How a three-person team became the UK’s highest scoring B Corp
Y.O.U Underwear is living proof that you don’t need a big team to have a big impact.
If sustainable undies haven’t caught your attention before, they will now. In November 2021, Oxford-based brand Y.O.U Underwear certified as B Corp with an outstanding 160.5 points in the B Impact Assessment, the highest score in the UK. With only 3 employees at the time, this success is all the more relevant for other small businesses approaching certification. We spoke to Sarah Jordan, Founder and CEO, and Jess Rigg, Head of Sustainability, to uncover insights for using this impact improvement tool as you grow your business.
Hi Sarah, first up - congratulations! Could you tell us a bit about your approach to B Corp certification?
Sarah: Early on in Y.O.U’s B Corp certification journey, I was given a great piece of advice: ‘do it before you feel you’re ready’. The B Impact Assessment is a serious undertaking, but time and resources are a challenge for any business regardless of size. As a small company, we were able to implement new policies in an incredibly agile way, using the assessment to help make strategic decisions.
Jess: Our general approach was to get as much as we could in place, even before it was necessary for us to do so. We set up processes to gather customer feedback, wrote core guidance documents and implemented policies on everything from whistleblowing to breastfeeding. As we look to grow our team, it helps to have these structures in place and it also provides useful transparency within our team of 3!
You've got a fantastic score and some great initiatives. What are you most proud of?
Sarah: Giving back is at the core of Y.O.U Underwear’s business model, and I’m so proud of the impact we’re having. We’ve donated over 20,000 pairs of underwear to the charity Smalls for All, helping girls across Africa and the UK stay in school on their periods. Through our Kiko Romeo collaboration, we give back directly to the communities who inspired the designs and donate underwear to girls in Maasai communities in Kenya. We also support the breast cancer charity Future Dreams and Just a Drop’s Menstrual Hygiene Programme. I’m also proud of our internal commitments and how we treat staff, like remote and flexible working alongside some key policies to ensure that the workplace is an equal and inclusive space.
You’ve achieved so much with a small team. Where did you look for support and advice?
Sarah: We couldn’t have tackled certification all by ourselves! It was so valuable to get the input of local B Leaders, and the Oxfordshire B Local group. We also connected with other small companies in our network going through certification, to share tips and learnings. I found it particularly helpful to look through the impact reports of Certified B Corps for ideas and inspiration. Pip & Nut and teapigs were two great examples.
Jess: You can’t delegate out as a small company, and at times the work was intense. It was important for us to emotionally support each other - to check in regularly, take breaks, and talk about the challenges we were facing.
What advice would you give to other small companies looking to certify as a B Corp?
Sarah: Don’t underestimate the impact that your activities can have, even as a small business! Record everything and make detailed notes as you go through the assessment. The ‘notes’ function in the BIA is great for this, especially if there are calculations you’ve used for specific questions. File your supporting information so that it’s easy to access at later stages - you’ll need to find it again!
Jess: Just do it, you may be more ready than you think you are! Even without a physical office space, we set up environmental trackers that took into account remote working, and set goals for improvement across the board.
Use your size to your advantage and prioritise improvement above anything else. The assessment is a great tool and source of information for future improvement activities within the business. Even if you don’t get the scores you need, you’ll learn so much about how you can grow!
Being a B Corp is all about continuous improvement and, despite the impressive score, we know this is hot on the agenda for you. What’s next?
Sarah: Our current score is heavily weighted in the Community section, so I’m keen to go back through the BIA and identify opportunities for improvement across the other four areas. I’m using the ‘goals’ function (read more here) to help focus our activities over the next three years. We’re developing a take-back scheme for our underwear and have started to collect old underwear, socks and tights from any brand to recycle with Terracycle, in an aim to stop our, and others’, products going to landfill. We’re also looking at finding a sustainable alternative for the elastane we use, and as well as exploring natural dyes. Last year we committed to Net Zero by 2030, but are hoping to achieve it much sooner!
As a small business, it can be difficult to implement the changes you want to see. That’s why I’m so excited to be part of the UK B Corp Community and to have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from other inspiring companies on the B Hive.