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December 7, 2023

Becoming a certified B Corp

Ferpection is now a certified B Corp. This means that we are part of a global community of companies adhering to high standards of:
✅ Social and environmental performance;
✅ Legal accountability;
✅ Transparency.

The "B" in "B Corp" stands for "Benefit for All": employees, communities, clients, and our planet. We hold this certification close to our hearts ❤️ as it is the result of a long journey, which I'll explain here.

The origin story of our B Corp certification

When Arnaud and I founded Ferpection, we both had a strong desire to explore alternative managerial approaches. We believed that by reducing constraints in the work environment, it was possible to unite a team that could give their best. At that time, we were reacting to the trend of startups defining their culture around the availability of a foosball table. On the contrary, we wanted to go beyond mere material advantages to question the relationship to work, authority, and even our parents.

As we developed Ferpection, we discovered fascinating schools of thought, including the philosophy of liberated companies. Through trial and error, we eventually found our "ferpectible" path in this direction and built a strong employer brand that continues to make us competitive in the job market.

"Fast forward" to a few years later, and I was dealing with two contradictions:
  1. On one hand, we had built a rather peaceful and, dare I say, healthy work environment. On the other hand, this wasn't very visible externally. There were externalities, but they were somewhat implicit for our partners and clients: agility, listening, good qualities that could be found elsewhere.
  2. I had defined Ferpection's purpose as "improving the digital experience for each of us every day." But this purpose struggled to materialize.

I discovered the B Corp movement, it seems, in 2020, thanks in part to my friend Vincent Adnet. I took the B Impact online assessment and realized the level of demand was enormous. There were over 180 questions, and almost all required thoughtful consideration. I put this in the back of my mind, intending to revisit it. Then, in 2022, we developed the concept of UX for Good, particularly with Mathieu Lombard. Matthieu Louise led the first co-designed project with France TV for the launch of Nowu. We began theorizing how UX could play a role in planetary and societal impacts. In a sense, we were reinventing the concept of digital responsibility, but I am convinced that the UX community has a complementary role to play alongside the colossal work already undertaken by the IT community on this issue.

In any case, that was the moment of revelation; I knew that our UX for Good offering and our B Corp certification would be linked.
B Impact assessment tool dashboard

The B Impact dashboard homepage, which I logged into frequently during the certification process.

But what is B Corp, in the end?

The B in B Corp stands for "Benefit for All." B Lab, which leads the B Corp community, provides the following objective: "We mobilize the B Corp movement to change our economic system and have a positive impact on all stakeholders: employees, communities, clients, and our planet." The B Corp movement has a systemic ambition:

"In our current global economic system, companies fail to deliver on the promise of creating positive impact; instead, they generate negative impact on a large scale. In short, they prioritize profit over people and the planet.
B Lab is convinced that another type of economy is not only possible but necessary, and that companies can lead the way.
Since 2006, we have been advancing this work worldwide by certifying B Corps: companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, legal accountability, and transparency. Certified B Corps legally commit to being beneficial not only to shareholders but to all stakeholders of the company - employees, clients, community, and the environment.
We are building the B Corp movement to change our economic system, and to do that, we must change the rules of the game. We create standards, policies, tools, and programs that shift the behavior, culture, and structure of the current economic system. We mobilize the B Corp community toward collective action to address society's most critical challenges. And we do all of this to realize our vision of an inclusive, fair, and regenerative economy for all humans and for all living beings."
While this movement is recognized for its credibility and rigor, there are only 300 certified B Corps in France.

Is it really that difficult to be certified as a B Corp?

Honestly, yes. It's not just about the 180 questions I mentioned earlier. With a completely cross-cutting process that spans several months, it's a project in itself and, for the vast majority of companies, a transformation project. You're not just tallying points. Like in any audit, there's a compliance aspect.

Our strategy was to document all our answers so that we could review different points with B Lab analysts several months after applying.

I would like to commend the kindness of all the people who accompany you in this process and embody the idea of B Corp. Of course, let's not be naive; they can also be uncompromising. In any case, here's some very personal feedback that will give you an idea of what to expect based on our experience if you want your company to join the B Corp community:
  • A massive online audit that scrutinizes all impact dimensions of your company through some major themes: governance, employees, community, environment, clients, transparency requirements.
  • A complete internal project: communication, adoption, management, contributions without harming daily operations...
  • A roadmap to build to identify where our areas of improvement are and how to address them.
  • Doubts, it's never going to work!
  • Short-term overlooked improvement points: the 1% for the planet, for example.
  • Work to document all our claims. As we have a huge culture of written documentation at Ferpection, it was manageable, but we realized that a lot of documentation was still in our heads, such as our CSR practices, and behind that, alignment work, divergence, convergence, documentation. All multiplied by X subjects!
  • More doubts, it's a minimum of 80 points to get there, we're at 90, but did we overestimate ourselves? Will the analysts bring us back below 80?
  • Significant transformation: reinvention of our governance, creation of an ethical code, refusal of certain new clients whose activities are not compatible, transition to a mission-driven company with a control body...
  • Many steps with the B Corp teams: presentation, pre-analysis, analysis, post-analysis, and...
  • And then suddenly, everything accelerates; our score is confirmed, we sign the interdependence contract, provide missing information in the global B Corp directory, and there it is, the finish line is crossed!
Once we decided to take it seriously, the whole process took 9 months.
Our overall B Impact Score from the B Directory

And now? 

In conclusion, Ferpection's achievement of B Corp certification represents much more than mere recognition. It is the result of an entrepreneurial journey marked by values, challenges, and deep commitments to society and the environment. The rigorous process of obtaining B Corp certification was a demanding but necessary journey. It led to significant transformation within the company, from the reinvention of governance to the creation of an ethical code, including the rejection of clients whose activities are incompatible with Ferpection's values. 
It wasn't just an online audit; it was a transformation project involving all aspects of the company. Achieving this certification attests to Ferpection's commitment to high standards of social and environmental performance, legal accountability, and transparency. 

With only 300 companies in France holding this certification, Ferpection joins a global community aiming to redefine the role of businesses in society and promote an inclusive, fair, and regenerative economy. 

Now we have to deliver against that commitment!

Contact us if you want to approach your digital projects differently and redefine the impact of your work.

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Thibault Geenen

Thibault Geenen

Thibault is fascinated by the power of UX, especially user research and nowadays the UX for Good principles. As an entrepreneur, he's a huge fan of liberated company principles, where teammates give the best through creativity without constraints. A science-fiction lover, he remains the only human being believing that Andy Weir's 'The Martian' is a how-to guide for entrepreneurs.

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