Beyond increased profit margins, a growing number of businesses are looking to rethink what success means to them, taking into account the social and environmental impacts of their activities. B Corp certification helps them assess their practices and devise innovative ways to go a step further for the common good.
Launched in 2006 by U.S.-native Jay Coen Gilbert, B Corp certification recognizes businesses that work to enhance the sustainability of our economies and boost our collective well-being. In this light, B Corp also aims to inspire other organizations to join the movement.
Certification focuses on five key themes: environmental impact, social impact, treatment of employees, effects on customers and governance. More than 2,700 business in 60 countries and across 150 industries now rely on B Corp to show them the way. Among them are giants like Danone and Patagonia, but also small local businesses like Montreal-based beekeeping company Alvéole, which has been B Corp-certified since January 2018. And since last summer, GSoft has decided to go along for the ride.
“Since its early days in 2006, GSoft has aspired to play a positive role in society,” comments Catherine Ouellet-Dupuis, director, legal and governance at GSoft. “We want to improve work life. But what does that mean exactly? And are we actually achieving that?”
In the summer of 2018, drawn to idea of measuring GSoft's efforts to date, Catherine Ouellet-Dupuis and her co-worker Catherine Salvail, consultant, media relations and public affairs at GSoft, began answering the 200-question survey that B Corp puts at the disposal of businesses, to gauge GSoft's eligibility for certification.
The project quickly won over the GSoft community: “Just as we were starting to pick away at our audit, members of the executive committee were elaborating the strategic plan for 2019. They decided that obtaining B Corp certification would be a priority for the company,” adds Catherine Ouellet-Dupuis. “The project was only just starting to take off and here we were getting all sorts of resources: time, an intern, an admin. That's GSoft for you: things move fast!”
In order to be granted B Corp certification, businesses must obtain at least 80 points out of 200, demonstrating their commitment. After evaluating the practices already in place within the company, GSoft had racked up about 60 points out of 200.
Looking to get a passing grade, it was decided that more work would be done across the three following themes: social impact, environmental impact and governance. “That might sound ironic, given that GSoft was voted one of the 50 best-managed companies in Canada,” says Catherine Ouellet-Dupuis. “But up until then, management was great because we worked well as a community. B Corp has helped us formalize those practices; we've drawn up our code of ethics, for example, and we also take it one day at a time.” “At GSoft, obtaining B Corp certification was a natural progression,” adds Catherine. “I think that's why the project has been so well received by employees and management.”
Each of the three themes has its own committee, made up of employees from all over who joined out of interest. “People tell us that they love going to the meetings” explains Catherine Salvail. Proof that people are excited about the project! Each committee is tasked with selecting interventions to carry out quickly to live up to B Corp standards, and then executing them.”
Among those interventions, we've adopted a donation and volunteering policy. “GSoft has always been a generous donor and our employees do volunteer work, but since we didn't really have a strategy, the fear was that those actions would fall by the wayside,” explains Catherine Ouellet-Dupuis. Thanks to the new B Corp processes, GSoft's donation strategy is now better focused and easier to measure.
The pluses of B Corp certification at GSoft are numerous and allow the company to devise common strategies, with the intention of making a positive impact on the community. “The committee in charge of social engagement decided on two sectors of intervention,” explains Catherine Salvail. On the one hand technology and humans, on the other entrepreneurship. And we gave ourselves three objectives: knowledge sharing, training and local impact of a global issue.”
Clearly, a B Corp-certified company must never rest on its laurels. The certification process is to be renewed every three years, and B Corp requires that businesses improve their results with every renewal. Not to mention that the certification's sustainability criteria evolve over time, as advancements are made.
The process thus far has allowed GSoft to formalize and follow up on several of its best practices. It has also encouraged its community of employees to prioritize sustainability when making decisions. A concrete example of this: GSoft has decided to work with as many local suppliers as possible for the renovation of its future offices; the company has also decided to invest in sensor lamps, to save on energy.
The principles of B Corp certification encourage members of the GSoft community to organize themselves so that their actions and strategies have a real positive impact. “Now that we've developed our donation policy, we're going to go ahead and put it in place. Most notably, by creating a committee that will review donation requests,” explains Catherine Ouellet-Dupuis.
Meaningful examples of how intrapreneurship can contribute to the success of an entire business.
Working on the B Corp certification project is genuinely rewarding because it’s something that we can all get behind—and it speaks to my values. What I like most about my role is that I have the chance to develop close relationships with different communities within our company and throughout the business world. On the personal development front, I always try to keep growing. For inspiration, I look to personalities like Emma Watson, who is known for her outstanding community involvement, and Jean-François Lépine, the renowned journalist who is able to tell complex stories in a way that people can easily understand.
My department is responsible for making sure that GSoft’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee follow governance best practices. We also work to align the company’s practices with B Corp standards. Since GSoft wants to be a leader in balancing purpose and profit, our team is turning to world-class corporate citizens like Patagonia, Toms and Clif Bar for inspiration. As for me, I’m always inspired by our peers in the Montreal B Corp community, who we regularly collaborate with.