Oxbow Partners is applying to become a B Corp
November 15, 2021
In early 2021 Oxbow Partners decided to become a B Corp, an accreditation for companies that balance purpose and profit. We are soon to submit our application. Here’s what it is and why we’re doing it.
What is B Corp?
B Corp status is an accreditation for for-profit companies. In their own words: “Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.”
There are currently just over 4,000 B Corps across 153 industries in 77 countries. Well-known B Corps include Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia and Innocent. Financial services examples include Towerbrook, the PE firm, and Coutts, the private bank.
Why are we doing it?
The founding Partners explain…
When we set up Oxbow Partners we wanted to do things differently – and better – than our established competitors. Part of our vision was to create a company culture that was inclusive and empowering from the start.
This ambition is partly commercial. As management consultants, we advise executives about how best to grow their companies. It is therefore sensible that our people should be business builders themselves, and not just analysts. Binding them into the strategy and decision-making processes of our firm is one way that we want to instil commercial nous into our team.
But the ambition is also driven by the values that we have as a team. It is a cliché, but nonetheless true, that a consulting business is only as good as its people, and to get the best people, we must offer the best working environment. B Corp has allowed us to reflect on how we run the firm – our values, our policies, our staff engagement and more – and build a business where people like to work.
And finally, we see the B Corp principles increasingly as ‘table stakes’ in the modern corporate world. As ESG becomes an increasingly hot topic, we are being asked by our clients how we incorporate these principles in our business, as well as being asked to advise our clients on this important topic. We feel that if you don’t walk the walk, you can’t talk the talk.
So, ultimately, given that the Oxbow Partners vision was aligned to the B Corp principles, it made sense to start the process of accreditation.
What does it involve?
Consultants Lucy Alphonse and Tom Spiller write…
We are taking a consultant-led approach to our B Corp application. This means the process is not being led by the Partners.
We lead a team of consultants (and interns over the Summer) to develop our B Corp application. We initially got going by doing a review of our company policies and seeing how we scored on the “B Impact Assessment”. This highlighted areas for improvement across all five categories, and so we created a backlog of policy ideas / actions to help us reach the certification threshold of 80 points. We have been working through these actions alongside our project work, with input from the Partners where required.
Examples of practical changes we have made at Oxbow Partners include:
- Training policy: Although Oxbow Partners offers training to all its staff, the process made us realise that not everyone knew what was on offer and how to access it, or indeed how much training they were entitled to. As a result, we redesigned our training proposition and implemented a process for how people can access it.
- Working from home: The new ‘hybrid’ working model throws up interesting challenges for employees and management alike. What is the optimal mix of home vs. office time, and how do you communicate this appropriately? We spent a long time in deliberation with the Partners on how to resolve this issue.
- Environment: To boost our environmental credentials, we changed our travel policy to make public transport the default mode over taxis (amongst other things), and switched our office supplier to an environmentally friendly company.
What do all three of these things have in common? All three changes were made because we had a process in place to consider our business end-to-end, including some topics which may not, at first glance, appear to be ‘mission critical’ but are in fact essential for our culture and future growth. We have held engaging conversations involving Partners, Consultants, our Magellan team and support staff, to understand our business from different perspectives, and develop policies and approaches that balance the needs of different people.
When do we expect to get it?
B Corp are currently “experiencing overwhelming interest in B Corp Certification”. This is a great outlook for the rise of the socially responsible company, but less great news for us. The review process is currently taking anywhere from 6 to 10 months to complete. We expect to have certification in 2022 but live by the principles already.
Should insurance companies do this?
We have found the B Corp application process a valuable exercise. We believe it provides a practical framework for establishing ESG credentials in the organisation, albeit without considering the specifics of an insurance operation.
We would be happy to talk to insurers who are considering an application and can assist our clients in building their ESG credentials more broadly.