To mark B Corp month we’ll be diving into each of the five sections of the B Impact Assessment (BIA). This time it's the Environment section. Every business has an impact on its physical surroundings no matter how small. Being a Better Business involves looking after the planet. We all use energy and natural resources as inputs to make our companies run — even if we don’t make a physical product — and we all create waste at the other end of the process as well.
The planet is one of your stakeholders too. You’d probably expect a comprehensive impact measurement tool to examine your environmental performance and the BIA is no different. As with other areas it takes an holistic approach — it’s not just about emissions. If you’ve already undertaken some form of environmental audit such as carbon footprinting or ISO 14001 certification then you’ll find it complements this part of the BIA. If you haven’t then don’t worry, it will give you some pointers as to what you should be starting to monitor and measure.To mark B Corp month we’ll be diving into each of the five sections of the B Impact Assessment (BIA). This week’s theme is Environment. Every business has an impact on its physical surroundings no matter how small. Being a Better Business involves looking after the planet. We all use energy and natural resources as inputs to make our companies run — even if we don’t make a physical product — and we all create waste at the other end of the process as well.
Let’s take a look at what’s involved:
The first part is an introductory overview of how you manage your environmental footprint. You’ll be asked how important it is to your business, what facilities you own and any existing management systems or that you have in place. If you only lease premises or perhaps have remote working then that doesn’t get you off the hook! You can still influence your landlord or set suitable policies for your employees around travel for example. Companies that manufacture will also be asked if their products have undergone any assessments such as life cycle analysis.The remainder of the section is broken down into different aspects of the physical environment that surrounds us all.
Air and Climate
Here you’ll be asked a number of questions related to one thing: energy. How much you use, where it comes from, is any of it from renewable sources, what measures you’ve taken to reduce the total and offsetting. It can get pretty detailed and you’ll need to have a good handle on tracking your energy use. For example you’re asked if you’ve measured your Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re not sure what they are then here’s a simple explainer from Green Element, an environmental management consultancy and, naturally, a B Corp too.
Whether you use a lot of water in your manufacturing processes or just a little bit to fill the kettle in the office, if you measure how much you’re consuming you’ll input that data here. How you manage water stewardship for both you and your supply chain (if relevant) is explored as well.
Land and Life
Your business operations will inevitably create waste either directly, through your supply chains, or more likely, both. You’ll be asked to report how much, what types you produce e.g. hazardous waste, and what you do with it all. Is it recycled? Used as source material elsewhere? Or does it go to landfill? There are also questions about biodiversity and chemicals.
The ethos here — as with water and energy — is for your business to understand what its impact is as a starting point, and you can’t do that without some measurement, monitoring and management. Once you have established a baseline you can then set targets in these areas too. If you’ve already done that then the BIA allows you to tell B Lab what those targets are and how you’re progressing to meet them.
A dose of inspiration
The process of certifying as a B Corp gives those pioneering companies the opportunity to talk about how they are going beyond industry norms to raise standards by embedding sustainable practices into their business models — perhaps being regenerative in some way. They’ve decided to do better things, not just do things better. And quite rightly, the BIA rewards them by recognising the deeper, broader positive impact that they create. Many B Corps think deeply about how they can be better stewards of the planet. One such (a favourite of ours) is Elvis and Kresse. It’s a brand that makes luxury lifestyle accessories such as handbags. What’s so special about that? Their entire range is created from rescued raw materials that would otherwise end up in landfill, and even better, this was the idea behind starting the business in the first place. Since 2005 they have been taking decommissioned fire hoses from the London Fire Service and turning them into desirable products, and they’ve expanded to use other hard-to-dispose-of materials in their designs too. By deliberately using the business to tackle a waste problem over 200 tonnes of firehose is now adorning peoples homes rather than being buried underground. And they donate 50% of their profits to charity too.
One company that is definitely looking after the planet.