19 AUG 2020
Ward Williams Associates is the 1st Chartered Surveying practice globally to achieve B Corporation® certification. Senior Partner, Andy Snapes, talks us through what becoming a B Corp™ entails and how this will affect how they operate now and, in the future.
1. What is a B Corporation® and what made the team decide it was right path for the company?
Certified B Corporations® are firms that are committed to using business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy and environment. To become a B Corp™ we were rigorously tested to ensure we met the highest standards of social, economic and environmental performance.
We first came across B Corp™ in late 2017 and felt it aligned with how WWA was evolving. We wanted to develop the business, deliver great outcomes for clients, and work collaboratively with others in the construction sector to drive improvement. We also needed to ensure that our team was fully engaged and actively shaping their futures and that of the business.
Over the last 12 months we’ve been through the B Impact Assessment process, and in parallel worked with the team on the Vision and Values for the business. There’s been a fantastic alignment between what the team see as important and the B Corp™ agenda, so for us it’s a natural fit.
In a recent survey carried out by B Lab UK (the non-profit behind the B Corporation® movement in the UK) *72% of the UK population believe that businesses should have a legal responsibility to the planet and people alongside maximising profits.
It is the only certification that encourages businesses to grow and develop in the right way, using ‘business as a force for good®’. WWA aims to encourage the people we work with to deliver a more sustainable built environment for people, places and the planet. B Corporation® provides us with the framework to do this.
2. What was the process of certification? What type of questions were you asked?
There are 5 impact areas covered in the B Impact Assessment; Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers. Over 200 questions covered these areas and comprehensively assessed our processes, policies and behaviours. As a multi-disciplinary practice, we are included in B Corps’ ‘Real Estate, Design and Building’ pathway, so many of the questions asked were industry specific. It was reassuring to find that many of our current policies and processes were already aligned with the requirements of B Corp™.
The rigorous certification and evidencing process should not be underestimated in terms of data and depth of detail. Businesses contemplating this journey must be committed to a journey of continuous improvement in their respective sector for the benefit of all.
We feel humbled, yet proud to have scored 135.5 from the verification process. We are currently amongst the top 10% of B Corps™ worldwide and in the company of some of the best performing businesses in the World.
3. How will being a B Corp™ affect the projects you work on?
The B Corp™ certification reinforces our existing and future commitments to uphold the highest standards of financial, environmental and social principles in everything we do.
Collaboration is key, and our role is to challenge ourselves and encourage everyone we work with to improve their impact on the triple bottom line.
Our commitment to drive improvement in the construction sector aligns with latest RICS campaign, “Value the Planet”. The surveying profession has a critical role in leading the way to “Build Back Better”, transforming society for the better in the recovery from Covid-19.”
A common misconception is that sustainable development is more expensive, but this is simply not the case in the context of the future. We are all finally waking up to the fact that we need an increasingly sustainable approach to tackle known environmental, economic and social challenges.
WWA is seizing this moment as an opportunity for both growth and behavioural change. We all have to admit to ourselves that being less bad is not good enough in an increasingly compromised world.
4. What will being a B Corp™ mean to WWA for the future
Construction touches virtually every aspect of our lives. Arguably, it has the biggest cultural, ecological and commercial impact on the places where we live, work, learn, care, play and travel.
The B Corp™ journey has allowed us to distil our values and purpose into three core pillars: People, Places and Planet. Each pillar will be considered by the WWA team in the key decision making whether project or operationally focused.
We are incredibly proud to be the first Chartered Surveyors in the World to become a B Corp™. Achieving a world first is attributed directly to the commitment and diligence of our great team across the breadth of the organisation. A culmination of many years of evolution within the business has made WWA both an inspiring place to work, and a Client’s choice to service quality projects.
We are continuing to make steps towards positive change, using B Corp™ principles as a springboard across the business. This includes further development of our WWA Futures educational programme, creating employment opportunities for those impacted by social deprivation, an increased focus on driving diversity in construction, and continuing to collaborate with others to enable positive environmental outcomes across our projects. Later in 2020, we are launching a new product that will help clients to deliver carbon reduction targets as part of our collective role in addressing the Climate Emergency; watch this space.
This is a crucial moment for our sector and how it positively affects People, Places and the Planet. All individuals and businesses working in construction have a great opportunity to be a transformational influence on how we “Value the Planet” and we hope many more join us by joining B Corp.