Most boards are governed by the bottom line. Too many CEOs can recite a decade of revenue records, but can’t hold a meaningful conversation about the communities in which they operate or the customers they serve. However, in recent years this attitude has started to change. More and more leaders understand that being good and being profitable are not mutually exclusive. More often than not, the first is an essential part of the second.
This is something that we have known to be true at WeTransfer since we opened our doors in 2009. In fact, we decided in those early days that we would donate 30% of our advertising inventory to voices and causes that align. on our values in perpetuity. . Blocking nearly a third of a critical revenue stream was – and still is – a big deal for our organization. But we do it with pleasure every year. Since then, our approach to corporate social responsibility has evolved and expanded in a way that we are proud of. The greatest pride to date has been obtaining B Corp status. We celebrated a year of certification last fall.
The process of becoming a B Corp has been revealing. As an organization whose commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) runs deep in our foundation, we expected the process to be fairly straightforward. This was not the case. The rigors of the B Corp process put our efforts to be a force for good to the test in a way we have never had before. It was a lesson in humility to look back at all of our hard work and eliminate areas for improvement and growth.
Throughout the process, three challenges in particular stand out from the rest: measurement, goal setting, and business behavior change.
First challenge: develop standard measures
Despite all the good work we had done over the past 10 years, we quickly realized that we had not spent enough time developing a way to measure impact. For example, we had distributed billions of ad impressions for free to support underrepresented artists and important causes, such as gun reform and health care. But we couldn’t show the difference these impressions made to individuals or causes. We just assumed we were helping the world, and we left it at that.
Today, we are committed to applying the same level of strict measurement criteria to our CSR activities as we do to every other part of our business. The biggest impact of this change so far has been on our quest to reduce our carbon footprint. Our carbon footprint is extraordinarily mixed with that of our supply chain partners, and we have had to reassess and reorient critical relationships accordingly. For example, we learned that our use of the cloud through Amazon Web Services was a huge driver of our carbon footprint. So instead of seeing our AWS relationship as a vendor / user, we saw it as a partner to reduce that footprint. We’ve worked hand in hand to calculate every aspect of our usage and found creative ways to reduce it.
While it was certainly a challenge at first, AWS has since become one of our closest advisers on how to use its service less intensely, and often comes up with creative ideas to keep us on track.
Second challenge: there is no finish line
We are a goal-oriented organization; we like to set goals, achieve them and move on. The goals and targets rooted in accountability, however, are not always so clear. We have come to the hard realization that responsible work never really ends. B Lab, the organization that certifies B Corps, understands this and requires B Corps to renew its certification every three years. The process requires proof of the steps taken and a presentation of the new steps to be taken.
Again, our environmental goals provide excellent examples of this. Although we were able to achieve carbon neutrality four years earlier than expected, which we are very proud of, we have relied heavily on carbon offsets to achieve this. While we maintain the gold standard for the offsets we employ, we are constantly looking for ways to directly eliminate carbon intensive processes from our operations.
As we learn to improve ourselves, we invite our community to do the same. We prioritize transparency so that creatives have the information they need to use and interact with our products in a way that promotes carbon neutrality, such as deleting files after sending instead of storing them indefinitely. It is teamwork, and the only way to be successful is to gain internal and external buy-in.
Third challenge: change our collective state of mind
Creating lasting change is not something you may just want to do. Making better choices has forced us all at WeTransfer to adjust our mindset and change our behavior. Although our team members share our mission-oriented attitude, change is always difficult and requires additional steps and adjustments in the way each individual works.
If you are considering becoming a B Corp, I suggest you start now and start with an open mind.
One of those changes has been the implementation of our new responsible travel policy, which affects the frequency of international and domestic travel, the way we book flights and the types of flights we book. While this may not seem like a significant change, it has a direct impact on those who don’t live near a main office, and we’re still working to find how we keep our culture together while enforcing less. travel.
In addition, our ambition to improve diversity in our company was one of our most ambitious goals and required a significant change of mindset. The change must have been so drastic that we realized that bringing in more competent external partners was the only way to really understand how to adjust our hiring practices. We are a rapidly growing company in an industry that has not always been very diverse. These partners help us identify under-represented talent pools and recalibrate our idea of a qualified candidate to level the playing field when it comes to hiring.
Advice from the CEO of a B company
Becoming a B Corp is not for everyone. But, if you’re still intrigued, let me offer you a few tips, in addition to these challenges, from someone who has faced them and continues to walk them.
Most importantly, don’t start this adventure so you can say you’re a B Corp or because you think it will earn you more clients. Instead, ask yourself if your stakeholders will stand behind you and push you down the road instead of holding you back.
Be transparent with everyone (your team, your clients, your investors) before, during and after the decision to become a B Corp. You will need their support, and each group can be a valuable sounding board, offering their own ideas and ideas along the way.
Inspiration can also come from the B Corps that came before you. Access control has no place in B Corp’s journey. In fact, WeTransfer believes so much in sharing our knowledge that each year we plan to publish a responsible business report detailing the progress we have made against our goals. We released our first report in April 2021 and hope it can serve as a model for other tech companies with ambitions to join the B Corp club.
If you are considering becoming a B Corp, I suggest you start now and start with an open mind. It’s not an easy process, but it is one that has the potential to improve your culture, your industry, and possibly the way we do business around the world.
Gordon Willoughby is CEO of WeTransfer, an Amsterdam-based provider of creative workflow tools.