Better Know a B: The Social Investment Consultancy
The Social Investment Consultancy was launched in 2008 with a commitment to disrupt the boundaries between and within sectors and to help build the kind of programmes that can truly improve society. Through hands-on work with clients and associated collation of evidence, lessons-learned and best practice, TSIC works to deliver research and thought leadership. Managing Director Bonnie Chiu kindly shared her B Corp experience with us.
SD | Tell us a bit about the history of your company?
TSIC was launched in 2008 with a commitment to disrupt the boundaries between and within sectors. Since then, we have worked with the world’s leading charities and corporates, including Standard Chartered Bank, Save The Children and Oxford University Press. Our research has also been featured by Financial Times, Fast Company and The Guardian. We combine experience from management consulting and finance to social entrepreneurship and international development, so that we can provide our clients with the social context, academic theory, business strategy and innovation.
SD | Why did you become a B Corp?
Our friends at Volans told us to become one of the founding B Corps when they were thinking about bringing it to the UK. At TSIC we share the values of the B Corp movement. We believe that progress comes from changing systems and processes, as opposed to “quick fixes”, and that it is the responsibility of business to be part of this change. Much like our “Fuse” corporate methodology, the B Corporation movement supports a systemic approach to corporate social performance, integrating social and economic value into all aspects of a business. Both Fuse and the B Corporation approach see social performance as a positive contributor to an organisation’s core brand, staff engagement, partnerships, and community involvement.
To us, the B Corp movement represents a practical framework to help businesses benefit the wider society, whilst offering a meaningful accreditation that highlights good ethical practices to stakeholders.
SD | What excites you about being part of the global B Corporation movement?
As an organisation with franchises in New York, Dubai and Hong Kong, being part of an international network is particularly beneficial. It will provide us with access to a greater range of ideas and perspectives that we may not have considered before, as well as the opportunity to make contacts in new locations. B Lab is proactive in facilitating this process, coordinating blogs (such as this one!), idea sharing platforms and social events.
Can you tell us about the impact that your company is having in the world?
TSIC operates in the space between businesses and charities, helping both to make full use of their existing assets. In the charity space, our “Charities Unlocked” methodology enables them to generate revenue by matching their assets to customer needs. In the corporate space, our “Fuse” methodology allows companies to increase their positive impact, by leveraging their corporate assets. On top of this, we carry out impact assessments, which allow charities and social enterprises to monitor and improve their programmes; and research, which contributes evidence-based ideas to the sector.
SD | What benefits have you seen since certification?
In 2016 we carried out a research project into the benefits of becoming B Corp, based on a questionnaire filled out by 103 certified companies. We found that, whilst the benefits were mainly non-financial, they were significant. The biggest areas of improvement were organisational reputation, consumer brand awareness, press brand awareness, employee attraction and retention and partnerships, with over 75% of respondents seeing a positive change in each of these areas since certification. Although there was no evidence of an improvement in financial performance, there was no negative change and it is likely that such benefits would take time to be felt. Indeed, it is probable that the non-financial benefits would lead to an improvement in profitability in the long run. Furthermore, it is likely that, as consumer awareness of the B Corp certification increases, the financial benefits will be felt through improved sales.
SD | How did your other staff react to the certification?
We are a small company so everyone was involved in the process. When we interviewed for new staff members, we were also very surprised that candidates mentioned that they found out about this through the B Corp UK directory!
SD | What has changed in your organisation as a result of taking the B Impact Assessment?
We have always considered ourselves as a social enterprise but we have never clearly articulated our social impact, as an intermediary. I think we now have a systematic way of assessing our own impact; and are also more effective in communicating our impact with other stakeholders.
SD | What does the year ahead hold in store for your company?
This an exciting time for TSIC. We are in the process of helping an ever increasing number of charity clients develop commercial revenue through our Charities Unlocked framework and have made a number of exciting new hires in order to accommodate this additional work flow. We are also increasing our international scope with the establishment of a new Hong Kong franchise to be operated by Richard Chow.
SD | Who is your B Corp crush?
Personally, I am particularly interested in financial services companies that are looking to become B Corps, as investors have a great deal of power in impacting company decisions. We have all witnessed the disastrous consequences that arise when the financial services industry acts in a manner that does not take into account the wider society, but I believe that the flip-side of this power to inflict damage is the power to drive improvements. Within this space, Clean Yield Investment Management stands out to me for two reasons. Firstly, it clearly takes the certification very seriously – it was an early adopter and its score of 139 is way ahead of the median. Secondly, its engagement with the companies it invests in as an activist shareholder provides a clear example to other investment firms of how they can make a positive change. I only hope that this practice becomes more prevalent within the industry!
SD | It’s 2020, 5 years since you certified as a B Corp, what does the movement look like?
I envisage the B Corp movement to spearhead a wider spread of positive ideas within the corporate sector. Company stakeholders are waking up to the fact that responsible business practices should be central to a company’s operating practices rather than outsourced to a bolt-on CSR arm. This trend is likely to drive an increasing interest in the B Corp certification by companies, consumers and policy makers alike; however, my dream is that the ideas being championed by the movement will gain a following in the majority of large companies, whether certified or not. I believe that the “alumni” of B Corps will have a large role to play as their careers take them to new organisations, spreading their ideas as they go!
SD | What is inspiring you at the moment?
The rush of new talent and ideas that are flowing towards the social investment sector. It is particularly exciting to witness the large number of young people who are looking to get involved straight out of university or who are moving into the sector at an early stage in their career. This level of passion and support for the idea that business can drive social change can only bode well for our future!