Two years ago, we at Bohlsen Group celebrated a monumental step—becoming the first company in Indiana to become a Certified B Corp. It’s changed a lot about the way that we do business. April 20 will mark our two-year B Corp anniversary, and we invite you to celebrate with us that day at our Unified Marketing Power Play Series, followed by a CSR Roundtable.
To mark this occasion, we sat down with our Founder and President Vicki Bohlsen to examine what this milestone means, how we as a company have evolved, and how the acceptance of sustainable business practices is gaining momentum.
What changes have you made as a result of being a B Corp?
We’re proud to be a Certified B Corp because the B Corp Community is changing the way people think about business. According to the official B Corporation website,
“Certified B Corporations are leading a global movement to redefine success in business. By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.”
Being a B Corp is at the core of Bohlsen Group’s operations. Not a single decision is made without considering the ethos of what this means to us. From recruiting and retaining staff to day-to-day operations to client and community relations and environmental impact, decisions are made bearing in mind how we can make smart and transparent decisions that benefit not just our bottom line, but all of our stakeholders.
We strive to touch the three facets of sustainability in business: people, planet, and profit. Our goal is to not only do good for people and for the planet, but to succeed as a business so we can continue to do good for years to come.
How has the company changed since April 2015, when you were first certified?
As a B Corp-certified company, we have to renew every two years and recently went through that process. Although tedious and time-consuming, it was a great opportunity to review our impact in the first two years and continue to build upon what we had and still want to accomplish.
In the first two years we enriched our commitment to our staff, clients, environment and community by:
- Creating best practices to enrich the workplace for our staff (i.e. Monday work-from-home policy; incentivized health & wellness program; monthly team-building events)
- Instituting operational policies (i.e. local vendor policy; continuing education opportunities)
- Supporting our community (i.e. paid volunteer hours; board donation matches; 10% in-kind program for nonprofits)
- Considering the feedback of all stakeholders (i.e. annual staff and client surveys, annual impact report communication)
- Sustaining our environmental footprint (i.e. work-from-home policy, recycling program)
How is the perception of CSR changing in the business community?
I did not know what B Corp certification was two years ago. A trusted consultant, Kathy Pedrotti Hays introduced me to it and suggested we use the free B Lab assessment tool to guide our strategic plan creation.
Once completed, we had enough points to be certified and did so. We were the first Indiana company to be certified and it was announced at the same time that Benefit Corporations were instituted in Indiana. There was a lot of confusion about how the two were similar and unique, and being passionate about socially responsible businesses, we have tried to educate those with questions.
In addition to speaking at various community-led workshops and speaking engagements, Kathy and I led a four-part Power Play Series on CSR in 2016, and in 2017 we are continuing to build on that momentum with a four-part Roundtable series to help business leaders continue to fold socially responsible practices into their business models.
Are B Corp and Benefit Corporations becoming more recognized in Indiana?
There are now five B Corp-certified companies in Indiana – including two of our clients—and six companies have become Benefit corporations. Many others are instituting best practices into their operations and I see this becoming more and more the norm in Indiana.
What advice would you give to other small business owners about becoming a more sustainable business?
I have found that every company is doing something in the space; oftentimes, without even being aware. I suggest they assess their internal and external practices and relationships so that they can uncover those areas and build upon what they are already doing.
This might mean that they formalize policies or institutionalize best practices. Seeking feedback from all stakeholders and communicating operational changes from the top down will create a spirit of sustainability that they can continue to build on year over year.
What exciting things are coming up for Bohlsen Group in 2017?
While going through our B Corp recertification we also submitted our application to become a WBE. We did all this while moving into a new office and designing a new website with our new trademarked positioning statement Unified Marketing for Good.
Internally, we will focus on building out more robust incentivization, health and wellness, continuing education and volunteer programs.
Externally, we will continue to create community engagement policies, work with good-fit clients and give back 10 percent in-kind services to all nonprofit partners. (Last year we proudly gave nearly 8.5 percent of our revenue back to those clients.)
We wouldn’t be able to do this without the feedback of our staff, clients and community. We are committed to maintaining high standards in the areas where we currently excel, but also set new standards to meet attainable goals in areas where we can use improvement.