We are thrilled to announce that Sancroft is now a Certified B Corporation. This is one of the best-recognised frameworks for mission-driven businesses, one that growing numbers of companies aspire to meet. Certified B Corporations consider the impact of their activities – on customers, communities, our people and the environment – and strive to make this as positive as it can be. This mission is enshrined in our Articles of Association, ensuring that our commitment to sustainability will be maintained, even as we grow.
But it’s also an expression of what we believe about the purpose of our business and how we’ve operated for 25 years already. So, the decision to seek certification was easy.
But – and I’m not going to lie – the certification process itself was not! It required months of effort to describe and document meticulously what our impacts are, how we manage them proactively, how we incorporate impact into our core offerings for clients, and what we do to back up our ambition to do good in the world.
So, I have reflected on the most important takeaways from the B Corporation certification process – what we learned about ourselves, what we changed, and what we will be focusing on to get even better at this over time.
What are we really trying to do here?
Businesses almost never start life with a fully-formed notion of how they want to operate and what they need to do to make sure that happens. Policies are created in response to a need, to fulfil an operating requirement, such as employment practices, or in an effort to avoid a repeat of an unsatisfactory past experience. Indeed, previous decisions often go unexamined and unchallenged for years until circumstances force a spotlight onto the issue and you find yourselves wondering: why did we do it this way? What were we trying to achieve?
The B Corporation certification process pushed us to ask these questions of every aspect of our business. It gave us the impetus to spell out just what we want to achieve, and to make sure our business functions and activities are appropriate and effective.
As part of the certification process, we took the time, as a team, to articulate our purpose – our ‘why we do what we do’. Our purpose is, “At Sancroft, we believe in creating a just and sustainable world through the energy, ingenuity, and impact of business and finance.” This statement underpins everything that we do, and writing it down provided a compass which guides and brings meaning to our operations.
We’re turning our attention next to those places where our approach may be adequate but not quite up to our own expectations. For example, we want our management around employee wellbeing and mental health to do more to help our team at a practical level to support healthy work and to help one another through periods of mental ill health. This is particularly pertinent to us in a time when one in four people in England will experience a mental health problem of some kind. As a business need to make sure our structures and ways of working are regularly reviewed and strengthened to help us achieve our goals.
What actions matter more than any others?
Our B Corporation registration classifies Sancroft in a sector known as ‘Service with Minor Environmental Footprint’ which is true – we don’t have manufacturing facilities, our supply chains are very simple, we don’t use large amounts of raw materials or produce physical products. But even given these caveats, we think we ought to be doing better in managing our environmental impacts.
If you have ever visited us at our Grade I Listed building in St James’s Park, you may already have guessed where some of our biggest challenges lie in improving our operational environmental performance. Resource efficiency – especially heating and hot water – is far and away the top priority. Some of the most common fixes, such as double-glazed windows and cavity wall insulation, are challenging or unavailable for use in historic buildings.
Fortunately, Sancroft has many years of experience in the property and development sector, which means we have access to the best expertise and latest thinking on sustainable renovation. This may take some time, but it will be the most important thing we can do to lighten our environmental footprint. So that is where we will focus.
What if it’s not us – it’s you?
For us, and for many service providers, our direct impacts are limited. What makes the biggest difference overall is how we serve our clients to help them improve their impacts and make the world a better place.
This is particularly difficult to evidence when our core offerings are strategy. We don’t redesign the product to reduce weight and make use of environmentally-preferable materials: you do. We don’t remedy historical human rights problems in supplier communities: you do. We don’t collaborate with customers to reduce pollution and product wastage in the use phase: you do. We don’t direct investment funds into businesses driving the sustainable transition: you do.
Yet this is our impact, and if we are intent on making it as positive as it can be, that means we need to involve you in the process. We will be working to improve the way our projects are designed from first principles to spell out their impact objectives, how we will measure success, and what those impact objectives mean to you and your business. We hope you will find this as beneficial to your business as it is to ours.
If you would like to find out more about our journey to becoming a B Corporation, or are considering becoming a certified B Corporation yourselves, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to share our experience and help support you on the journey.