Why We Are A B Corp Marketing Agency
May 01, 2023
To understand Stout Heart’s journey to B Corp Certification we have to travel backward in time to a table at White Heron (best chai ever) where I sat for weeks on end trying to write my first business plan. I knew that if I was going to try to create a marketing agency, I needed to do it on my own terms in order for it to make me happy in the long term. I’d spent almost fifteen years working at marketing agencies large and small and had seen the best and worst of work/life balance, client relationships, internal team dynamics, discrimination in the workplace, and financial decisions. I love marketing and advertising. I am a total nerd when it comes to this stuff. But I knew that if I were committing to business ownership in the industry, I was going to have to build an agency with rules, process’, and policies that I agreed with and could abide.
From day one, I knew that: I wanted to work with good people, I wanted to work with clients who valued partnership (truly, not in name alone), and I wanted to create a workplace centered on a culture of respect. Starting a business is scary enough. Starting a business that is committed to covering 100% of employee healthcare is downright terrifying. And, honestly, I was scared to say out loud that we were a mission-driven, values-driven marketing agency. When you’re a startup, scaring off any paycheck is a legitimate concern and sometimes the words “mission” and “values” within a business development conversation feel like risky bombs to drop. But we started dropping them. And, interestingly, the second we started doing that with confidence was the second that the clients who were the right fit started to find us (and maybe also the second we started scaring off the clients who were the wrong fit). Once we started, we never stopped.
At that time, I had never heard of a certified B Corporation. It was a dear friend and former member of the Stouthearted who introduced me to the concept and the second she explained it, it became a goal. It just made sense.
What is a B Corporation?
A certified B Corp is a company that has voluntarily met the most stringent standards for social and environmental impact. The standards are developed and assessed by independent nonprofit, B Lab. They cover a company’s impact in several key areas, including Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. To learn more about the process of becoming a certified B Corporation, visit the B Lab site for more information. It’s a lot. Trust us.
Our dear friends and partners at Richardson Media Group went through the B Corp Certification process in 2022. We watched and listened carefully as they navigated the waters and cheered them on when they were made official. At their encouragement, Stout Heart entered the B Impact Clinic at the University of New Hampshire in Fall of 2022. The B Impact Clinic gathers teams of undergraduate students from many majors and disciplines to serve as consultants for regional companies that are working to complete their B Impact Assessment. Why would you even need this kind of help, you ask? Because the certification process is really, really, really hard. I will forever be grateful for the team of UNH students who held Stout Heart’s hand through the B Impact Assessment. We would have made it through the process eventually, but it would have taken a lot longer and been a lot less fun.
Essentially, the B Impact Assessment requires that you take a fine-tooth comb through your business’ inner workings. You look at your company’s impact on its workers, community, environment, and customers along with the company’s governance structure, ensuring that you meet the B Lab’s specifications for a “business for good.” Here are some examples of policies developed as a result of the B Impact Assessment:
- Code of Ethics
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Policy
- Employee Complaint Policy
- Environmental Policy
- Ethical Marketing Policy (not gonna lie, the fact that we even had to create this one made us chuckle)
- Nonprofit Policy
- Supplier Diversity Policy
- Whistleblower Policy
While this list might look ridiculously long, each of these pieces of our business puzzle is an important one. In the marketing agency world, there are a lot of businesses who look great from the outside. Summer Fridays? Fun! Cool interior design? Love it. But there is a very big difference between saying that you respect your people and your clients and living it. For Stout Heart, the process was especially gratifying because so many policies that were created in the certification process were policies that simply cemented the way we’ve run our business all along. We’d given thought to so many of these topics in the years of our existence. This exercise simply helped us to put them down on paper.
Once the B Impact Assessment is complete and you consider your score high enough to make a go of it (the average score for organizations that are assessed for B Corp status is 50 points and the minimum required score for certification is 80), you are placed in the Assessment and then the Verification Queues. In each of these stages, an analyst from B Lab reviews your responses and requests documentation for everything that you claim to have in place.
Where Did We Land?
Stout Heart is proud to have been awarded a B Impact score of 94.9. We worked hard for that score. Does it make us the best of the best? Nope, no, nope. But then again, we’re a marketing agency. We’re not installing solar panels or finding creative ways to support indigenous craftsmen (yet). Our score is great, but it also leaves a lot of room for growth. Now that we’ve been through this process once, we look at our business operations through a new lens- one that will help us spot new ways to improve as we grow. Each B Corp must apply for re-certification every three years, so we have some time to think and evolve.
So… Now What?
Well, the funny answer is, now we go back to business as usual. Though going through the B Corp Certification process certainly taught us a lot, it didn’t change who we’ve always been as a business. It just vouches that what we say is true. We are a marketing agency for good. We are a B Corp marketing agency. So we will keep on keeping on as the Stouthearted, but it feels really good to do just that.