An Interview with Peter Bartley, Sustainability Manager
In December 2022, we became a Certified B Corp. B Corporations are companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. To mark B Corp Month, we’ve spoken to Sustainability Manager, Peter Bartley to hear all about B Corps, the benefits of becoming one and how we’re “going beyond” this March.
For those who aren’t aware, what is a B Corp?
If a company is a B Corp, it means they’ve been recognised for the environmental and social good they do as a business. Being a B Corp is about making business a force for good, where all stakeholders like employees are considered and not just shareholders. On the last count there’s a global community of over 6,000 B Corps, with 1,500 in the UK and just 18 in Architecture Design and Planning.
Who can certify as a B Corp and why should they?
Anyone can certify as a B Corp, even start-ups – although this is a slightly different process as they need to be able to share a full year’s worth of accounts and data.
For AEW, we wanted a way to show how what we do positively impacts our people, clients, projects, and the planet. Having B Corp status is one of the best ways to demonstrate exactly how purpose-driven we are, and now we’re working within a community of B Corps, we can increase our reach even more.
From raising our profile to developing new partnerships and attracting and retaining the best staff, having B Corp status brings loads of benefits and opportunities.
How hard is the certification process? Do you have any tips for those considering it?
It’s quite a lengthy process to become B Corp certified, involving detailed impact assessments, and supporting evidence. It took about a year and a half from the initial submission to the final impact assessment, which outlined where we could improve.
We were already in a strong position because of improvements we’ve been making to our benefits package, strategies, and policies. Without all the hard work we’ve been through to ensure our people are well looked after, the process would have been a much bigger undertaking.
If you’re thinking about becoming B Corp Certified, I’d recommend jumping straight into the B impact assessment (BIA) as soon as possible. This step is free and there are no limits to how long you work on this stage. You can begin to fill it out based on where you are now, then review what’s missing to see how you can improve your scores. Even when you’ve achieved B Corp certification, it’s still a process of continual improvement – there’s a three-year re-certification cycle.
Why is it so important that companies in the built environment become a B Corp?
As an industry, the emissions we produce are significant, not to mention the potential social and environmental risks with what we do. Collectively, we need to do more to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, so we should welcome any frameworks that can help us reshape our aims to start putting people and planet before profit.
What benefits have you seen/hope to see from AEW becoming a Certified B Corp?
For those who’ve already heard about B Corp, it instantly shows how committed we are to environmental and social performance. When I talk to people who haven’t heard of B Corp, it gives me a great opportunity to talk about the wider impacts of business, and how it can be a force for good. Internally for AEW, it’s helped us refine our business culture and identity.
What steps are you taking to improve AEW’s B Corp score?
The most challenging part of the assessment for us was compiling all the environmental performance data across all our projects. Since doing this, we’ve adopted a practice management system, which is a tool that allows us to capture a wider range of metrics across all projects. This data gives us powerful insights, which means we can focus training and systems, and work together with clients to help reduce the environmental impacts of their schemes. Once we can more accurately capture project performance, we should be able to significantly improve our environmental and community scores.
What are AEW doing to #GoBeyond this B Corp Month?
For B Corp month this March, we’re promoting awareness of other B Corp brands and companies to our team – organisations that are aligned with AEW, and that we could potentially collaborate with.
We’ll also highlight where we aim to “Go Beyond”, both with corporate sustainability, and our ambition to move beyond ‘business as usual’ on our projects. To help our clients move beyond ‘business as usual’ we’ve developed a briefing template within our AEW Sustainable Outcomes Toolkit to help them see what good looks like and how they can achieve best practice performance on sustainability in their sector.