B Lab EU: Hi! Please tell us who you are and what you do. Charlotte: I’m Charlotte and right now I work for COOK - a family run food company based in the UK employing 1,200 people. COOK was one of the first B Corps in the UK and has enjoyed being part of a growing community of UK B Corps.
I’m Head of Social Impact so I work on how we can live our purpose of nourishing relationships with our people, the food industry and the planet, our communities and the wider business word. I also head up all our internal training and personal development. This means I work a lot on how we sustain a thriving company culture and keep people engaged so that all our teams are better supported to use business as a force for good.
B Lab EU: When did you first hear about B Corps? Charlotte: In 2013 I was working for an awesome independent publishing firm in London (Faber and Faber). I was feeling angry with how large online retail platforms had the potential to destroy bookshops and undermine the author’s chances to develop new work. I discovered an alternative digital marketplace- BetterWorldBooks- and that was when I first heard of B Corps and found a tribe of people who could see a different way to use business. By 2014 I was working for a B Corp and in 2015 I helped to launch B Lab UK and grow the community across Britain.
B Lab EU: What was it about the B Corp movement that struck you the most? Charlotte: The way people treated each other. I saw how big, generous relationships radically changed the way people thought, worked together and got things done.
B Lab EU: Was it easy for your own business to certify as a B Corp? Charlotte: No! It was pretty hard. COOK is vertically integrated (made up of kitchens, warehouses, shops, offices, and transport fleets) and operates on over 90 sites. We have lots of aspects to consider when measuring our impact. I think for anyone making things, from food to all sorts of manufacturing, the assessment takes real rigour and determination.
B Lab EU: Have you seen business benefits of certifying your business as a B Corp? Charlotte: Yes. The rigour of the assessment gave us clarity and a wealth of new ideas of how to do things better. It also helped us grow lots of new relationships. The best thing has been the people we’ve met. People willing to share their ways of doing things, people who want to work with us, trade with us or learn from us- and who we’ve learnt a lot from and had a lot of fun with.
B Lab EU: Has your involvement with the B Corp community stretched beyond the work you do with your own business?
Charlotte: Yes. For two years I worked one day a week for the B Corp movement in the UK alongside my role at COOK. But it also comes into life outside of work, conversations in the pub or on the train or bus, in airports, at parties…and inevitably people I’ve met through B Corp have become very close friends.
B Lab EU:Thank you for agreeing to be our co-host this year! What are you most looking forward to about the Summit?
Charlotte:Conversations. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with international friends I mostly email, to topping up on the energy and wisdom these events always provide me with so much of, and for the nudge to consider important challenges I’ve been neglecting, that always seems to happen when I spend time with smart engaged people who aren’t afraid to hold each other to account.
B Lab EU:It's going to be a packed schedule this year. How do you advise attendees get the most from the Summit?
Charlotte: There’s so much going on and you’ll never be able to do it all so focus on being present in the conversations you find yourself in. Give yourself the chance to really listen and reflect. Stay curious and notice when you feel the urge to be defensive or defeatist. Ask the difficult questions and be honest about your challenges and what’s stopping you.
B Lab EU: Clearly it’s about more than just learning from the great and the good. Will the Summit be a place to do business?
Charlotte: I’m sure. Ultimately, every conversation you have, or relationship you develop is an opportunity to challenge or grow your own business. Every time I’ve been to a B Corp event I’ve seen partnerships emerge and trading opportunities identified – it seems to be unstoppable.
B Lab EU: And finally, what one thing do you think the B Corp community should be focussing its energy on, in these troubled times?
Charlotte: Unity. If we want to overcome the challenges we face at the scale to make real impact, we need to develop a whole heap of ways to find unity. To properly work with a range of organisations, people and problems and to keep finding ways to do it effectively. To be together when we disagree or mess up, and to keep working together for the big, important shared goals.
B Lab EU: Thanks Charlotte. Look forward to seeing you at the Summit!