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.