People tend to be distrustful of businesses. With shady business practices, worker exploitation, and inappropriate behaviour from leaders being exposed left and right, it’s not a surprise. It’s in light of this that B Corp certification was created by B Lab, a nonprofit network working to encourage businesses to use their organisations for the good of their communities, teams, and the planet, and hold them accountable for the promises they make in these areas.
To work towards this goal, B Lab doesn’t just create standards, audit, and certify businesses. They also aim to connect B Corps with each other to facilitate learning from each other. Their Theory of Change is all about using business as a force for good and to achieve that, it’s necessary for people in business to lead that charge and learn from each other’s best practices or even their mistakes.
Since its inception, B Lab has grown its community to more than 4,600 B Corps in 76 countries and over 150 industries. In the Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand region alone, there are more than 390 B Corps. With a growing community of this size, it was getting increasingly difficult to organically connect people. So in January of 2022, B Lab Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand launched a mentoring program for B Corps.
B Lab Australia’s Impact and Engagement Manager and the mentoring program’s coordinator, Kira Day, says connecting people within the B Corp community is vital as “there is such a diversity of skills, experience, and areas of expertise in the community” and B Lab wanted to tap into that. Bringing their community, who already share similar values and the goal to use business as a force for good, around B Corp and connecting them based on the areas they want to, or have made, an impact is something that they believe can drive more change.
The B Lab team initially looked into piloting a few different programs such as skill-sharing and peer groups, but resourcing was a constant issue. Their lean team already had their hands full with growing and supporting the B Corp movement in other areas.
So the idea of using a mentoring program, and one supported by Mentorloop, was not a difficult one to sell. Having the ability to match people using the algorithm instead of manually was appealing as it took a significant chunk of admin off their hands and removed the guesswork and unconscious biases that would have been present had they manually matched everyone. Using the algorithm also means that as they scale, the quality of matches in the program doesn’t have to be compromised.
Additionally, as we often see with many of the programs on the Mentorloop platform, those who champion mentoring programs have had great mentoring experiences and want others to have the same. B Lab Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand’s CEO Andrew Davies has enjoyed being both a mentee and a mentor over the years, and program coordinator Kira has also had some great mentoring relationships in her career. When the proposal was made, it took no convincing for the B Lab team to get excited about it.
They sent out an email to their “B Keepers,” their internal B Corp champions at businesses across Australia and New Zealand and asked them to sign up within 2 weeks for the first round of matching. They were overwhelmed by positive responses. People were excited to be involved in the program, especially since it involved others within the B Corp community.
B Lab’s Hopes for the Program
Kira says that B Lab hopes that the program helps those working in B Corps find connections that can support them in anything from personal development to championing organisational change. “By being matched with someone within the B Corp community, they’ve already found someone who has the same vision of what business could and should be, and how they can support that in their own roles.” It’s also a way to create some form of shared connection in a growing community at a time where opportunities to connect in person aren’t often available or possible.
They hope that those involved would feel a deeper connection to the B Corp community and find unexpected connections within it that would not have been possible otherwise. “The best thing we can create is an engaged, supportive community that wants to share and collaborate to help others succeed. That’s the only way we can change our economic system — by working from within it.”
The program is in its early days but the signs of success are there. The community is engaged and many are already sharing stories of finding great connections within the program. As the program grows, so will the range of things that the mentors and mentees can learn and accomplish, in part because of the connections they’ve made in the B Corp community.
For instance, B Lab is hoping to introduce a more formal way for B Corps to use their business skills to support First Nations entrepreneurs and other businesses facing systemic barriers through programs like this. And this will only be the start of leveraging these human connections within a community with a shared mission to change the way businesses operate.
If you’re currently working for a B Corp, sign up for the B Corp mentoring program now – it’s free!