Doing business better — Starting the journey to become a B Corp

Poppy's staff team outside Tooting HQ | london funerals | london funeral director

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Office manager, Sarah Bax (fourth from right, above), is leading Poppy’s effort to become an accredited B Corp.

Here, she explains what’s inspired us to take this step, the difference it’s already making to how we do business — and what being a B Corp actually means.

Since this article was written in March 2021, we've made progress in our bid to become a B Corp. Find out more here.

Let’s start at the beginning, what is a B Corp?

An accredited B Corp (short for ‘benefit corporation’) is a business that seeks to be a force for good in the world. B Corps are companies who use the power of their business to solve social and environmental challenges.

In order to become an accredited B Corp, a business must meet a very high set of social and environmental standards, transparency and legal accountability. All B Corps are assessed on how they create benefit for workers, their community, the environment and customers.

You might have heard of some high profile B Corps, like innocent or Patagonia, but plenty of smaller businesses become B Corps as well. It’s a growing, global movement. It reached the UK in 2015, and in 2021, there are more than 400 UK B Corps from over 45 different industries.

So, how do you become a B Corp? Is it just a rubber stamp?

Absolutely not. It’s a rigorous and intense process. You have to take a holistic look at the whole business.

It starts with an in-depth assessment that shines a searchlight on five key impact areas: workers, customers, environment, community and governance. It’s certainly not a quick process — we’re just at the start.

The final stage is a series of evaluations and interviews with independent experts. The whole process is so honest — there's no room for empty words or aspirational goals. You have to be able to prove that you do what you say you do!

B Corp certification is hard to achieve — if you don't meet their very high standards, you don't become a B Corp. After three years, you have to apply to recertify. You can’t just stop and rest on your laurels, that’s not the point.

Becoming a B Corp sounds like hard work. Why is Poppy’s doing this?

It’s such a natural fit. It aligns closely with the values that we already hold of transparency, accountability and modelling excellent care. It’s an opportunity to lead by example within the funeral sector and to encourage others to move in the same direction too.

We're also doing this for the process itself. The impact assessment challenges us to really look at ourselves, to think hard about how we work and operate — we are learning so much.

Being part of the B Corp community gives us an opportunity to share ideas and questions, highs and lows with other businesses on the same journey.

It is hard work, but the support is there from B Corp. It’s like having your hand held gently and being pushed firmly forward at the same time!

Is B Corp a model that other funeral directors are using?

Yes! Yorkshire funeral directors, Full Circle, have achieved B Corp status. We're hoping that many more funeral directors will join us on the B Corp path.

It’s also opened up some interesting conversations with other companies who are surprised to see a funeral director taking this step.

Do you think it would matter to someone whether their funeral director is a B Corp?

I think more and more people are looking for businesses that align with their values and beliefs.

When you see a B Corp stamp on a product or service, you know that the company has put itself through the toughest possible test to achieve that certification. You know that you're buying from a company who is seeking to make a positive difference in the world and isn't maximising profits at any cost.

We already get a lot of questions about eco-friendly funerals or low-carbon options and we help people make the right decisions for them. B Corp accreditation would show that we live our values and don't greenwash — everything that we say we do has a solid foundation.

We know we have a long way to go. We’re examining our vehicles, our buildings, and all our activities, and making changes if we need to, to ensure that the core of what we do is much more sustainable.

Every decision, including which suppliers or materials we use, needs to be seen through a B Corp lens.

It’s not just about environmental benefit though — the care we provide to clients, the opportunities for staff development and the engagement we have with the community around us are all just as important.

On a personal level, I was looking for a job at a B Corp before I started at Poppy’s. When I found my role here, the values expressed by Poppy’s seemed like a perfect fit with the values held by the B Corp movement. I was determined to learn more about the accreditation process and to do what I could start Poppy’s on the journey.

So what next?

A lot of hard work! But the process itself is so rewarding. We’ve already learnt so much and are determined to see this through.

Read more about the values which underpin Poppy’s work: Exploitation is rife in death care — here’s what needs to change and What does good funeral care look like?

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