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 

1. How is B Corp certification different from other sustainability certifications?

Sustainability certifications, frameworks, guides, etc. have been trending in the last decade, and more will be in the future. It seems that all companies are looking for the next “best” certification to stick onto their branding and websites. While this proliferation of terms and labels certainly justifies the fear of increasing greenwashing, it is also a great example of the changing times. 

B Corp certification differs from others because it is an all-encompassing assessment that evaluates how every business decision impacts people, planet, and profit. Compared to other evaluations, the B Impact Assessment is not a reporting system but a comprehensive approach that builds on standards such as GRI and IRIS, amongst others. Want to compare different sustainability assessments? Check out the new Impact management project.

2. What does a holistic approach mean?

When you hear B Corp Certification, you tend to get responses like: 

  • It is a Holistic Approach
  • It is a Movement

While other certifications assess your business and simply give a stamp of approval, B Corp certification goes beyond mere commitments to sustainability, impact, net-zero and leads to a collaborative movement of action and systems change.

Becoming a B Corp means joining an all-encompassing community of companies committed to the same vision and goals that support your impact goals, advance your performance, and guide you through crucial business decisions.

As a certified B Corp, Quest Studio team has the privilege of knowing the community from the inside and has experienced the credibility and the power this collective movement is making across the globe. We strongly believe that this is only the beginning of the endless ripples of change to come. That is why Quest Studio is part of B Corp Way, a platform that enables businesses to find B Corp consultancies to help them address impact challenges. As B Lab’s selected partner in Belgium, we offer mentorship focused on scaling impact.

Quest Impact Design Studio

Unsure if B Corp is right for your business?

3. Is it possible to be profitable and sustainable?

One of the biggest misconceptions about B Corps is that sustainability hinders business growth. On the contrary, one of the main purposes of this movement is to help build a sustainable economy, which includes economic stability for businesses, people, communities, and the global economy. 
Therefore, all the benefits of B Corp certification, such as engaged employees, committed consumers, strategic partnerships, and marketing reinforcement help scale businesses. B Lab itself highlights how you can market the certification to help you increase your profit margins. Ultimately, certified companies need to make a profit if they are to continue to drive the movement forward and reinvest their profits to uphold their commitment to the planet and people.

4. Is my company size fit to be a B Corp?

The answer is: B Corp Certification is for every for-profit business of any size. The only two current requirements are the following:

  • You are a for-profit business
  • You have been operating for a year 

In addition, B Lab also clearly states that companies involved in coal mining and oil sands extraction, anti-climate lobbying, or that have compensation and performance incentives linked to fossil fuels, are ineligible for certifying. 

Large Enterprises

 

For larger corporations, the process of becoming a B Corp can be more complex, but it can be a great way to monitor the impact each business unit is causing. 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.

Small to medium businesses

 

For smaller organizations, B Corp Certification can primarily be a  framework to formalize standards and guidelines. At Quest Studio, we used it as a frame of reference to build a strong foundation for our future. We were only four people when we certified, and now as we continue to grow, our building blocks support us and guide us to make better and smarter decisions for our team and community. 

For small businesses and startups, there is also the Pending B Corp status, which is designed to give these types of companies time to prepare for the rigorous process of full B Corp Certification. Becoming a Pending B Corp is not the same as becoming a Certified B Corp. After a definite period of time determined by the regional B Lab or Sistema B organization, they must go through the full verification process.

B Corp certification score icon

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.

5. Is it hard to certify as a B Corp?

The certification process is definitely not easy, nor should it be. The numbers show that only one out of every three companies gets certified. Ultimately, the process is intended to be a pulse check of how your business decisions impact society and an in-depth review of your action plan.

We advised all companies seeking to certify to use and trust the framework. Not getting to 80? The B Corp Assessment provides you with the recommendations you need to reach that goal. The steps are paved out for you to take – it’s just about taking them. We know this is all easier said than done and if we have learned anything from the Paris Agreement or even COP27, it’s that good intention is worthless without tangible action…. But isn’t it time we acted?

6. Why should you take part in the B Corp movement?

No business, sustainable or otherwise, is perfect, nor is any sustainability certification. 

Becoming B Corp certified means that you are committing to continuously pushing the boundaries to help shift the paradigm to a more inclusive and sustainable economy. It is a marathon, not a sprint: becoming a certified B Corp is just the beginning of the journey, not the end goal. That is why B Corps have to go through a recertification process every three years to verify if the company is acting on its goals and commitments and is improving its impact. 

One of the movement’s foundational principles is continuous improvement. That is why, just like its certified companies, and third-party assessor, the B Impact Assessment also updates every three years to adapt to the global feedback, other standards organizations, and regulations from government bodies globally. 

In September 2022, B Lab introduced the latest standards for B Corp Certification, which will be moving away from the 80-point score to one where all B Corps must meet requirements on ten specific topics that define leadership on social, governance, and environmental business impact.

Ultimately, the Movement and certification are part of 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 hope to guide you through it too.

Are you ready to start your B Corp journey? 

 

Or do you have more questions about B Corp certification?