The journey of becoming a B-Corporation®

17th October

Published by Ryan O'Keeffe

17th October

The Journey of becoming a Certified B-Corp®, joining a group of like-minded businesses such as Innocent Smoothies, Ella’s Kitchen and The Cook Shop. All are using their business a force for good.

When doing business with a B-Corp, you will probably notice they all have something in common, and your experience will usually be a positive one. In essence, B-Corps® use business as a force for good; they are for-profit organisations with a focus on their social and environmental impact. 

So how did the B-Corp® journey start for the team at Jago?

Having been one of the highest earners in the most senior channel at Yell, I know there is more to life than just competing for more and more money. I wanted more purpose, and so I decided to leave and set up my own design and marketing agency.

I set up the agency in 2014, and soon afterwards my son Rory was born, with significant health issues. In late 2015 my daughter Grace was born and she too had serious health problems (I wrote about Grace’s battle here). I had to work hard to keep the business alive whilst dealing with traumatic events in my personal life. It was character building, and ultimately changed the course of the business. It took me at least two years to get my feet back on the ground, and to focus on setting a vision for Jago – but I knew I wasn’t interested in just selling advertising and making money any more – I wanted more purpose, but also to give back and to express gratitude for the many blessings in my life.

In the summer of 2018, I had a meeting with my co-founder Steve Richards; we discussed some ideas around our vision for the business. We talked about where we wanted to take Jago and what our ideal client would look like. At the time Steve was working on a project for World Vision, and mentioned that he would love for Jago to work with a B-Corp®.

At this point, I didn’t know much about what a B-Corp® even was, so I went on a discovery mission. The more I read, the more I thought: why settle for just working with a B-Corp® – why not become one! 

Most B-Corps® are fairly large organisations, and there aren’t many in the UK yet – but we agreed that we wanted Jago to be one of the first in our sector. We felt this would align us to the causes we believe in. After all, for many of us having a sense of purpose can often begin in the workplace. We agreed to move forward and take our best shot, knowing that even if we failed the process of certification itself would allow us all to grow both as people and as an organisation.

I knew that we would need external support to help with the certification process. I was relieved and delighted to connect with Sandra Norval, an experienced professional who knew how to get the best out of me and the team. She was instrumental not only in helping us to achieve certification but also in helping the team to understand what this meant and in keeping us all motivated.

The journey began with a team meeting, where we explained our vision and desire to become a B-Corp®. The team were all very excited by the thought of aligning our business with the values of B-Corp, and all agreed to commit to the process.

The B-Corp assessment process is rigorous; they measure over 400 parts of the business in five key areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers.  In order to have a chance at certification we would need to score 60% higher than the average business. We found that a lot of the areas being measured were things we already did but hadn’t quite formalised yet. Others were things we had discussed but hadn’t gotten around to putting into practice. 

It’s taken 11 months and lots of energy, perseverance and resilience to see this through but I am pleased to say we are at the end of the start.  

Some people have referred to me as a B-Leader, which I have found strange.  When I look at the other B-Corp leaders in the public eye from the likes of Innocent Smoothies, Ella’s Kitchen and the Cook shop, I can’t help but stop and think what a journey I have taken to get to the point where Jago measures up to the same rigorous measures as these businesses.

Navigating the business through this process and sticking to it has been the most significant achievement of my professional career. I am incredibly proud of this business and the impact we have made and continue to make.

I have learnt more on this in 11 months than the previous 4 years put together. We are confident, excited and energised by the possibilities ahead of us.

I want to say thank you to Steve Richards for always backing me in the decisions I make, Sandra Norval for keeping me in check and guiding me and Vicky Charles for picking up the admin reins in the final stages. Of course I must also thank the rest of the Jago team for the patience they have shown while I have been focused on this vision.

Selling things and making money is ok, but doing business with people who believe in purpose and transformation is exhilarating.