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B Corps are not a new phenomenon. Some of our favourite brands have had B Corp certification for years – does Ben and Jerrys ring a bell?
What’s a new and growing phenomenon, however, is the concept of a B Corp law firm… so what is it?
B Lab was founded in 2006 in the United States with the first businesses to receive certification in 2007. This certification is rigorous and requires reassessment every three years.
Businesses must often re-wire their mission statement and business model to create a transparent, objective and accessible view on their ESG performance. This includes editing articles of association to insert a commitment to have a material positive impact on society and the environment resonating in every decision the company takes.
Read this Commercial Question: ‘ESG policies and the lawyer/client relationship’.
Yes, ESG is certainly a buzzword at the moment- and as we have seen many businesses simply pay lip service to it. We recently saw this with the Gender Pay Gap Bot exposing companies who advocated for International Women’s Day with their often shocking pay gap statistics.
To find out more about gender equality, read this LCN Feature: ‘The fight for gender equality continues’.
How are we supposed to know who is really putting in the work to ensure their business is sustainable? B Corp certification is very much the answer to this question. B Corp appreciates that businesses are ultimately there to make profit and compete in a competitive marketplace, but it refuses to make compromises on ethics and sustainability – a fine balance that many corporations struggle to meet.
Read this Commercial Question to find out the current ESG developments in finance: ‘ESG and the finance market’.
It has been widely quoted that B Corp is the ‘Fairtrade’ of the business world and allows you to essentially shop organically for your services by placing trust in its seal of approval. This makes it, in my opinion, a law firm’s new best friend.
Law firms with B-Corp status
The first law firm to obtain B-Corp status in the UK was Bates Wells in 2015. This was a natural move for a firm that is a market leader in the charity, social enterprise and sustainability space. Still, it has gained a lot of momentum as a competitive advantage in the legal marketplace since then.
This competitive advantage has two sides to it, the first being that it attracts the kind of clients who are likely to have the same values as the firm, providing productive and long-lasting relationships.
The second is that it attracts a lot more talent going forward; it’s no secret that people increasingly want to work for companies that meet their values and, in a highly competitive talent market like law, this can be one of the best ways to attract that talent.
What I find interesting about Bates Wells’ approach to certification is that, not only has it massively boosted the firm’s sustainability and ethics reputation, but it has created business for the firm.
The firm now offers services and advice to clients who want to become B Corps themselves from a position of personal experience. This really compounds the value of certification and how it enhances corporate profit models rather than holding them back.
The latest law firm to obtain B Corp status in the UK is the ever-expanding Mishcon de Reya LLP. The firm became a B Corp last year, which ties seamlessly into its plans to go public on the stock market this year.
The process to initial public offering for Mishcon de Reya has been rocky this year so far but I think the move to certification is proof that firms recognise it as a competitive tool in the market –once Mishcon de Reya goes public, B Corp certification is a huge asset that will attract those looking to invest sustainably.
The transparent nature of the B Corp allows investors to make quick decisions without the need to do much deep diving into the firm’s sustainable practices, the ‘Fairtrade stamp’ proves that the work has already been done for them.
So far, there are three B Corp law firms in the UK but soon this number is likely to grow. As more and more corporates are called-out and held accountable for their mere lip-service to ethics and sustainability, the B Corp will help firms navigate their way.