years.

Patagonia leads the way

When it comes to setting up a recommerce channel, fellow B Corp Patagonia led the way in the apparel industry by launching Worn Wear in 2017. In an official statement, Patagonia claimed: “Worn Wear is a set of tools to help our customers partner with Patagonia to take mutual responsibility to extend the life of the products Patagonia makes and customers purchase. The program provides significant resources for responsible care, repair, reuse and resale, and recycling at the end of a garment’s life.”

Patagonia got it right: the goal of their program was to celebrate the longevity of their products and to change the way people think about all the stuff they own.

Picture credits: Patagonia

4 mistakes to avoid when setting up a resale channel

1 – Forgetting what it’s all about

In my opinion (I might be a bit biased), reselling products is all about sustainability. It’s about making sure your products are used as long as possible and aren’t thrown away while someone else could use them.

We want people to use existing products longer, so they buy fewer new products. Because new stuff equals more resources needed, more greenhouse gas emissions, and eventually, more waste.

And that’s the catch, of course. The ultimate goal of most producers or fast fashion brands is to make consumers buy more of their products. So some of those brands merely consider their resale channel as a marketing tool and as a way to keep consumers engaged so they buy more new products.

We see brands setting up a resale program and then giving their customers gift cards, vouchers, or discount codes to stimulate participation in the program. Unless these codes or vouchers can only be spent on the resale platform (which is hardly ever the case), this becomes just another way for brands to incentivize their customers to buy new stuff. These brands are missing the whole point of recommence, to begin with. Can you smell the greenwashing?

We cannot allow resale platforms to become an incentive to buy even more new stuff

Michael, Founder – Quest

2 – Not making it an essential part of the brand’s (impact) strategy

We see brands jumping on the resale train rather hastily. “It’s a trend and we need to follow quickly before we miss the boat”. Yes, but you also need to follow in a smart way.

Having a resale program should become an essential part of your general and your impact strategy. You need clear short- and long-term goals on how many used items you sell and how that will impact the number of new items you produce and sell. Continuous monitoring and communication will be key as the importance of authenticity, transparency and full traceability will continue to grow in the next few years. Those brands who play their cards right from the start will be able to turn their resale program into a real long-term differentiator instead of being a one-off gimmick.

Let’s set up a resale channel together

Our impact and service design experts can help you build a resale channel that optimizes your impact, revenue and customer experience

3 – Doing more of the same
Resale platforms offer brands an enormous opportunity to improve their customer journeys. The potential to create extra touchpoints that stimulate brand loyalty can hardly be overestimated. And yet we see way too many boring resale channels that all look alike and don’t add any value to the customers’ experience or the brand’s image.

4 – Not using the revenue potential
Some brands are so focused on the marketing potential that they completely downplay the revenue potential. Resale is here to stay and its importance will only increase in the following years. So you better have a sustainable, long-term business model that uses the potential of resale optimally by turning it into an important revenue stream.

The European Commission presented a package of European Green Deal proposals to make sustainable products the norm, boost circular business models and empower consumers. An important aspect of this new strategy is to tackle fast fashion, textile waste, and the destruction of unsold items. And of course, there’s also the ethical aspect: textiles need to be produced taking into account all human and labor rights. So what’s this new regulation about and what does it mean for fashion brands and manufacturers?

The EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles

The goal of the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles is to ensure that by 2030 all textile products sold on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable, free of hazardous substances, made of recycled fibers as much as possible and produced in respect of social rights and the environment. Additional goals are:

  • Tackling the release of microplastics from textiles
  • Ensuring the accuracy of green claims to avoid greenwashing (finally!)
  • Boosting circular business models
  • Making reuse and repair services economically profitable so they become widespread

EU measures for fashion

The EU has already proposed a number of specific measures:

  • New design requirements for textiles: a.o. mandatory minimums for the inclusion of recycled fibers, making products longer-lasting and easier to repair and recycle.
  • Banning the destruction of unsold products under certain conditions
  • Clearer product labeling and a Digital Product Passport that contains key information on product circularity and environmental aspects
  • A mandatory EU extended producer responsibility scheme and economic incentives to make products more sustainable
  • Supporting the research, innovations, and investments needed for this transition
  • Calling on companies to reduce the number of collections they launch per year
  • Asking EU member states to adopt favorable taxation measures for the reuse and repair sector.

What does this mean for fashion brands and manufacturers?

This means that the negative impacts of the sector will be monitored more closely from now on. Fashion brands and manufacturers will need to integrate sustainability, circularity, transparency, and traceability into their overall business strategy:

 

  • Sustainability and circularity: a strong focus on minimizing the environmental footprint of products and on making products more long-lasting, easy to repair and recycle
  • Transparency and traceability: more transparent labels and more transparency on the entire supply chain. We already see a big rise in traceability platforms and apps, using blockchain technology to validate information most of the time. We expect this rise will speed up drastically.

 

This also means that the race for big fashion brands to claim a specific sustainability position in the market will become more pressing. We can only hope that this time it doesn’t lead to hollow slogans, but inspires true change. Traceability platforms like TrusTrace and Made2Flow can play an important role in this. By now, I think it has become very clear that the brands that limit themselves to doing the bare minimum will lose their momentum in the long term.

For those pioneering, bold fashion brands that already put circularity, sustainability, ethics, and/or traceability at the core of their business model, this means that the number of (big) competitors will increase tremendously. If you’re one of those companies, now’s the time to define your long-term game plan. You know what’s coming, how are you going to use that to gain a competitive advantage rather than being passed by less ambitious organizations who can spend more on their marketing? We also expect to see a lot of large organizations taking over the pioneering, already sustainable brands. To gain their expertise and their image.

Let’s seize the opportunity

You’re a fashion brand and you need help to turn this new regulation into a major competitive advantage? We’re here to help.

Learn from our customers

We’re lucky enough to maximize the impact of a couple of organizations that are working very hard to positively transform the fashion industry:

  • Fashion for Good: the world’s first and biggest sustainable fashion museum and sustainable fashion innovation programme. Fashion for Good searches the globe for the most promising sustainable fashion startups and helps them to scale through (a.o.) an accelerator programme and funding.
  • Global Fashion Agenda: fosters industry collaboration on sustainability in fashion to drive impact. GFA is the organizer of the largest business event on sustainability in fashion, the Global Fashion Summit.
  • New Cotton Project: Twelve pioneering players are working together to demonstrate an entirely circular model for commercial garment production.
  • Organic Cotton Accelerator: OCA wants to unleash organic cotton’s full potential for positive impact. They unite the sector to challenge ‘business as usual’, increase global organic cotton supply, empower organic cotton farmers, and provide a roadmap for systemic change.

So will fast fashion and all its negative effects disappear real soon?

We can only hope that will be the case, but if we’re honest, we don’t think so. This regulation is definitely an ambitious step in the right direction, though. We have to give the big players the time to radically shift their business model, while at the same time push them to not settle for industry minimums.

We love the ambition of the EU to stop greenwashing, but it remains unclear how they are going to track this. Who will define the standards and the line between greenwashing and valid information? Last but not least, we would have loved to see more focus on the ethical and social challenges of fast fashion as well. We don’t see enough focus on these aspects when we look at the measures that are proposed now.

Collective action, between different businesses, but also between businesses and governments is the only way to tilt the scale. So in the end, we are feeling optimistic about this major step taken by the EU Commission. A lot of organizations needed this push. Now it’s up to all relevant governments and businesses to take up their responsibility and make sure that all these beautiful words are finally turned into effective actions.

What is a materiality assessment?

A materiality assessment is a process in which a company’s material topics, i.e. its most relevant ESG aspects, are determined. It’s a strategic prioritization exercise used to identify the issues that (can) have the biggest impact on both your company and your stakeholders.

GRI, the Global Reporting Initiative, introduced the concept of materiality into the sustainability reporting context and made it a cornerstone of their reporting framework. The concept has gained popularity ever since.

Why conduct a materiality assessment?

We see a lot of companies start with a materiality assessment when they want to publish a first impact report. For us, a materiality assessment is a key component of every ESG strategy. It’s the foundation you need to determine the focus of your strategy and the actions needed for implementation. Here’s why:

  • You can’t focus on everything all at once. A materiality assessment helps you to focus your time and money on the most relevant topics for your business and stakeholders.
  • When done right, a materiality assessment links your ESG strategy to your overall business strategy.
  • It allows you to mitigate risks and grasp opportunities when they occur.
  • It offers valuable insights into your position in the market and is the ideal foundation for an ESG differentiation strategy.
  • It allows you to identify key trends that might significantly impact your business and/or stakeholders in the short and long term.

Need help with your materiality assessment?

Our team of in-house experts knows what it takes to engage your stakeholders, define materialities and build a long-term ESG roadmap.

  • 1

    Understand the context and scope

    To start, it’s important to determine the scope and purpose of the materiality assessment. In this phase, we typically perform a risk assessment and a competitor & sector analysis. We also recommend analyzing the requirements of the reporting frameworks and ratings that are most relevant to your company.

  • 2

    A long list of material topics

    The next step is to compose a long list of material topics. Those topics can include both internal and external aspects of your business. Key criteria for this long list:

    • Your company has to be able to manage and influence the material topic
    • The material topic can have an operational and financial impact on your business
  • 3

    Engage internal and external stakeholders

    The goal of this step is to create a list of all your main internal and external stakeholders and find out what they think should be your main priorities. Surveys are a useful tool, but we always prefer to include in-depth interviews in this step as well because they help to understand the context of the stakeholder better.

  • 4

    The materiality matrix: prioritize and select

    In a workshop with all decision-makers, you analyze all insights from the previous steps and make an informed decision to go from a long list to a final list of material topics. The result is visualized in a clear materiality matrix.

  • 5

    Communicate and monitor

    As a final step, you have to make sure all stakeholders, internal and external, understand your materialities. All relevant internal departments should be engaged around these materialities. They should know which materiality KPIs are tracked and they should be involved in the creation of the roadmap to reach all relevant ESG goals. A materiality matrix is a good tool to visually summarize the materialities for all stakeholders.

Dear fellow impact consultant. Do you feel it too? The focus on taking all stakeholders and our planet into account has never been this big. Companies all over the world are racing to make claims and statements on sustainability or ESG. Exciting, isn’t it? And yet I’m still worried about what I see in the field on a daily basis. So here’s a message to you, my dear fellow consultant: let’s focus on evoking true positive change, and not add to the BS any longer.

The rise of the impact consultant

The number of impact consultants is clearly increasing exponentially. From freelancers to agencies and even the biggest management consulting firms. We see a trend of large agencies taking over boutique impact agencies to get the impact knowledge in-house. Heck, we also received a couple of offers to take over Quest.

Makes sense. They notice large companies are finally willing to spend big money on sustainability so they move into that area. That’s good, because we need more people to drive positive change. My only question for these people and organizations is though: how sincere are you?

The rise (and fall?) of impact

Everyone is talking about making an impact or launching ‘impact collections’. All good, but let’s not fall into the typical marketing buzzword bingo trap. Something becomes a trend and then the word is so overused it loses all value. What do ‘sustainability’ or ‘eco’ mean nowadays? Why did we move from CSR to ESG? These terms stopped adding value to the marketing message because they were so hollowed out. That’s exactly what’s happening now with words like ‘impact’ or ‘purpose’. And as an (impact) consultant, you have a major role to play in this case.

So, what if we promise each other this?

1/ Cut the bs, and stop greenwashing

In our first year in business, we refused more revenue than we generated. The reason? The companies who asked us for help didn’t align with our values. In fact, the whole point of starting up Quest was to stop the greenwashing and to only support those who truly wanted to ignite positive changes.

As a consultant, it’s very easy to accept money, play along with your customer and then copy that approach for your next customer. It’s way more difficult to call out bs or greenwashing when you see it. And yet, that’s exactly your responsibility as an impact consultant.

As an impact consultant, it’s your responsibility to call out bs or greenwashing when you see it.

Michael Boschmans, Founder – Quest

We still see too many empty promises combined with a lack of ambition. Being an impact consultant shouldn’t be about making clear what minimal promise a company can get away with. You always have to push for true change. Don’t settle for less. If you don’t push these organizations, who will?

 

2/ Make sustainability a key differentiator

Let’s do an exercise and analyze the impact reports and strategies of the 30 major players in a certain segment on a global scale. What you’ll see is a lot of materiality assessments, (bronze, silver, gold) labels, SDG icons and 2030 or 2050 promises (I wonder what happened to all those 2020 goals?). Don’t get me wrong, all of these are necessary but let’s be honest: if you compare the impact reports and strategies of all 30 organizations, how many of them truly stand out?

In so many industries, the potential to use sustainability as a key differentiator is still huge. As an impact consultant, you cannot attain that level with a classic copy-paste approach. You need to dig deep and analyze the market before you can come up with a unique, ambitious story that differentiates your customer from all others and pushes your customers’ image and profits to new heights.

 

3/ Make yourself and your surroundings proud

At the end of the day, I can say I’m very proud of the work we’re doing with Quest. Every day, we do our best to create positive change together with our amazing change-making customers. We continuously challenge ourselves and our customers and when something doesn’t feel right, we stop doing it. Because the main KPI for all team members is very clear: positive impact.

You don’t get to this level of pride by only saying yes. You need to make choices. Whenever I have to make a hard decision the ultimate question I always ask myself is: will this offer my daughters a better or a worse world to live in? That tends to put things into perspective and make decisions easier.

I wish you an equal amount of amazing change-making customers and an equal sense of pride about the work you’re doing. Because that can only mean you’re enjoying driving positive change. And in that case, we should probably talk soon to discuss a long-term collaboration.

 

What do you think?

After writing an abundant amount of impact and sustainability reports for our clients throughout the years, we thought it was finally our turn to become truly transparent and put our company story out there for the world to see.
2021 was a challenging, and formative year for us, but it was also a productive and prosperous year.

By publicly sharing our first Impact Report, we hope to inspire others to do the same because we believe this is the only way to become a driver for positive change.

Some of our top hits from 2021: 

  • We grew from a team of 3 to 6 in a matter of months
  • We volunteered 344 hours to nonprofit clients
  • We launched our popular impact scan tool 
  • We began evaluating the carbon footprint of our products 


Now we could list all of our achievements and challenges but want to let our Impact Report speak for itself. 
Download our 2021 Impact Report 

B Corp certification is popular, but is it a match for your business? Just because B Corps are trending, it does not necessarily mean everyone understands it. I decided to recap the most frequent misconceptions and questions asked I get about B Corp Certification.

Unsure if B Corp is right for your business? Book your time with our B Leader.

Beyond the Basics

One of the most common questions I receive is: how does a B Corp Certification differ from other sustainability certifications? 

There has been an influx of reputable certifications, frameworks, guides, etc. in the past decade, and I suspect there will be more in the future. It seems that all businesses are searching for the next ‘best’ certification to slap onto their brands. Though this influx of terms and labels completely warrants a fear of increased greenwashing, it is a great example of the changing of times.

As a short answer, B Corp Certification differs from others as it is an all-encompassing assessment that evaluates how every business decision across an entire organization affects people, the planet, and profit.

Compared to other labels or assessments, the B Impact Assessment is not a reporting system nor definition framework but simply a comprehensive approach that builds upon standards such as GRI and IRIS, and others.

Becoming B Corp certified means that you are committed to continuously pushing the boundaries to help shift the paradigm to a more inclusive and sustainable economy

Diana J Garcia

Collaborative Community of Collective Action

When defining the B Corp Certification, you tend to get one of these responses:

  1. It is a Holistic Approach
  2. It is a Movement

But what does that mean? 

To put it in Greta Thunberg’s terms, claiming commitments on sustainability, impact, net-zero, etc. may sound like blah blah blah. Overused. Not acted upon. B Corp Certification for me, however, is moving beyond claims, towards a community movement of action and systems change.

The certification process is hard, but once you are in, I see it as an all-encompassing community that supports your impact goals, uplifts your achievements, and offers guidance in the most difficult business decisions.

Other certifications evaluate your company and provide a stamp of approval. Your company then moves on paving the long way on your own, while B Corp offers a world of potential collaboration with a variety of businesses dedicated to the same vision and goals.

Since I’ve had the personal privilege of collaborating with the community movements in both Toronto and in the Benelux region I have witnessed the credibility and power this collective movement is making across the globe. This is only the beginning of the endless change to come.

Believe in Profitability

One of the biggest misconceptions of B Corps is that profit is a dirty word that is never considered within the certification. On the contrary, one of the main focuses of this movement is to help build a sustainable economy. No matter what universe you are in, that includes economic stability for businesses, people, communities, and the global economy.

All the benefits of being B Corp certified; such as engaged employees, committed consumers, strategic partnerships, marketing amplification, etc. are all designed to lead to increased business growth.

The B Impact Assessment guides you to empower and encourage employees, identify unnecessary and wasteful spending, and the certification itself highlights how to market your new certification, all suited to help you increase your profit margins.

At the end of the day, the certified businesses have to make a profit to continue pushing the movement forward and reinvesting their profit into their people and their larger planetary protection commitments.

Too big yet not big enough

No matter the size of the organization, the question is always the same. Isn’t my company size not fit to be a B Corp? 

The only two requirements for B Corps are the following (though I added one more):

  • You are a for-profit business
  • You have been operating for a year (though there is pending B corps)
  • You are not a harming industry (looking at you, oil and tobacco)

For larger corporations, the process can be more complex but can be a great way to oversee what effects each of your business units causes.

Take the case of Intrepid Travel, it had its 20 subsidiaries complete the assessment to certify the entire organization, now when a subsidiary makes changes that impact its individual BIA score, the parent company can directly see the impact it has on the company-wide score, making the process easier to manage.

For us at Quest, it was our framework to build a strong foundation for our future. We were only four people when we certified, and as we now continue to grow, our building blocks support us and guide us to make better and smarter decisions for our team and community.

Want to become a B Corp?

Our team can guide you through the B Impact Assessment, engage your team and help you become B Corp certified.

It’s Impossible

Look, I’d be lying if I said that the certification process is a walk in the park, because it’s not supposed to be. This process is supposed to not only be a pulse check of how your business decisions impact society but also a further review of your plan of action.

Did you know one out of every three companies certifies? Now, these may not be great odds but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. What I tell any organization struggling to certify – use and trust the framework. Not getting to 80? That is great news! The B Impact Assessment will provide the recommendations you need to get there. The steps are paved out for you to take, it’s just about taking them.

I know this is all easier said than done and if we have learned anything from the Paris Agreement or even COP26, good intentions are worthless without tangible actions…. Isn’t it time we acted?

 

Perfection is NOT the key to success

No business is perfect, nor is any sustainability certification. 

If you disagree with this statement, then B Corp Certification is not for you.

Becoming B Corp certified means that you are committed to continuously pushing the boundaries to help shift the paradigm to a more inclusive and sustainable economy. It is a marathon, not a sprint, meaning just because you are certified, it does not mean the work is done. It’s just begun.

B Corps have to go through a recertification process every three years.

This again is to verify; is this company acting on its goals and commitments? Is it improving its impact or staying stagnant with the current system?

Now, this does not mean the B Impact Assessment is perfect, but it is not supposed to be. Just like its certified companies, the assessment, and third-party assessor, are also processing what it means to be a ‘just’ business. The assessment also gets upgraded every three years to adapt to the global feedback, changing legal requirements, and local needs.

If you haven’t gathered this already, the B Corp Movement and certification is a learning journey that is constantly adapting to push systems to be more inclusive and sustainable for all. We’re glad to be on this transparent journey, and guide you through it too.

Are you ready to start your B Corp journey? Or do you have questions about B Corp certification? Talk to our B Corp expert, Diana.