It seems that in the fourth year since its launch in the UK, people are talking about B Corp more than ever in this B Corp month of February. Waitrose.com launched their on-line B Corp shop this month and grouped all 42 B Corp products already on its web-site into one place. As a B Corp Ambassador, I have had more phone calls and e-mails than ever before in 2019 from suppliers and other companies wanting to find out more about being a B Corp.
The main reason I pushed the publishers to release my book, Forces for Good, at the start of 2019 was because I am sensing a change within the business world at present. Consumers are sick of exploitative companies making profits at the expense of the environment and their people and are longing for a new generation of business leaders who have the goal of changing the world for better at heart rather than their own wealth.
I started my business journey simply to subsidise unpaid charitable work I was doing within inner-city London in the nineties to try and change that part of the UK for better. The levels of deprivation, drug addiction, loneliness and crime were as bad or even worse than they are now, and I was part of a team trying to turn that around. However, I ran out of cash and I had to find a way of earning some money, so started a ‘bedroom business’ selling artisan food from the Cotswolds to delicatessens and farm shops in and around London hence the name – Cotswold Fayre. So, in 1999 when I turned the embryonic business into a proper one, I wanted to continue my work of transforming lives for better. Of my first 5 employees there was one ex druggie, an alcoholic and an ex-con amongst them. It was becoming clear to me then that perhaps business was a more powerful way of transforming lives than my charitable endeavours.
So, Cotswold Fayre has always had the purpose at its heart to make the world a better place and our work at an orphanage in Western Kenya is one of many manifestations of this. However, I always had the feeling that we were doing something different in business, and there weren’t other companies like us around. It was through Ed Perry at COOK that I was introduced to B Corp. Initially my thoughts were that the name sounded far too American for my liking – another USA business initiative being foisted upon the rest of the world! But, the more I found out, the more inspired and humbled I was by some of the amazing people I met who had ‘changing the world for better’ as their business raison d’etre. I was no longer alone! In fact, I never was, just that I hadn’t met others who ran their business along the same ethical lines as myself. It felt like coming home.
Since then I have been to several B Corp events both within the UK and North America and never fail to be impressed by the vison and passion that these business leaders have to change the world for better. I was particularly affected by the B Corp event in New Orleans last autumn where there was an emphasis on personal change as being a key part of changing the way we do business. I had already finished my book by then and had already introduced a fourth bottom line with the approval of John Elkington, the creator of the triple bottom line concept, who has since written the foreword. This 4th bottom line is personal change or, if you prefer, bringing compassion and love into business. It is not that we need to wait until we are different people before we attempt to change the world through business, but that the act of reaching out to the world and looking outside ourselves and our own interests results in us being more compassionate, loving and ultimately, happy people.
People need purpose in order to be truly fulfilled and there is no more noble purpose within business than using the power at your hands to change people and the environment for better. This is the purpose we are embedding into our culture at Cotswold Fayre, and encouragingly, now many new initiatives come from within the company rather than the management team. If you want your company to be an inspiring place to work, attract the best people and be one in which consumers and buyers are excited to be associated with, then look further into becoming a B Corp.