Charmian Love, Co-founder, B-Lab UK
Please give us a bit of background on yourself, and how your organisation plays a leadership role in the impact investing space.
I started out as an entrepreneur. I had the privilege of co-founding Volans with two great thought leaders in the sustainability and social entrepreneurship worlds - John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan. An important milestone for Volans was certifying as a B Corp - we were the second to do so in the UK. And I loved the process so much that I decided to dedicate time to work with the co-founder of another early B Corp, James Perry, to support the creation of an active community of B Corps. Together we set up B Lab UK.
Today B Lab UK has an excellent team, led by Katie Hill. The leadership B Lab UK plays can be briefly summarised as creating an enabling environment for certified B Corps to find community with one another and deepen their relationships with each other. Ultimately, we believe B Corps represent excellent potential deal flow for impact investors. B Corps are for profit businesses that have a met a rigorous standard set out in the B Impact Assessment that measures both how they operate and the positive impacts created by their business. To be a B Corp a business also needs to amend their legal documents - clarifying the purpose of the business (the objects) and articulating the expectation that directors will consider shareholders and stakeholders equally in decision making.
Beyond the B Corps themselves, B Lab has also developed state-of-the-art tools that area available for anyone to use. The B Impact Assessment is a free online roadmap that any business or investor can use to ‘measure what matters’. To date, over 60,000 businesses have gone online and used this tool.
How well are companies adapting to the mainstreaming of purpose-driven finance? What ways is impact investing making headway, and where is it lagging?
Impact Investing is making headway - we are seeing more deals being done. I think the next stage is to share more of the exit stories - the case studies that provide evidence that profit and purpose can occur at the same time, rather than necessarily requiring a tradeoff of one for the other.
What challenges do you see for the future of purpose-driven finance?
The biggest challenge has been a lack of consistently used language and metrics to clarify what different stakeholder groups mean by the term ‘impact’. There is some excellent work happening to address this challenge - including the Impact Management Project.
What will you be discussing at The Economist's Impact Investing event in London on June 15th?
Our session will talk about B Corps - the key principles that define the B Corp movement, as well as why the time has never been more right for this movement to really take off…