Putting more purposeful goals into practice is a daunting challenge for any business and the first question always asked is... where do you start? Here, we spotlight three certified B Corps in the channel and their pursuit of meaningful growth journeys.
Sustainability trail blazers IDNET, Fluid IT and Zen are paving the way for greater cross-industry collaboration amongst B Corporations, setting a benchmark for responsible business partnerships in the channel and catalysing a growing movement of companies dedicated to reshaping the industry’s future. For the record, B Corp certification is conferred by B Lab (a global non-profit organisation) to companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
The five pillars of B Corporation accreditation are governance, workers, community, environment and customers. And our three Net Zero leaders earned B Corp status by adhering to stringent ethical and sustainable practices around these important categories.
It is a fact that cross-industry collaboration among B Corporations will have many benefits, including the ability to create innovative and sustainable products, share knowledge and resources, and set new standards for responsible business practices. Within telecoms, the focus to date has been around the sharing of knowledge and resources with a drive towards responsible business practices.
But instances of product innovation are seen in other industries, providing an example to the comms sector of what can be achieved through more purposeful collaboration. One example is the Patagonia and Bureo collaboration on a line of hats made from recycled fishing nets. Another is Ben & Jerry’s collaboration with Greyston Bakery – a B Corp that provides employment opportunities to individual who face barriers to employment – to create a line of ice cream flavours that feature Greyston Bakery’s brownies. Shared synergies such as these are a beacon to how innovation in the comms sector could evolve, and IDNET, Fluid IT and Zen aim to turn up the volume on their B Corp message, having shown that it is possible to be successful in the channel while still prioritising ethical and sustainable practices.
These three B Corporations are focusing on key areas that help them achieve and retain their B Corp status and continue to be a force for good that other businesses in the channel can learn from. IDNET, Fluid IT and Zen are heavily involved in their communities and support nominated charities through monetary donations, telecommunications equipment and professional support. Fluid IT also provides a 15 per cent discount on all engineering hours provided to charities, and 35 per cent of its revenues come from fellow B Corporations. All three have forged links with local schools and colleges, encouraging the consideration of careers in technology, and IDNET takes this a step further with its support of local community radio project for Hitchin Town FC fans.
Attention to customer service and reliability also sets B Corporations apart. Zen’s ‘How To’ YouTube channel and ‘Help Us’ pages were developed after feedback from customers revealed a need for more self-serve capabilities. And supported by Zen resources and collateral, IDNET’s free telecoms switch off audit process helps signpost business customers through the switch off journey, with the aim of finding a painless route to ensuring their businesses can continue to operate smoothly in changing times.
Another trait shared by IDNET, Fluid IT and Zen is their readiness to always try and source goods and services from other ethical companies, and undertake regular supplier reviews. Proactive examples of supplier changes at IDNet in the last few years have been a change of business bank and energy supplier. Furthermore, as part of this supplier review process, IDNet has received certified evidence from their two largest data centre suppliers that they use 100 per cent renewable energy sources, something Zen also lays claim to.
For channel businesses to successfully play their part in creating a more purposeful industry a broad scope of meaningful action needs to be pursued. And it is a fact that cross-industry collaboration among B Corporations will have many benefits
Fluid IT pays special attention to the impact of its spend and the behaviour of its supply chain. It has worked hard to involve and engage suppliers in the B Corp community, buying from B Corps where possible because they know they share many of the same values and will treat other stakeholders in the way they aspire to. They particularly seek to work with Living Wage suppliers and look for repairability, recyclability and serviceability in the hardware manufacturers they choose. Fluid IT also buys locally from independent businesses.
Being part of the B Corp community has resulted in improvements made to people policies, recruitment practices and office facilities, as well as personal development programs for these businesses. At IDNET, for example, there is no unnecessary hierarchy or management tiers, with the company organised into those who make the technology work and those who are entirely focused on customers (support, retention and acquisition). Going through the B Corp certification process helped IDNet benchmark its personnel management practices against topics such as the payment of a living wage, staff benefits, employee health and safety, plus professional development opportunities. These businesses outperform industry benchmarks on the likes of employee attrition rates. Overall, staff tend to stay with B Corps for longer, with a high percentage of staff at these companies serving for 10-plus years.
Realising full potential
Fluid IT has a particular focus on helping individuals realise their potential. It works with ex-offenders, ex-addicts, refugees, candidates from youth engagement charities, and more, and supports them through apprenticeships to employment. Fluid IT has a partner that provides expert counselling to all team members with challenging backgrounds and all staff can request counselling support, which Fluid pays for, and allows them to undertake counselling during the working week. Fluid IT is deliberate about promoting internally, and much of its leadership team joined as apprentices over 10 years ago. The current CEO began as a work experience candidate.
For channel businesses to successfully play their part in creating a more purposeful industry, a broad scope of meaningful action needs to be pursued, with strong commitments to becoming a B Corporation prioritised alongside close collaboration with similar organisations to drive momentum.
Pictured above: A donation by IDNET helped to open an IT room at a school in rural Ghana.