“Certified B Corporations are leaders in the global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. Unlike other certifications for businesses, B Lab is unique in our ability to measure a company’s entire social and environmental impact.”
From B Lab, the nonprofit network behind the certification.
So – what is a B Corp?
B Corps use the power of business to address social and environmental problems. A certified B Corporation is a company that has a purpose beyond profit, and can prove it. All B Corps have voluntarily met the high standards set by B Lab, are able to measure their social and environmental performance, and are committed to continuing improvement.
We’ll get to the details shortly, but as an overview, the standards cover a company’s impact in key areas:
The standards are intentionally set high, to filter out all but the most serious and committed companies. It’s not easy to get here, so if you’re looking for a quick “pay-to-play” type accreditation, then this isn’t it.
Why did we choose to become a B Corp?
Travelling is a wonderful thing.
But it can do harm in many ways.
Cruise ships. Private jets. Overtourism. Too many unnecessary internal flights in tour operator itineraries. Local people suffering from an increasingly stratified economy.
However – we have seen many times first-hand how “good tourism” works. During a recent trip to Tambopata Research Centre in the Amazon, our CEO Mirjam and her family were blown away by how tourism done right can be a force for good.
As an agency, we want to be on the right side of history. We want to encourage the right kind of tourism. We want to balance profit with people. We want to recruit the best talent to do the best work we can do for our clients. We want to safeguard the planet.
And unexpectedly by doing so, our profits went up and so did staff retention. But more about that later.
Using our influence and being a driver for change
B Corp status allows us to actively address the challenges in the industry, and be a driver for change. We can use our influence in the industry to bring about positive change.
We are doing this through our pro bono work with the Conscious Travel Foundation and by changing the way we work with our clients – helping them to become more responsible in what they do. Some of them have become real trailblazers in the area, and others are demonstrating an eagerness to become more responsible.
We can help them on their journey, through what we’ve learnt on our own journey.
So, should your travel brand become a B Corp, too?
Here are our some of the expected (and unexpected) benefits, and some things we wish we’d known before
In a word: YES! Here are just a handful of benefits you might not have considered from becoming a B Corp as a travel brand.
1. Staff retention and recruitment
More and more young people are quitting companies because they feel their values don’t align with theirs.
Recruitment and retention in hospitality and travel is a huge issue. Travel PR is a highly competitive industry, and good talent is hard to come by. Staff turnover in the PR industry in the UK sits at a whopping annual 30%. That means 1 in 3 employees will leave your business each year.
If you want to have the best employees who are loyal and committed, becoming a B Corp can help you attract them – and keep them.
We were drawn to B Corp status as an accreditation because it doesn’t just focus on the planet; it’s holistic. It’s about planet, profit AND people.
We knew that by being a company that puts purpose before profit, we could attract better staff and retain them for longer.
Sunday Times Best Places To Work recognised us for this in 2023, giving us some of the highest employee satisfaction scores in the UK.
This in turn benefits our clients. Our team is highly motivated to do a good job for our clients, and they stay for a long time – so clients don’t have to constantly get to know a new PR consultant (which we know is a major frustration).
So if you run a hotel, a tour operator or a tourist board, and especially if you are reliant on a younger work force B Corp can make a tangible difference to your staff recruitment efforts and considerably lower recruitment costs.
Happy, committed employees make for happy clients. Happy clients pay more and stay with you for longer. It really is that simple.
3. Having a purpose and agency to drive positive change
The world right now is full of troubles. It can often feel like you can’t do anything or change anything.
Politicians aren’t listening, institutions are failing. But when you become a B Corp, you realise that you can be the difference you want to see in the world. You become a collective force for good.
You realise what a positive catalyst for change you can be in your own industry. We have been invited to speak at conferences and webinars as a result of our commitment to better travel and better business. And we have won many clients, who share our commitment - and we are incredibly proud to work with them.
But like we said – it was hard work getting here. And we made mistakes along the way. Learn from ours, so your path to B Corp status isn’t quite as bumpy as ours was!
What we learnt on our road to B Corp
We made mistakes, sure. But we also learnt some valuable lessons. We’ll share them with you here.
Lesson 1 – work with a B Leader
B Leaders are consultants, trained to guide companies through B Corp accreditation.
We initially tried doing it on our own, but the accreditation system and requirements are so complex, we wasted huge amounts of time developing policies that weren’t quite right. So after a year trying to do it ourselves we engaged a B Leader.
We spent around £5,000 on our B Leader – and it was the best investment we could have made. A very special thanks also goes to B Corp consultant Camilla Barnes of Better Business Better World for her immense guidance and support throughout our application.
Lesson 2 – focus on the big points first
Accreditation is achieved through a points-based system. You need to achieve a minimum of 80 points to get accredited. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but developing an inclusive HR policy for example would give you 0.5 points. So you can quickly see how much work is involved to gain just 0.5 points.
Our recommendation is to focus on the biggest point winners first to make gains quicker. The little things all add up – but you might find that some of them are already in motion at your organisation, as we did.
Lesson 3 – aim for more points than necessary
As we mentioned you need to get a minimum of 80 points. Our B Corp leader strongly encouraged us to aim for 100 points as you will inevitably get marked down. For example, the fact that we have a 4 day week at full 5 day pay didn’t get us any points as the concept of a 4 day week is so new it hadn’t made it into the evaluation criteria of B Corp yet. In the end we achieved 96 points – and every single one was hard won!
Lesson 4 – document everything. EVERYTHING!
Keep documents of everything you do, as you will need it for evidence at the verification stage. If you don’t have sufficient evidence in B Lab’s eyes, you could have points deducted…
How much time do you need to set aside for B Corp accreditation?
Our colleague Tori spent 2 days a week over the course of a year working on our B Corp accreditation.
This time was spent coordinating, changing policies, implementing new policies, organising training… And the rest of the team probably spent 5% of their time a week working on implementing B Corp changes and policies, and changing how they work with clients.
From October 2022 to February 2023, we built out the points and made the changes. We submitted everything in February 2023, and after a long validation process, we were accredited in October 2023.
How does it work?
B Corp certification requires a B Impact Assessment score of 80+ points. It’s an online portal that you log into, and the testing is ongoing.
The assessment is broken down into sections, and each question within these sections gives you a number of points. They tend to be a bit like multiple choice – so you might be able to claim for some, but not all.
Some of these will be quick wins, as you will be doing them already – or it might be that your company fits a certain criteria from the off.
It’s set up as tick boxes that tally up the points as you go. Once you know what points you potentially have, you then go back and work out where to focus your time and make the changes to increase your initial score.
You can see which points are the biggest, so it’s good to tackle those first. As an example, changing our banking over to Triodos, the only truly ethical bank in the UK gave us a lot of points. Having a company pension that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels is another one. And finally, our commitment to giving away 5% of our total annual revenues was another.
You then have to look at policy updates or changes to your suppliers – goodbye Amazon, hello to other B Corps and small local companies!
As you make changes, you update your assessment, which helps you to keep track of how many points you have. You have to document everything, because it will all be required at the verification stage to prove that you’ve done it. Bank statements for the change in bank, statements of the company healthcare provider, copy of the changes within the staff handbook… every little change.
And you just keep going, until you score 80 points or more.
Be careful, because you can have points taken off you if you don’t have enough evidence to support your claims, or if you haven’t quite met a standard in B Lab’s eyes. So, aim to submit when you have more than the required score of 80 – we would say 90 at the very least, but we aimed for 100.
The changes we are most proud of:
1. Reducing our carbon footprint
When booking travel for us and our travel journalists, we now think “train” before we think “plane”. And it’s amazing just how easy (and fun!) it can be to travel in other ways. It’s important that we focus on this for clients, as so many travellers are looking for other means to journey overseas now – and multimodal travel is going to become a much more popular trend, especially with Europe’s MDMS initiative coming into play.
We put this into practice for our recent Travel with Purpose Media Roadshow, where we travelled the country on public transport and using electric vehicles. This saved us 586kg’s of carbon, equivalent to 1.75 square metres of ice.
2. Impactful change on all client agendas
On every conference call with our clients, we now have an agenda point called “impactful change”. We’ve added this to all client agendas, as a way of discussing small changes that cumulatively have a big impact on reducing their carbon footprint. Think: vegan launch dinner instead of roast beef. Group press trips by train instead of plane. No more printed brochures and no plastic gifts for journalists that end up on landfill. This way we can share information and ideas with clients, keeping social and environmental change at the forefront.
3. Carbon literacy and diversity training to avoid greenwashing
Our recent training on diversity really highlighted to us how we can make an impact by helping clients lead the way. Just making relatively small changes in their messaging and social posts or photography will make them more inclusive, and open them up to a much wider audience.
We are currently all undergoing carbon literacy training – which is actually an accreditation in itself – and we will be able to pass what we learn to clients. This will help us reduce our carbon footprint even further, as individuals and as a company. Our clients can be confident that we can assist with their messaging to avoid greenwashing. Especially important, as journalists are looking for agencies that understand their claims when it comes to sustainability and impactful travel.
4. Our social and environmental company objectives
All employees – including our CEO and MD – have specific social and environmental company objectives. If we don’t reach them we don’t get our bonus, salary increase or promotion.
5. Our inclusive recruitment process
We send blind CVs, removing names, gender, location and ethnicity data. We go out to job centres and recruiters that specialise in minority groups, trying to make it a fairer playing field for everyone. We have also amended our job specs to make them more inclusive.
6. Volunteer days and charity fundraising
We’re making community and national charity contributions, and give 5% of our revenues in pro bono work to the Conscious Travel Foundation.
7. Webinars and speaking opportunities to drive change in the industry
Our B Corp status gives us a platform to speak out, and to encourage and help others along the way. We’ve also joined the global B Corp community, alongside like-minded companies and individuals, and are always looking for new ways to learn and grow.
8. Turning down prospective clients who are not committed to positive change
We now have a checklist of minimum acceptable criteria for taking on new clients. Clients need to fulfil a certain number of criteria to show they are committed to positive change. We appreciate nobody is perfect so we help them become more responsible. We want to take on and continue to work with the right clients, who want to make a positive impact like we do.
9. Client NPS and an opportunity to send feedback = planting trees in our Scottish forest
This gives us a way to monitor that our clients are happy with the team and with our work. For every bit of feedback – positive and negative – we plant a tree in our Scottish forest.
10. Employee surveys and a whole range of benefits for the team
We conduct weekly staff satisfaction surveys. Our minimum aim is a team happiness score above 80%. We have also introduced private health insurance, the 4 day week at full 5 day pay, dental and mental health insurance and we will be introducing more benefits next year such as critical illness insurance. This has kept our employee attrition levels way under the industry average.
A happy, committed team means happy clients – and a happier place for us to all work together.
So what happens once you are accredited?
Getting the B Corp accreditation is only the beginning. Once you have your 80+ points to get accredited, you should aim to get better every year.
We are currently at 96.2 points – and this is what we are doing now to make that even higher:
1. Carbon literacy training
Our team is undergoing thorough carbon literacy training, to become catalysts for change and to be able to advise our clients. With so many companies nervous about greenwashing, this will be incredibly valuable to us and our clients.
This course, accredited by The Carbon Literacy Trust, will enable us to formally certify as Carbon Literate citizens. We’ll explore the sustainability landscape and its effect on people, the planet and profitability.
It’ll also look at the critical role of organisations, and the part marketers must play in responding to the sustainability challenge.
2. Continuing and expanding our work with The Conscious Travel Foundation
This nonprofit membership organisation supports travel brands to become more responsible and sustainable, through training and education. We dedicate 5% of our time to supporting The Conscious Travel Foundation.
3. Supporting our clients in becoming more sustainable
We’ll be offering carbon literacy training to our clients in the future. Watch this space.
4. Helping journalists reduce their carbon emissions
We try to organise press trips either by train, or by grouping several clients together so that the travel costs are reduced for them – and the carbon emissions per trip go down. Every one of our press trip invites lists the carbon cost of travelling by train vs plane. Thereby subtly encouraging journalists to take the train option and ideally combine several of our clients in one trip.
5. Rolling out our Green Travel Policy
We are rolling out a green travel policy – which will no longer allow short business trips to be taken by plane. Instead, we’re encouraging clients to have video meetings with us, or we’ll combine the trip with another trip, to reduce total emissions.
6. Team taking part in the 100 points challenge
Our team has embraced the 100 points Sustainable Marketer Challenge. Through this initiative, we seek to deepen our understanding of the climate emergency and our role as responsible marketers. Our goal is to earn the Sustainable Marketer badge by reaching 100 points; gaining points from different learning resources, such as books, podcasts, quizzes and more.
Why travel brands should work with a B Corp PR agency
A B Corp certified travel PR agency operates with a heightened focus on social and environmental impact. This means you get a sustainably operated, ethical partner and supplier – not a profit-driven enterprise. This extends to all operations; from client engagement to internal policies.
Basically it’s a massive green flag that you can trust your agency to do good work for you, its people, and the planet at large.
Our journey towards B Corp certification has given us valuable insight into the challenges faced by many travel brands venturing into sustainability. The not quite knowing where to begin with it all or the fear of facing repercussions for their sustainability claims, it’s crucial to acknowledge that taking any step, no matter how small, is a significant stride towards a more sustainable future. And B Corp certification can act as a guiding framework – it certainly has been that for us.
The B Corp certification represents more than just a badge; it signifies our dedication to creating a meaningful impact. As we continue to evolve, we remain focused on maintaining our commitment to sustainability and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Together, let's shape a future where responsible travel is not just a choice but a standard.
Let’s talk about your travel brand and your goals. Send a message to email@example.com – or call 01865 237990.