Better Know a B: Futerra
Futerra is both a logical sustainability consultancy and a magical creative agency. They work with people who believe they can turn the sustainability imperative into the greatest entrepreneurial opportunity for a generation. Lucy Shea, the CEO of Futerra, tells us a bit about their journey to becoming a B Corp and why they decided to certify.
SD | Tell us a bit about the history of your company
Futerra was co-founded in 2001 by Solitaire Townsend and Ed Gillespie based on the big idea of 'making sustainability so desirable it becomes normal'. I joined in November 2003 with a remit to grow the business. In those first few months I couldn’t believe how Ed and Soli would sit around discussing the value of values and other philosophical sustainability themes. My stance would always be “I’ve got some actual work to do” as I flipped back to my computer to finish another budget or proposal. My views changed 100% however, when I saw this ongoing debate crystallise into a maverick, creative, impact driven pitch for the UK’s first national climate change campaign. We persuaded the top experts on climate change to put positive people led behaviour change at the heart of their communications. We beat off the big agencies and won the pitch. We published the ‘Rules of the Game’. It was our big break.
Our challenge then, and ever more so now, was to overturn the belief that for organisations or individuals, sustainability is simply a cost, burden or involves some form of 'hair-shirt' sacrifice. Sustainability is the entrepreneurial opportunity of a generation. We work with our clients to transform sustainability into a commercial opportunity that means business can genuinely do well by doing good.
In the early days, this was seen as a somewhat radical perspective. Our clients often saw us as 'dangerous mavericks' whilst some campaigners perceived us as 'corporate sell-outs'! We have endeavoured to tread this tricky middle-ground with confidence and commitment ever since. Our purpose is to change the narratives around big issues such as inequality, climate change and biodiversity loss, and to evolve these from pure problems into tangible opportunities that businesses can respond to.
Futerra is now a change agency, combining the magic of creativity and the logic of sustainability to create big ideas that drive change. We are a proud B Corp, majority female owned and led, and growing fast. Along the way we have hired a brilliant team, worked with world changing clients and had a lot of fun.
SD | Why did you become a B Corp?
Our decision to become a founding B Corp in the UK wasn’t hard. We’re a mission driven business, so everything we do has a deliberately positive social or environmental impact. A B Corp certification gives purposeful business real substance. On top of everything, our hardworking teams get a sense of validation.
SD | What excites you about being part of the global B Corporation movement?
Being part of an incredible movement for change. Looking around and seeing the other brilliant B Corps gives an energy boost when the going gets tough, and we’re excited about the potential to join forces and tackle the growing list of global issues in a positive way.
SD | Can you tell us about the impact your company is having on the world?
We start revolutions, we reinvent business models, we fight extinction with love and unleash wildness in the hearts of citizens. We drive comebacks and make the things that matter, the things that mean the most. In short, we imagine better, brighter, more beautiful tomorrows and then boldly step forth to make them happen today.
SD | What benefits have you seen since certification?
Working through the comprehensive process of certification was a challenge, but that experience was beneficial in itself – because we always want to do better. We had to question a lot of our policies and processes. Should we develop a policy, or would that just be box-ticking? Had the process revealed a genuine blind-spot? Overall we were extremely heartened to receive a great score. And we’ve got a to-do list we trust.
Other benefits are beginning to show, some quite unexpected. We’ve had free tickets to pricey conferences as a B Corp, reductions on services from other B Corps, not to mention the brilliant networking opportunities – side note, we’d like a secret handshake for B Corps, please.
SD | How did your other staff react to the certification?
After the late night pizza fuelled sessions spent gathering up all of our data, documents and proof-points, getting a great score gave our teams a huge sense of validation.
SD | What has changed in your organisation as a result of taking the B Impact Assessment?
I think the methodological way the assessment is done has given us a new found respect for how challenging data gathering can be for our clients. We have kept the measurement going since 2015 which is a great and will hopefully make re-assessment much easier.
SD | What does the year ahead hold in store for your company?
Helping some of our big corporate clients become B Corps. Taking a stand on anti-globalisation, inspired by creative work from brands like Momondo and Airbnb. Hiring more brilliant people to go on this crazy ride with us. And then we’ve got a few things up our sleeve, such as a product launch or two.
SD | Who is your B Corp crush?
We have quite a few, but Lily’s Kitchen have really caught our attention. They offer something good for our pets and our planet – what’s not to love! We really admire their pioneering approach; they’ve been growing fast and really driving positive change in the pet food industry. Our office dogs Charlie and Brie are also big fans!
SD | It’s 2020, 5 years since you certified as a B Corp, what does the movement look like?
There are only B Corps!