6 Benefits of Applying for a B-Corp Certification
Update: In July of 2021, Prodigium Pictures successfully became an official certified B-Corp. The piece below is a reflection on our initial application process, which took place in the Summer/Fall of 2020.
Our journey to applying for a B-Corp Certification
Over the past decade, companies, consumers, and job-seekers alike have shown a great interest in social impact and corporate responsibility. In 2015, Nielsen’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report indicated that 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. Likewise, a 2016 study by Cone Communication found that 64% of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.
At Prodigium Pictures, a Los Angeles-based social impact entertainment company, we see social impact as the core of what we do, whether we’re making a video for a mission-based brand, producing a film with a positive social message, or providing social and environmental impact resources for our industry peers.
This summer, we decided to make our status as a social impact entertainment company official and apply for a B-Corporation Certification.
What’s a B-Corporation? B-Corporations (or B-Corps) are companies that meet a set of social and environmental standards created by the non-profit B-Lab. Once certified, companies can put the official B-Corp logo on their website and products. Popular B-Corp brands include Cabot, Etsy, Hootsuite, and Ben & Jerry’s.
At the end of August, we completed the first step in our application process: an extensive online form called the B Impact Assessment. Since then, we’ve realized that completing this assessment gave us more than just the chance to apply for a stamp of approval: it gave us the opportunity to evaluate and improve our business practices based on a comprehensive third-party standard.
Here are 6 of the most valuable things we learned from completing the B Impact Assessment:
1) Using the Assessment as an Improvement Guide
As a company centered on social impact, we went into the B-Corp application process with years of social impact practices and analysis under our belt.
After we initially completed the assessment, we were surprised, and a little worried, when we received a less-than-ideal score. However, when we looked more closely at the areas of the assessment where we didn’t do as well as we would have liked, we realized that the B-Assessment provided an opportunity to use their questions as a thorough set of guidelines to make our business even better.
2) Looking Where We Hadn’t Looked Before
Once we decided to look at the B Impact Assessment as an improvement guide, we started to make concrete changes to our policies and practices based on the assessment’s standards. Some of these standards, such as creating a social and environmental impact contract, were to be expected. However, many questions in the assessment prompted us to take a look at aspects of our company that we had not closely evaluated before.
For example, one question asked if we had a formal system to deal with client feedback. While we already had informal ways of managing feedback, we had never created concrete written procedures for dealing with it. In response to this question, we created an official procedure to help our team properly acknowledge and act on feedback from clients and colleagues.
Another area that the B Impact Assessment drew our attention to was sustainability in our home office. Before completing the assessment, we had mainly focused on reducing waste and energy usage on our sets, where the majority of our waste is produced. When Covid-19 hit, and our physical production had to take a pause, we largely shifted our focus away from sustainability, since we were all suddenly working from home, and waste management wasn’t as large of a concern.
However, when a question on the B-Assessment asked about sustainability in our home offices, we took the opportunity to create a set of helpful guidelines for our team to maximize sustainability in their WFH spaces. Now, our team is able to maintain our sustainability goals during this era of at-home workplace adaptation.
3) We Make an Impact Through Our Customers
Not every question on the assessment was easy to answer, and some of the questions even prompted discussions about the fundamental nature of our businesses’ impact strategy. We ran into this type of question in the “Customers” section of the assessment, which asked if we provided “a product or service that addresses a social or economic problem for or through [our] customers.”
At first, some member of our team wanted to play it safe and say “No” to this question, because even though many of our videos do spread awareness about social and economic topics, we do not provide a product or service that directly solves these types of problems.
However, one team member argued that, through our work with mission-driven businesses and organizations, our product does address a number of social and economic problems.
For example, in 2016, we made a video for an app called Ava, which translates speech into text for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Our video led to a spike in downloads of the app, and expanded the reach of Ava’s service, potentially helping thousands of individuals understand the world around them more clearly.
Ultimately, we concluded that it was fair to say that we do in fact address social and economic problems, not directly, but through our clients.
And just like that, through one simple question, the B Impact Assessment had helped us clarify the fundamental nature of our company’s impact, and had given us new language to describe how our business serves our clients and the larger community.
4) Making Our Data Digestible
Several questions on the B Impact Assessment asked about our methods of tracking diversity among our contractors (like our cast and crew) and measuring our sustainability outcomes.
We were well prepared for this question, since we had been consistently tracking data relating to our cast/crew demographics, and our on-set sustainability practices for over a year.
However we wanted our data to look good (we do work in visual media, after all) so we created what we call our Social Impact Dashboard: a comprehensive visual map of all of the social and environmental impact data we have collected in 2019. You can check it out here: https://prodigium-pictures.com/wp/about-us/
As you can see, this dashboard is now prominently featured on our website, so clients and collaborators can clearly see evidence of our impact in a digestible, visually appealing format.
5) Communicating Impact Goals to the Players in Our Supply Chain
Going into the assessment, we were prepared to answer in-depth questions about Prodigium. However, we were less prepared to answer questions about the practices companies, organizations, and staffing services in our supply chain.
For example, the assessment asked if we “evaluated the practices of our non-labor significant suppliers,” such as our equipment rental service and our co-working space. While we already held all suppliers accountable to our Code of Conduct, we had not tracked social and environmental impact data for non-labor suppliers.
We quickly realized that we needed to get in touch with our significant non-labor suppliers and ask them some questions about practices such as diverse hiring, sustainability, and impact data tracking. More importantly, we needed to figure out how to ask these questions in a way that wouldn’t seem judgmental or pushy.
In order to maintain good relationships with our suppliers, while still asking the questions we needed to, we decided to have one of our team members call up our suppliers and thoroughly explain our B-Corp goals, as well as the intention behind our questions, before actually presenting the questions to them.
We also made sure to ask our diversity and sustainability questions in a way that would help our suppliers evaluate their own businesses, so they wouldn’t feel like they were wasting their time. Ultimately, this section of the assessment improved our ability to communicate our values to our suppliers, and gave us the tools to encourage positive impact practices throughout our supply chain.
6) Accepting That We Can Always Do Better
As a social impact entertainment company, we are always trying to encourage our clients to invest in their mission and grow their business. The B Impact Assessment showed us the importance of continually evaluating these values and educating ourselves on how we can do better. As we move forward in the B-Corp application process, we look forward to using the amazing tools B-Corp provides to further improve our impact strategy.
If you’re a B-corp or currently in the process of becoming one, we’d love to hear from you. We love making videos for companies that actually make the world a better place.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org