At a time when 82% of people believe that business should stand for more than just profits, purpose-washing is naturally increasing in direct proportion. External checks and balances are needed now more than ever. One of the fastest growing ways businesses are doing this is through B Corp certification.
While BGV was founded with an impact-driven mission, we knew that our mission alone was not enough to demonstrate our work and that external validation was needed. In 2015, when B Lab hopped over the pond from its home in the US, we were greatly privileged to become a founding member of B Lab UK, and indeed the first UK VC to certify.
Over the years we’ve written about our B Corp status and journey. In 2021 we were delighted to increase our score by a whopping 20 points from 94.7 to 114.7. This piece is the latest update in that story.
All about the evidence: more data more policies
Of course, the whole purpose of B Corp is to verify that a company does what it says it does. For example, it’s not enough that a company states its culture is fair and transparent, there needs to be evidence of that. And indeed, B Corp asks for evidence of everything.
Over the past three years since our last recertification, we have built out our processes to be able to evidence our intentions. We have created more rigorous systems to collect much richer data, in addition to formalising a number of policies.
Diversity and inclusion
When we wrote our very first impact report in 2017 we had one diversity metric - percentage of women employed by our portfolio companies. It was and continues to be an incredibly important metric given that the tech sector benchmark for the equivalent stat sits at a dismal 19%.
However, we’ve always had the ambition to develop our measurement and management of D&I to a more representative and nuanced set of metrics.
In recent years we have dramatically developed our D&I analysis, becoming the first VC in Europe to report in depth diversity data on our portfolio founders. We have also developed our D&I policies which we’ve captured in a public live deck and update regularly.
More on how our D&I initiatives have influenced our ‘Community’ score further down.
Supporting the development of everyone at BGV has always been a value we’ve held dear. Going beyond this good will, we recently co-created a comprehensive progression framework with our team. Our framework is split into two sections - skills and behaviours, showing the expected levels of competency at five levels, right through from intern to Managing Partner. The intention of this progression framework is to give clear guidance on what the expectations are for every individual in the team, and a roadmap as to how people need to develop in order to progress to the next level.
At BGV, we value mental health as much as physical health. Ignoring mental health is a risk both for our company and for individuals, which is why we implemented a mental health policy in 2021. This took shape in the form of a document outlining the procedure people can follow should they feel they need to take time off work for their mental health. My colleague Milly and I have previously written a more extensive piece on how BGV implemented mental health days, which you can read here.
Radical transparency: a culture of documentation
Governance is an area which we score particularly well on in comparison to the B Corp benchmarks, largely in part to our excellent score on ‘Ethics & Transparency’.
When I joined BGV, what really struck me was how everything was written down. This was particularly helpful as a new joiner. It meant that if I needed to learn about something I could search on Google Drive and more often than not find a file with relevant information.
This is something that not just I noticed. A number of other new joiners have shared the same experience and how helpful it has been. Our Fund Manager who audits us once a year has also complimented us on our ‘culture of documentation’.
We demonstrate our approach to transparency both internally and externally. Internally, all information on the likes of company strategy, ways of working and pay is available to all the team. Externally, our blog and impact reports are where we share updates on our journey and progress.
Leading on diversity, equity and inclusion
Another area that we’re strides ahead in comparison to the benchmark is our performance on diversity, equity and inclusion. This section is mostly about our team composition. While we’ve historically always had a diverse team, especially in comparison to our industry, up until 2019 we didn’t systematically collect D&I data from our team. We now do this every year, sharing it in our annual impact reports.
However, when it comes to B Corp’s measurement of D&I, we think there is an opportunity to expand the scope of questions to add more accountability not just on the team, but on other stakeholders too. Especially for firms that operate within industries rife with inequality and lack of representation, such as the financial and tech sectors. We think that the B Corp assessment is a good opportunity to ask investors to show what they are doing to change things for the better, for example by providing information on policies or processes that promote equity or inclusion.
These three areas - robust evidence, radical transparency, and our approach to D&I, were the main factors that increased our score by 20 points in our recent recertification. We hope shining a light on our latest re-certification helps others to understand where they too can improve.