Kate Vandenburg

How we did it: Gaining B Corp status, with Kate Vandenburg

Last month the Business Design Centre achieved B Corp certification, an internationally-recognised indication that an organisation is a social and environmental force for good. Here, the BDC’s Marketing & Communications Director Kate Vandenburg shares the venue’s journey to B Corp success.

Congratulations on achieving B Corp certification, how does it feel?

Thank you, we’re delighted to now be B Corp certified. It’s been something that we’ve worked towards for a while and fits really well with the way we operate the business, so to now have achieved it is a truly momentous occasion for us.

Why did the BDC want to pursue B Corp certification?

B Corp had been on our radar for a while as we have a strong belief in running the business in a way that supports the community we serve, the people who make us who we are and the environment around us. Following the pandemic we were ready to return to business, continuing moving forward on the journey we were already on. B Corp was the perfect framework and certification to be able to do this. 

When did you apply and how long has the process taken?

We began discussing it in 2021 and I signed up to begin the B Impact Assessment in January 2022. It’s been ongoing since then and has been a truly in-depth process, verifying aspects of our operations in detail.

Who was involved in the application – 360-degree input?

It’s been key to bring a number of people along on the journey, whilst also communicating the process to the wider team. The first phase involved self-assessment then once we had passed the required 80 out of 200 points, and moved into the verification phase, those responsible for HR, accounting and various policies supported the evidencing of the answers that we had provided. It’s quite rightly a difficult certification to achieve, so gathering the details to validate your responses was an important part of the application.

Buy-in from the whole organisation must have been important. How did you engage employees and stakeholders?

Correct, from the shareholders who were responsible for legally adopting the B Corp framework, across the business to the teams who are able to use the model as a system of change, it involved us all. We have a really good culture of communication at the venue already, so the team was aware of what was happening throughout. We have company breakfasts where they were kept up-to-date with it alongside our other business activities. 

Tell us a bit about your experience of the whole process – approach, challenges, timeline, assessment?

The impact assessment is straightforward, you can take your time completing it and finding out the answers needed from relevant teams and people within your business. There are some more difficult questions that not everyone may have to hand, such as greenhouse gas emissions, but we’ve been doing a lot of work in this area so had the support of our carbon consultants at ecollective. 

You can work through it at your own pace and I found it a rewarding experience, knowing that we were able to cover so much of the assessment through the way in which we were already doing business. Where there are points for progression you can set yourself goals to achieve over time and it will give you timely email reminders – it’s very well-conceived for a continual development model. 

What advice do you have for other businesses looking to apply?

Just take a look! It’s free to sign up and use their impact assessment, so if you’re curious about where you are in terms of your governance, core operations or social and environmental impact, then you can answer the questions without obligation and see where you are doing well or might want to focus your energy on improving.

Why was B Corp certification worth it? Could you have made these changes without going through B Corp?

We have been accredited with Investors in People at a Gold Standard in the past, this looks at how well we take care of our team, and where we have been measuring and reducing our carbon footprint we’ve worked with an environmental consultant. 

B Corp is holistic though – it covers so many aspects that are specific to your industry or business and gives you a pathway to realise change. I don’t think there’s another certification out there that does what they do. Plus, B Corp has been constantly improving their model of measurement since they began and will continue to do so. 

How will certification change how the BDC operates?

We have been on a long journey of improving our environmental impact and have been supporting our community since the 80s. When it comes to our company’s culture, I am pleased that it’s a place where our team can grow and flourish – they’re innovative and come forward with ideas to adopt, so I see B Corp as becoming a guide for ongoing development.

What’s next for the BDC and its sustainability goals?

We’re currently focusing on meeting our net-zero target of 2030. The business has been reducing its footprint since we became carbon neutral in 2010 and so we’ve seen a lot of change over time. The next challenge is to remove our reliance on gas at the venue and in doing so have just finished replacing our kitchen equipment with induction appliances. This is the first phase and the second will be in the coming years to replace our heating system. 

Alongside the building itself it’s also about working more closely with those who use the venue. We’ve begun giving our event organisers impact reports after their tenancies and are developing our communications in order to better bring both events, residents and others who use the venue along with us. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Collaboration is an important part of the process. Whether it’s working with your community, improving your environmental impact or addressing diversity and inclusion; collaborating with others is always going to move you forward and it’s more enjoyable to take on challenges when you aren’t facing them alone. We work with a number of different groups and organisations to share what we’ve learnt and get help along the way – it’s an important part of the journey. 

One of these groups is the Angel Responsible Business Network brought together by Angel Islington BID. It is a great place to start if you want to meet likeminded people from this area and have a forum to work through the challenges ahead.