IN FOCUS | Putting the B Corp in Buttress
Whether a measure of authenticity or a much-needed organising framework, a B Corp status can mean a lot to a company. Manchester and Leeds-based architecture firm Buttress gave Place the low-down on what B certificate can mean to a company.
But first, what is a B Corp?
Much like BREEAM is used to measure the sustainability of a building, a B Corp certification is used to measure the ethical values of a company.
These certifications are given out by B Lab, the parent organisation, to companies that apply to become B Corps. In order to be certified, the business must demonstrate its commitment to public transparency and legal accountability.
There is a triple bottom line that underpins the certification: people, planet, and profit.
In other words, for every bit of profit the business makes it needs to ask this question – what is it giving back to its workers and wider community?
B Corps use this framework to implement and make ethical decisions. Stephen Anderson, director and head of Buttress’s heritage team, stated that this backdrop “[allows] us to now kind of grow and develop in a very focused and purposeful way, while recognising that triple bottom line.”
“It basically gives us a way to drive the business forward very positively.”
Buttress is not alone in its B Corp venture. The number of UK B Corporations has doubled in the last year. In the North West, these include Aew Architects, Planit-IE, and Tyler Grange.
There are more than 6,000 B-Corps worldwide, with 1,593 in the UK alone.
Matthew Burl, associate director and architect at Buttress, described how helpful the “recognised certification” is in informing practices as a benchmark for trust and authenticity.
“It gives us a really clear standard that we are working to and we are continually going to improve,” Burl said.
As a benchmark for trust and authenticity, B Corp highlights the importance of community and places social responsibility back onto the business.
Social actions taken by Buttress, named Social Value Company of the Year at UKREiiF in 2022, include community engagement workshops, and its sponsorship of PlaceEd Academy – a creative programme about the built environment for 14-18 year-olds.
Buttress also joined the Green Building Society in 2021, taking on this responsibility by placing sustainability at the forefront of its designs.
The process to become a B Corp is rigorous. Burl described Buttress’ year-long process as an “assessment tool” that helped the team of 72 learn a lot about its practice and ways to improve.
The assessment takes a deep dive into all areas of the business and analyses it across five separate pillars: employees, community, clients, governance, and environmental performance.
B Corp takes into account social actions taken by the company in order to add value for its employees, stakeholders, and wider community, as well as its impact on the environment.
For Buttress, this also includes its heritage work, which underpins 50% of its projects. Anderson reflected on the “positive impact” that conservation projects can have on the community.
“As a business, we believe in the power of heritage to change people’s lives for the better.” Anderson stated.
“It’s the idea of conserving the best of our culture and human creativity, and making sure that it is available to future generations in a way that is tangible, legible, and can have a positive impact.”
The business must score at least 80 out of 200 on a self-assessment in these areas, for which they must provide evidence at every hurdle in order to become certified.
For Burl, the process is undeniably worth it. “It is hard work, but you learn a huge amount and you are really able to increase and focus the impact that you can have.”
Belief in B Corp’s values is a big thing, though. Anderson stated, “you’ve got to believe it.”