By Rudha Loganathan, Jenkins MBA 2017
When I first came to the US to earn my MBA, I wanted to be involved in business activities that are not only impactful but also, meaningful. I still remember the day when Jessica Thomas came to our MBA orientation to talk about sustainability; she spoke about how the Business sustainability Collaborative (BSC) creates sustainability awareness and how BSC works on sustainability projects within the campus. Her focus was not only about the impact BSC has on the businesses in the local community, but also, on how students could get involved in sustainability activities. Her talk caught my attention and I knew I had to get involved with BSC.
One of the Sustainability activities that I was really into with BSC was the B Corp Clinic. Jessica had just launched B Corp Clinic in 2015 and this came at the right juncture when I was getting to know the importance of the social and environmental impact on a business. I would certainly say that this was one of the best initiatives I was ever part of. The B Corp Clinic is a place where companies that want to be certified or improve the existing B Corp score would be assigned a team of students from NC State, Duke, UNC and Wake Forest to help the companies achieve their objective. I was fascinated by this opportunity to get involved with companies that do business with a triple-bottom-line.
Through this clinic, I worked with two companies Vital Plan and Protopia as a team member and as a team lead respectively. I focused primarily on operations and governance while learning about environmental impact assessments. The Clinic gave me a great platform to not only practice business concepts in real time scenarios but also, helped me in understanding the nuances and restrictions faced by a business that is trying to integrate sustainability into business. Some of the key learnings I had were; getting a company certified or recertified within a month is a big challenge when you need to create the documentation and resources for the company from scratch, you need to be good at social and environmental impact measurement and have a sound background in analyzing the community impact through the company’s operations. When I did my last assignment with Protopia I was in a position with my team to set up as many documentation and resources as possible in a 2-month span to help them be in a position to get certified by 2018.
After I graduated in May 2017, I wanted to help companies who want to be re-certified within 1-2 month time frame. This situation arises when a company has very limited resources or running out of time to get re-certified as B Corp. I had the privilege to work with TS Designs located in Burlington, NC. They are in the clothing business, one of the pioneers of B Corp Certification and one of the firsts in North Carolina to get B Corp certified. The situation I was presented with was to help TS Designs get re-certified as B Corp in 1 month. The way I went about this project was by having an initial discussion with Eric Michel (VP, Operations) to understand what their existing score is, what the challenges they are facing to get re-certified are and what are the areas they would like me to focus on.
After the discussion, I gave them a 4-week project plan that focused on questions that would be answered and the number of points they would be achieved after each week. TS Designs used this project plan to convince B Labs (B Corp certifying body) on how TS Designs plans on getting re-certified within 1 month. During the 4 week period, I provided the documentations in the areas of operations, social impact, and environmental impact, to name a few; documentation on Supplier Code of Conduct, Significant supplier monitoring and evaluation, Employee manual and Environmental impact analysis of greenhouse gases. As targeted, we initiated the B Corp certification process by week 4 and with some follow up questions and revisions TS Designs were re-certified by September 2018.
These were the golden words given by Eric Michel, VP of Operations at TS Designs, as feedback to me “Rudha worked with me to complete our B Corporation certification, which required the development of extensive documentation and new policy. In only a few weeks, he was able to finish a project that we had been struggling through for over a year. He kept a very organized list of objectives to get us over the finish line, and worked with me to complete those objectives in the timeframe we agreed upon, despite the limited time I had to work on my pieces of the puzzle. Rudha was instrumental in (finally!) closing our certification and I’m sure we’d still be working on it (months later) if we didn’t hire him.”
In my current capacity, I work with BSC as a consultant to the B Corp Clinic. In the 2018 B Corp Spring clinic, we have companies such as Happy + Hale, Loading Dock, New Kind, Litterati, Leaf & Limb, Lulu.com and Southern Energy Management (SEM). Of these Lulu and SEM are here for re-certification, Litterati is trying to understand if B Corp fits into their long-term business strategy and the other four companies are looking to achieve B Corp Certification for the first time. My role is to oversee the seven project teams working with these companies to make sure that the teams outperform the company’s objectives. This involves providing guidance, being a resource for any questions or challenges, validate project deliverable for accuracy and client fulfillment, equip teams with right tools to succeed and attend team meetings/calls. In addition to these duties, I serve as a liaison to participating companies. I ensure open communication through biweekly check-ins to ensure client satisfaction and validate that all necessary tools have been provided to the team.
If I think of my experience now, it was one the most memorable experiences I had as a consultant. I can say now that Recertifying B Corps has its own challenges and it differs from company to company. The best way to approach it would be to treat every company different because the priorities and focus of the business differ from company to company. Finally, I want to thank Eric Henry and Eric Michel for helping me gain more experience in this Sustainability Consulting world by helping them get B Corp certified.