Latest law firm B Corp prepares for bar to get higher

Carter: Certification held up a mirror

Kent law firm Cripps has secured B Corporation certification, one of the biggest law firms to do so.

Liz Carter, purpose and impact manager at Cripps, said the firm would have to keep improving to meet a “higher bar” when it recertifies in three years’ time.

A dozen UK legal services providers are now B Corps, which commit businesses to balancing profit with purpose, since Bates Wells led the way in 2015.

To become a B Corp (the ‘B’ stands for Benefit), a business must demonstrate “high social and environmental performance”, make a legal commitment by changing their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders, not just shareholders, and exhibit transparency by allowing information about their performance measured against the standards to be publicly available.

Renowned for its testing nature, B Corp certification measures five key pillars of a business impact: governance, workers, community, environment and customers, covering issues ranging from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and materials.

Cripps has over 450 staff, a figure that will top 500 next month when the merger with Sussex-based PDT Solicitors, announced in November, takes effect.

Ms Carter said Cripps, which is headquartered in Tunbridge Wells and also has an office in London, started to consider B Corp status in 2019 and looked at the framework in detail the following year.

Ms Carter, who took an online course in corporate sustainability during the pandemic, said certification “held up a mirror” showing how the firm could reduce harm and make a positive impact.

The law firm, which has published its B Impact Scores on its website, achieved a total score of 86.1, more than meeting the 80-mark threshold to become a B Corp.

Ms Carter said the firm’s scores in the governance and workers categories were “above average”, at 20.1/25 and 35.7/50, as they were for the environment, where green office buildings boosted the score to 10.9/20, and customers on 3.8/5.

She said that although the firm had “really good recycling schemes”, it had learnt through the B Corp process that it needed to set targets for water use and reduce waste.

The firm scored lowest for community, with only 15.4/50, but Ms Carter said this was in fact “bang on par” for the UK and the firm’s sector and size.

She said ‘community’ included the firm’s supply chain and procurement policy, both of which the firm was working on to create a positive impact.

As part of the B Corp process, the firm amended its partnership agreement to provide a commitment to having a “material positive impact” on the environment and society, rather than simply taking this into account.

“We don’t have all the answers. No business is perfect, but we are committed to transparency.”

Ms Carter said that B Corp standards were under review and “going to get more difficult”. When the firm came to recertify in three years’ time, the bar would be “a lot higher”.

Mike Scott, senior partner of Cripps, added: “Both our people and our clients have told us how important it is to them that Cripps is a responsible, purpose-driven business which is continually challenging itself and improving year-on-year.”

He said B Corp certification was “not just a badge” but “a reflection of our values”, which set “a high standard” for staff.

“We believe that by pursuing purpose-driven goals, we can better serve our clients, support our people, and contribute to a more sustainable future.”

With 11 fee-earners, City firm KaurMaxwell is the smallest legal B Corp, while legal and professional services group Ampa is the biggest, with over 1,300 people.

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