The Drum Awards for Marketing - Entry Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Agencies Business Leadership B Corp

‘It’s inexcusable to do nothing’: marketing agencies on why they’ve become B Corps

Author

By Sam Anderson | Network Editor

March 2, 2023 | 9 min read

The B Corp ‘movement’ of companies putting people and the planet on equal footing with their own profits is gathering steam. We asked recent applicants from The Drum Network why they’re jumping aboard.

A watercolor painting of planet Earth

Why have so many marketing agencies become B Corps? / Elena Mozhvilo via Unsplash

For the last fortnight, experts The Drum Network have been sharing their takes on sustainability in the marketing business, from nudging consumers to climate-friendly choices to visions of the marketing roles required by a circular economy and impassioned criticism of work in areas like gambling.

One thing mentioned more than any other by our agency sustainability experts is B Corp certification, the international accreditation scheme famously associated with the ‘triple bottom line’, whereby members enshrine in formal documentation their commitment to people and the planet alongside profit. The core of the accreditation is a successful impact assessment across five business areas: governance, workers, community, the environment, and customers.

Last month, Eleanor Allen of B Lab (the company behind B Corp) released a statement declaring the movement at an “inflection point”, having surpassed 6,000 members including a growing roster of multinationals, including Nestlé brands like Nespresso. No small number and variety of marketing agencies have made the commitment too; our assembled panel included Havas-owned digital shop Search Laboratory; employee-owned creative consultancy Emperor; and recent applicants from experiential agency We Are Family to platform GreenJinn.

Because it’s worth it?

Some have been aware for a while, but now larger sections of the marketing industry are realizing their role in the climate crisis, thanks in part to pressure from organizations like Ad Net Zero, Clean Creatives and Purpose Disruptors.

The initial value of accreditation from bodies like B Corp, says Lucy Solomon of We Are Family (recent applicants), is being “constantly accountable,” internally and externally. That yardstick is a valuable motivating factor, but our panel all agree that there’s further value in the rigor of a process that reveals an extent of wastage and work to do that few would predict.

“You realize not only the physical, tangible stuff that goes to waste,” says Solomon, “but the energy you consume, etc. It makes you think about things that you wouldn't normally think about.”

The processes of appraisal, change and documentation can be lengthy and relatively costly, especially for smaller outfits, so some might be hung up on whether the process is worth it – especially when it comes to finding the time (Solomon: “it’s not difficult to complete it. It’s difficult to find the time to complete it.”) But at least one of our panelists would object to the idea of interrogating the value of such commitments.

As Mark Iremonger of Nucco (not yet itself a B Corp) puts it, “if you accept that we are living on a planet, which is on fire, asking the question ‘is it worth it?’ suggest a trade-off. There is no trade-off. If we live on this planet and accept that the planet is in trouble; for leaders of businesses, it’s inexcusable to do nothing to address that.”

Iremonger argues that, as ideas like the triple bottom line grow in popularity, what once would have been a fairly radical declaration for a private organization may soon become quite normal. “This is going to become basic hygiene very quickly. In 15 years, we’re going to look at ourselves and go, ‘how on earth did we do that for so long?’”

Or to sum it up differently, here’s Lynn Dickinson, responsible business director at Emperor (another recent applicant): “the system has gone horribly wrong. We need organizations and movements like this to get it back on a path”.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing

Daily

Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week

Wednesday

See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

Getting better

It would be naive to think that membership in any group will itself make an organization perfectly sustainable or ethical. As Gaby Sethi, global head of impact at Assembly (currently putting together their application) puts it, “it’s a great framework, but it’s not a silver bullet… B Corps are great because they’re hitting certain requirements. But they’re not shining beacons; we have to make sure that we cast a critical eye and do not see the B Corp logo and assume that a company is brilliant. We still need to take it a step further”.

Here, Sethi points to drinks brand Danone: a B Corp that is facing a corporate responsibility lawsuit in France, accused of failing to reduce its plastic footprint sufficiently. Similarly, BrewDog capped off a year of controversies last year by seemingly being stripped of its B Corp status (though B Lab declined to explain why the beer brand was no longer a member).

B Lab last year attempted to pre-empt concerns that opening its doors to large organizations will loosen its standards. But those concerns will persist, and wider membership will likely mean more violations. Nonetheless, our panel is largely satisfied that membership is a net positive, pulling companies in the right direction. Lee Cullen, director of No Brainer (recent applicants), says that B Corp offers “a much more holistic view of doing the right thing and being a good corporate citizen;” taking that seriously means looking internally, rather than at other members. “How do we underpin with something that's meaningful; something that we can get people behind?”

For agencies, our panel says, there are clear benefits to membership – not least in talent attraction (as Cullen puts it, quite simply, “people want to join businesses that are doing the right thing”). And recognizable sustainability accreditation is a growing draw for clients, suppliers and partners too. Here’s GreenJinn’s head of marketing and sustainability, Laurent Olver: “as B Corp’s becoming bigger, more of our clients are asking for it. In the FMCG world especially, there’s a lot of greenwashing so having something that standardizes worldwide will be great as it grows.”

Not perfect, then, but our panel agrees that membership feels like progress. “It’s just a good start,” says Search Laboratory’s founder and executive chairman Ian Harris. “Even if there are companies within B Corp that are maybe not toeing the line completely, and that gets highlighted, and then B Corp is on the case, that’s got to be a better situation than if B Corp wasn’t there… Surely, it’ll get better.”

Agencies Business Leadership B Corp

Content created with:

Search Laboratory

Driven by evidence and led by transparency, we search for the truth in data.

Search Laboratory is a team of digital marketers and data scientists dedicated to growth generation. Combining data science with intricate digital strategies, Search Laboratory identifies the questions that bring data to life, allowing them to make decisions that drive profitable growth for its clients.

Search Laboratory is one of only a handful of Google Marketing Platform Sales Partners trusted to offer expert implementation, training and ongoing support for the platform's advanced suite of tools.

We are proud to be part of Havas Media Group. The group’s expertise in large-scale media experiences enhances our own performance marketing and data science specialisms to create an offering that spans the whole customer journey for our clients.

Find out more

Emperor

Emperor is here to turn ambition into success through the power of clear, confident and consistent communications. We're specialists in reporting, brand, employee experience and sustainability; and experts in getting the most from integrated media and channels. Through this knowledge, we enable you to enrich relationships, build understanding, shape behaviour and deliver better business.

Find out more

We Are Family London

A women-owned creative agency, with an incredibly diverse and eclectic team – who want the best for our clients and we always deliver. Our team has rapidly grown to 32 strong thinkers and doers thanks to our reputation for creativity, passion and precision. We’ve always had big ideas, and in turn have secured some big-name global clients. Operational since 2016, we’ve since partnered with Starbucks, Instagram, Kantar, Sports England, Meta, WhatsApp, Defected, Action for Children, and many more.

Multi-disciplined we design and produce experiences. We offer unrivalled creative input, production support, and many other invaluable integrated services – from initial concept to creative strategy, event design, to graphics + branding, motion + digital design, set design and build, technical production to project implementation, guest + logistics management and post-event analytics + evaluation.

We bring briefs to life with our innovative approach and wealth of experience that allows us to unlock the creative potential of each brief.

Find out more

Assembly

Ad Age's Purpose-Led Agency of the Year. We're the modern alternative, bringing together data, talent, and tech to find the change that fuels growth.

Find out more

GreenJinn

GreenJinn is a triple-digit growth UK platform for connecting great consumable brands with relevant consumers. Through our platform we work with some of the most exciting and cutting-edge brands to help them drive awareness, increase trial and get access to real-time, detailed consumer insights they can’t find anywhere else.

GreenJinn started in 2017 with our intuitive mobile app which has grown to a community of 1M members with an App store rating of 4.7. Our partner brands offer cashback incentives to consumers to try their products which can be bought in most UK retailers. We support the brands awareness strategy with communications out to our community, across multiple touch points.

Our unique technology has evolved to help brands make their media more effective. GreenJinn Treasure was born out of many brands' frustrations with a lack of transparency of effectiveness of media spend. Our GreenJinn Treasure coupon technology plugs-in to any online or physical media (via a link for online or QR code for physical media), gives consumers an incentive to pick up the product instore and tracks full funnel media performance from impression right through to redemption in store. The best bit - we give brands access to a suite of live insights; consumer demographics, shopper, category and store level insights along with GJ Treasure campaign conversion funnel data.

Sound exciting? We think so. And so do our brands.

Find out more

No Brainer

We're an award-winning Digital PR, SEO and Content agency that delivers data-led and results-driven creative campaigns which really work.

Find out more

Nucco

We make it beautifully simple.

We are communication experts that change behaviour and perspectives.Part of UNIT9, we are powered by one of the world’s leading creative, digital and content production groups. We use insight-led creative to create digital campaigns and content for advertising, marketing and internal communications.

Find out more

More from Agencies

View all

Trending

Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +