Our journey to becoming a BCorp

I vividly remember my first week in agency land. It was epic. MSN, our client, was live-streaming (super disruptive back then!) an intimate 300-person Madonna gig and we were spreading the word. My job was to feed a hungry fax machine hundreds of press releases that would hit countless global news desks just as the embargo hit. Everyone was excited. Phones were ringing off the hook. Journalists were begging for tickets. The agency buzz was infectious and it felt like I was part of something truly groundbreaking – the advancement of technology as a positive force.

I also felt part of a high-performing – albeit utterly exhausted – team that was the talk of the town; awards were subsequently won and client budgets shot up. But the following month it was back to the grind and on to the next job. There was no underlying mission, no long-term vision, no real belief system. Just a laser focus on commercial revenue.

Despite spending more than two decades moving around brilliant agencies and working with inspiring people and clients, the same sentiment returned to haunt me. How do you create belief in what you do? What does it take for your working week to be exciting, driven and fulfilled in what the day holds? How do you nurture and support people? How do you unite a team behind one clear and simple mission that is relevant to your collective and will survive the test of time?

Archetype UK, in part, aims to crack this holy grail conundrum. An archetype is an emotion, character type, or event that is notably recurrent across the human experience. In the arts for example, an archetype creates an immediate sense of familiarity, allowing an audience member to relate to an event or character without having to necessarily ponder why they relate. Thanks to our instincts and life experiences, we’re able to recognise archetypes without any need for explanation. That is our aim: to build an archetypal agency that smashes taboo, breaks glass ceilings, innovates consistently and benefits our business, our teammates and our clients. We want to be accelerators of positive impact for people and the planet, fundamentally driven by purpose and working with magnetic brands.

But how can we be held accountable for what we preach? Proof undoubtedly comes from action – we’re committed to becoming a net-zero business, for example – but how do we define continuing action and how can we measure it?

There are many solutions; enforced through existing and evolving regulation, through rules of engagement, the way we communicate internally and externally, or by simply letting our reputation and perception do the talking for us.

But then there’s the B Corporation Movement. The “B” stands for Benefit. The notion of “BCorp” is a movement. Their mission is powerful: harnessing the power of business. BCorp companies use profit and growth as a means to a greater end; positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment. We participated in their workshops and spoke with BCorp-accredited leaders. To this day, we continue to speak with BCorp mentors on the ideas and beliefs that will allow us to use our business as a force for good.

So attempting to become a BCorp was a no-brainer – perfect alignment with our mission and representing an effective and powerful benchmark to hold ourselves to account. But there’s a reason that – at the time of writing – just 3,710 BCorp-accredited businesses across 150 industries and 75 countries exist. The comprehensive detail, standards and proof points required even in the initial assessment phase are rightly rigorous.

So if accreditation is so hard, why are we injecting so much time and effort into getting it? There are two reasons. Firstly, it helps us to understand where we currently stand in achieving our positive impact mission. It identifies what we can prove versus what we need to do, thus helping us to fine tune our processes and infrastructure.

Secondly, achieving our accreditation opens us up to a world of innovative and progressive thinkers at the top echelon of business thinking like we do. Sharing ideas and striving for excellence.

So how does the assessment work? There are five “impact” areas we’ve been grilled on (below). Each given answer carries a different score depending on its impact. In order to pass the initial assessment phase, a minimum tally of 80 points is required.

  • Governance - evaluating our overall mission, ethics, accountability and transparency

  • Workers - evaluating our contribution to our financial, physical, professional, and social well-being

  • Community - evaluating our contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of the communities in which we operate

  • Environment - evaluating our overall environmental stewardship

  • Customers - evaluating the impact we have on our clients and their customers

We have been on our UK BCorp journey since February 2021 and in January 2022, we submitted our assessment for analysis. A major milestone that was rightly celebrated across our business – a real team effort. We are now subject to the meticulous process of proving our claims and verifying our answers and know this is just the beginning.

However, what has been invaluable through the process to date is appreciating the detail in what a morally, correct company operates like. We know where we’re winning and where we need to improve. Our ambition is to be fully accredited in 2022.

We care deeply about our industry’s future. We are finding a groove where we get to work with like-minded people and magnetic brands. We believe that our united mission will be archetypal in becoming the most profound architecture of the new communications agency in this decade.

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