What is a B Corp and what should I consider before beginning the process? - Veterinary Practice
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What is a B Corp and what should I consider before beginning the process?

“As a veterinary business, we are great at looking after our clients and their pets, but we need to make sure we put as much care and support into our back-office systems and processes too”

The first two veterinary practices in Europe to achieve the coveted B Corp certificate have joined forces to encourage a sustainability movement among the veterinary industry. Pennard Vets passed the rigorous B Corp accreditation process last September, promptly followed by Animal Trust, the not-for-profit vets.

What is a B Corp?

Certified B Corps are companies that meet exceptionally high standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability.

The B Corp process is run by the not-for-profit B Lab, which examines the company’s full range of processes, from supply chain to charitable giving and employee benefits. It is a rigorous assessment of a business’s impact on the world around it.

Certified B Corps are companies that meet exceptionally high standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability

Pennard Vets’ operations manager Joy Cole (Figure 1) said: “It was a lengthy process to complete the B Corp impact assessment; however, the findings made it a really worthwhile exercise. It showed that not only was there still a great deal we could do, but more importantly, there was a great deal we were already doing.

“A word of warning, though – it wasn’t until we started that we realised just how much time it was going to take! I blocked out regular time slots in my diary to ensure I didn’t get overwhelmed with the tasks, which really helped keep it in my sights.”  

Why should you become a B Corp?

“B Corp status is for businesses in any industry. The best way to think about it is if your company really wants to make a positive difference, then you should go for it.

“The main advantage to the assessment is it makes you assess and think about the way you run your company and how you are considering your people, the community around you and, of course, our planet.

It won’t solve everything – there are no quick fixes – but it will help focus and prioritise the steps that need to be taken to build a brighter future for all

“Regarding management buy-in, for any conscientious company looking to put their people and the environment before profit, it’s the ideal tool. It won’t solve everything – there are no quick fixes – but it will help focus and prioritise the steps that need to be taken to build a brighter future for all.

FIGURE (1) Pennard Vets operations manager Joy Cole and her pet Willow celebrating the company’s B Corp accreditation

“We recently became the largest veterinary group in the world to become employee-owned, protecting our independence and 128-year-old core values. By becoming an employee ownership trust (EOT), all 115 members of our team working across our seven sites in Kent are now practice owners and stakeholders in the business. Becoming employee-owned was a massive win when it came to the B Corp accreditation, and it really helped confirm we had done the right thing.

“Obviously, getting the accreditation is just the first step – maintaining the certification is an ongoing process. We have now started to involve more people in ensuring our collective mindset is in continuous improvement mode!

“The whole process makes you look at the way you operate and the way you run the support systems within your business. One example of how it has impacted our businesses’ decisions is the introduction of eco-friendly bags, which are made from potato starch that composts in under three months.

“As a veterinary business, we are great at looking after our clients and their pets, but we need to make sure we put as much care and support into our back-office systems and processes too.

“The B Corp exercise makes you reassess the way you work and put active plans in place to make the re-accreditation process smoother. It also highlights where extra work may be needed.

“I would really encourage other practices to go for B Corp accreditation!”

The accreditation process

“I would say not to rush it – it’s not a race! Take your time so you don’t get overwhelmed, and include others from your business in the process. Split the categories up, then bring everyone together to discuss – again, take your time and talk things through.

“Also, use focused time and help your team to block out diary time to work on projects and data analysis. It’s a great idea to talk to other B Corps who have been through the process to gain insight into the process.

The B Corp process is designed for all industries and there may be some points that just don’t fit with your business model

“Don’t get despondent if you don’t gain points in some of the categories. Remember, the B Corp process is designed for all industries and there may be some points that just don’t fit with your business model.”

What does becoming a B Corp mean for you and your team?

“We feel that B Corp status is a great fit with Pennard Vets’ values and ethos, and that it will help us improve how we look at our business strategy moving forward.

“We have recently given talks to team members to ensure they understand what being a B Corp is about and why we have done it. This has already encouraged more ideas and suggestions to move forward and has highlighted that our team really care how we operate.

“By sharing our success with our team, it shows we are thinking beyond profit and encourages them to also consider how small changes in daily habits can really bring about positive changes. It was also great to praise our team as part of the process and really highlight the amazing things they were already doing!

It shows we are thinking beyond profit and encourages them to also consider how small changes in daily habits can really bring about positive changes

“We have been established for 128 years and want to be here for many more to come while doing the best we can for our clients, their pets, our staff and, of course, our planet. The B Corp certification has given us a real sense of achievement, and the process will help us to keep doing better every day.

“We are ever so proud of what we have achieved and the fact that we are an ethical, environmentally aware business, but for more impact, we want to develop a greater movement in our industry.

“That is why we are keen to help guide other veterinary practices through the process so they can benefit from what we have learnt. We are offering free advice for anyone interested in going for the B Corp accreditation.”

Final thoughts

Owen Monie, founder and CEO at Animal Trust, said: “Though we are a community interest company and Pennard Vets is employee-owned, any practice can become a B Corp.

“We’re a company with a social heart, and being here to help the pet-owning community is the reason we exist. Our B Corp status is official recognition of everything that we represent and marks a major milestone on our journey to becoming the leading veterinary provider that delivers for the community.”

Joy added: “Hopefully our combined knowledge and experience of the B Corp process will be of value to other veterinary practices thinking of going for it.

“There are so many possible ways to make good practices even better, as well as a force for good for their own people, clients, community and the wider planet.”

To find out more about Pennard Vets’ mentoring scheme, contact joy.cole@pennardvets.com 

Joy Cole

Joy Cole is operations manager at Pennard Vets, which is employee-owned and B Corp certified. With over 30 years of operational and management experience, her passion lies in improving the way practices operate, business planning and placing sustainability and people at the heart of practice management.


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