“Because the world is changing, we can never assume that the way we have done things in the past is adequate for the future.”
- Yvon Chouinard, Founder, Patagonia
As we started to formalize Neon’s why, our reason for being as a business, one thing was clear: we wanted to build products that matter.
Diving deeper into that mission, we realized purpose was a key ingredient. To better understand how to operate a business and build products through the lens of purpose, we needed to equip ourselves with knowledge that would allow us to codify this philosophy into our DNA.
Enter B Corporation certification, or B Corp.
B Corp is a growing movement that believes doing business as usual is not sufficient for the future. There were less than 500 B Corp companies in 2007. Today, there are more than 3,800 worldwide. The B Corp certification recognizes businesses for meeting “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
As Neon president, Ivelina Vladimirova, wrote in a previous post:
Several individuals first brought this idea to the table, and it quickly gained traction with the wider Neon team. Becoming a B Corp isn’t easy, nor should it be. It’s a big investment. It’s also something the whole organization needs to rally behind, rather than a top-down change.
As we embarked on our B Corp journey, we found few examples we could really connect to, given that we build digital products with partners. For example, how can a software developer help to make choices that benefit people and the planet? That’s why we’ve decided to share stories from our journey, in hopes that others can use them as a guiding light.
Every organization is different, but, here’s why we’re pursuing B Corp certification:
We not only wanted to ‘talk the talk,’ we knew we needed to ‘walk the walk.’ B Corp companies are required to complete and submit the B Impact Assessment (BIA) every three years. The BIA evaluates a company's impact on workers, the community, the environment, customers, and how the business is governed.
This isn't simply a filling-out-a-form kinda thing; it’s a rigorous process that requires documentation, including financial information, policies, team survey results, and more. To certify as a B Corp you need a BIA score of 80+ out of about 200 points. Additionally, your business’ legal structure must be changed to meet B Lab’s criteria.
The assessment criteria is updated roughly every three years by an independent, multi-stakeholder council composed of international experts on sustainable business. This council ensures the most important and up-to-date information is represented in the certification criteria, which allows us to stay informed on the latest ways to run our business with purpose.
While we were on our way, the pandemic reaffirmed our decision to become a B Corp and build the best business possible for all of our stakeholders. Following the BIA criteria, here’s how we’ve started to improve:
Governance — B Corps in Canada are required to become benefit companies and adopt a social or environmental mission. We’ve now updated our articles of incorporation (operational regulations that define a company’s purpose) to include:
The Company commits to advance public benefit by creating products or providing services for purpose-driven organizations who conduct their business in a responsible and sustainable fashion and who have stated that they conduct their own business for the public benefit.
We share financial statements and communicate openly with our team about Neon’s performance, which allows us to build trust and empower people to make informed decisions.
We’ve also incorporated multiple touch points that give our board members, partners, community, and other stakeholders opportunities to share feedback — ensuring we can address problems in real time and create a positive environment for all.
Workforce — We put our people first and ensure they’re treated fairly through compensation, benefits, and training. When we win as a business, our team wins as well. We provide a safe environment for physical and mental wellbeing and distribute anonymous surveys to measure how our team feels about everything from inclusion to the type of partners we work with.
We also offer flexible working arrangements that allow our team to plan around meetings and required deliverables. We know the nature of work is ever-changing and each individual will have different needs and preferences.
Community — Being a better business includes seeing your company as part of the local community and helping it to thrive alongside you. To put our community first, we’ve implemented a criteria for choosing suppliers that prioritizes local or minority-owned businesses, along with those who are also striving to have meaningful impact.
We also commit to bettering our local community through job creation, volunteering (such as outdoor cleanups and pro bono projects), charitable giving, and other forms of service.
Partners (Customers) — B Corps see quality services as a core way to deepen value and business impact. We ensure our services improve our partners’ businesses, and in return, those services improve their customers’ lives through the digital products we build. We work closely with our partners and quantify our impact through stakeholder and user interviews, market research, and project retrospectives.
Prioritizing partnerships with purpose-driven businesses allows us to pursue our mission of building products that matter. When we engage with partners who don’t have a clear social or economic guidepost, we’ll work with them to help identify one.
Environment — As a services business, our physical footprint is small, so we focus on making environmentally sound product development decisions and offsetting our emissions. We also evaluate and measure the materials we use, our total emissions (office, travel, etc), and our resource and energy usage (including our digital services practices).
Our certification submission process showed that we were already doing many of these things; we just hadn’t documented them. As a B Corp, formal documentation ensures your impact legacy lives on through both current and future team members.
People often say you can go further together, and we believe this to be true.
As we join the B Corp community, we’re becoming part of something bigger than ourselves. B Corp businesses are in it for the long run. They consider the big picture — beyond selling products for fast profits. We’ve begun planning out our 10+ year roadmap and how we want to show up in our community, knowing the decisions we make today compound to become our future business.
As part of this community, we have an opportunity to learn from fellow business leaders who are further ahead on their impact journey. This primarily comes from participating in B Local Vancouver (a regional chapter of the B Corp community) meetups, which include monthly gatherings and events covering topics such as climate leadership, diversity and inclusion, and more.
Neon is a services business, so we have our own community of partners. While we’ve been focused on equipping ourselves with the tools required to run a purpose-driven business, we’re now exploring how we can extend these tools to our partners in our work together.
What we’ve shared is only a snippet of what we’ve learned and what’s been happening behind the scenes. Becoming a B Corp isn’t only about accumulating points for certification; it’s about finding what works for your business and discovering how you can use it as a force for good (whatever “good” means to you).
At the time of writing, we’re just under 90 points and have officially submitted our B Impact Assessment. Our next steps include a submission review with B Lab. During that review period, there may be some normal fluctuation in our points. We can’t wait to share once we’re official.
Ultimately, becoming a B Corp isn’t a destination. It’s a journey – and we’re so excited to have you along for the ride.
Note: it’s free to complete the B Impact Assessment to see how your business stacks up against the criteria. Even if you haven’t decided to become a B Corp, you can use this tool to strengthen your company’s foundation for good.