Can the legal profession help with the continuing B Corporation movement?

Peter Hubbard, managing partner at social purpose law firm Anthony Collins discusses the importance of firms being held to these rigorous standards, why it is important to clients, and what guidance they can offer to businesses in becoming a B Corp themselves.

The number of B Corp-certified businesses has more than doubled in the last two years, with over 1,300 now certified in the UK. B Corp is the driving force behind making businesses focus on people, communities, and the planet, as well as profit. There are only eleven law firms in the UK with a certified B Corp status that hold the highest standards of public transparency, legal accountability, social and environmental performance.

So, what are the benefits of law firms becoming accredited by B Corp? And why do more law firms need to become B Corp certified?

B Corp movement

A B Corp certification is independent of any sector and is applicable to any business that reaches certain globally recognised standards. It acts as an external benchmark that holds a business to a higher standard of accountability, not just for its stakeholders but also for the local community and environment.

Businesses no longer have the luxury of ‘choosing’ whether they will meet high standards of social and environmental performance with the accompanying transparency and accountability needed.

This shift can be seen through the behaviour of workers, who are choosing to work for purpose-led businesses and informed consumers, who have started calling for businesses they use to sustainably source their products and services. The risk with this is that some companies are tempted to ‘greenwash’ to keep up with consumer demands. This is where B Corp businesses come in because they are independently assessed as part of their certification process to ascertain whether they are realigning their business practices to deliver improved social and environmental performance.

Law firms and B Corp certification

As business advisors, law firms have an unparalleled opportunity to lead by example by demonstrating financially successful business practices with a matched focus on benefitting people, communities and the planet – supporting net zero carbon goals being a positive example of this.

Firms have the expertise and ability to understand what is required for long-term business success and this includes positively engaging with all stakeholders. This can be underpinned by implementing sustainable business practices and adopting transparent and accountable reporting arrangements. This approach shows businesses across all sectors in the UK that they too can be a force for good and that social and environmental responsibility should not just be left to the responsibility of the Government, public and voluntary sectors.

It is crucial to understand that the commitment to embracing sustainable business practices extends beyond simply attempting to do it. We should all embrace sustainable business practices to support the UK’s legally binding target to achieve net zero by 2050. It’s time for all businesses, including law firms, to start setting sustainable strategies that reduce waste, carbon emissions and promote practices that support the journey to this set target.

What can law firms do differently

Law firms have the added advantage of having close relationships with clients to share the importance of adhering to these standards and the success they can bring.

The application process for B Corp accreditation serves as an excellent platform for evaluating a business’s performance, facilitating a comprehensive review and initiating necessary improvements. It aids in creating valuable goals for businesses, even if there is no guarantee of accreditation.

Law firms are well-placed to offer a 360-degree perspective of the process to businesses looking to attain accreditation. Of the eleven law firms in England that are accredited and have completed the application process, each can offer insights to peer businesses considering B Corp certification.

Lawyers are also well-equipped to take up the challenge of critically assessing shareholder relations, potential conflicts and ensuring that the business’s goals are protected. By incorporating provisions that emphasise responsible business practices and sustainability, law firms can help B Corporations create mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded partners and stakeholders.

By leveraging their legal expertise, law firms can contribute significantly to the B Corporation movement by supporting the growth and development of socially and environmentally conscious businesses. Their involvement can help create a legal environment that fosters sustainable and responsible business practices, leading to positive impact and lasting change.

Anthony Collins is the first Midland’s based law firm to be awarded B Corp accreditation.

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