In the past two weeks, we’ve moved from dipping our toes into a high-level understanding of the B Impact assessment and dove into the deep end! We now have an intimate understanding of what, exactly, the assessment requires of businesses like us looking to become certified. With Alli’s past experience working towards the certification, we knew that understanding where Merry Go Rounds currently stands is one of the most important steps of the whole process. Getting a baseline for where we are now is essential for figuring out the next steps we need to take.
Our first step towards tackling the certification was to quickly answer as many questions as possible, as accurately as possible, before doing deep data analysis to get a baseline score. While we made some assumptions and committed to creating new documentation for Merry Go Rounds, this is an important first step before diving into the assessment. As some questions in the assessment trigger new questions to be visible, this also allowed us to understand exactly which questions we’d need to answer going forward. For example, by answering “Yes” to the question, “Does your company’s business model create a specific positive benefit for stakeholders such as charitable partners, vendors or suppliers in need, or your local community?”, we uncovered nine more questions around community development and engagement that were previously hidden. After going through this process, we were excited to find that we are already at 68 points! The next 12 points will take work to achieve, but this is a great baseline to start with.
From there, our next step was to download a fresh copy of the assessment into Excel to analyze where there are opportunities to gain more points. Quick advice about making this the most organized process possible: mark each download you pull with the date and time in a consistent way. Not only will each iteration then be neatly lined up in order on your computer, you’ll know which copy is most up-to-date, as your answers can change at any minute with more than one person accessing it.
We then analyzed where we're currently achieving the most points, both on an absolute basis and as a percentage of the overall points available in each Impact Area. As of now, unsurprisingly, we are earning the most and least points in the sections where the most and least points are available, Community and Customers, respectively. In terms of percentage, however, we are achieving the highest percentage of points in the Governance section and the lowest in Workers.*
Once we understood where our assessment stood on a high level, we broke each Impact Area down into its separate Impact Topics to see on a more granular level where we have opportunities for growth. One great thing about the B Corp assessment is that it can bring to light the areas that you may have previously overlooked when making your business as sustainable as possible. Those who attempt this certification have the best of intentions with their businesses, but processes such as this can show you what you may have not even realized can make your business that much more sustainable. For example, there are questions around professional development and employee engagement that sparked ideas for how we can better support the careers of the people who work with us. Seeing our score broken down in this way helps us to see what we are doing great and also plan the ways in which we can be even more impactful.
Now that we understand our baseline, our next step is to strategize what we need to do as a business to achieve 12 more points in the way that makes most sense for Merry Go Rounds. After seeing our baseline score so high, it could be easy to assume that we will be certified in no time. Our struggle for the coming weeks and months is going to involve being patient as the score will now start to rise slowly. In Alli’s experience with Bigelow, every fraction of a point counts, but each next fraction came with a lot of hard work and due diligence. It can be tedious at times, but we will keep focused on the reward of being certified in the end!
Immediate next steps will be to make a priority list of policy updates and new practices we can incorporate into our daily routine to achieve a few more points that were previously left on the table. Some items are worth much more than others in the assessment, ranging from as small at 0.3 points to as much as 10 points. While this is of course not the sole criterion for choosing which items to tackle now, it helps to guide our process towards achieving certification more efficiently. We will also be taking a deeper dive into the data surrounding utility use to better understand our carbon footprint (more on what this means for us later!) as well as customer data to get a better sense of how our community is impacted by our business.
A huge source of support during this initial process has been other businesses that have gone through the certification. In particular, Melissa had a long phone call with Lance from Seams to Fit, the Portland resale store that was the first of its kind to become a B Corp. This conversation was immensely helpful, since our businesses are very similar and we are therefore likely to answer questions in similar ways. (For example, we had some confusion around questions about suppliers, since almost all of our suppliers are individual consignors rather than product manufacturers and vendors. The Seams to Fit team had already figured out how to answer those questions, and shared their insights with us.) We’ve also gotten support and encouragement from Hugo & Hoby and Walden Local Meat, as well as the Center for Business and Environment at Yale and the Program on Entrepreneurship at Yale School of Management. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without their help!
*The reason for our relatively low standing in the Workers category is due to the fact that all of our employees are part-time, and we therefore aren’t able to offer many benefits (like health insurance) that typically only go to full-time employees.