Founder-led companies are ideally positioned to become B Corps. This is because founders with a strong sustainability agenda are especially effective at transferring their vision through the business.
Often, part of a founder’s journey is the acquisition of their brand by a larger organisation. So what happens to that sustainability vision when the business is acquired by a larger group?
We look at the experience of Sipsmith’s acquisition by Beam Suntory in their sustainability journey and their road to B Corp certification.
The story of Sipsmith is the perfect example of how founders can protect their vision and purpose for their brand, and even strengthen it, under the ownership of a global group.
Sipsmith perfected their first London dry gin recipe in 2009 and their brand was born. Move forward seven years and they were bought by Beam Suntory, a global spirits group with Japanese and American roots.
Sipsmith’s vision is to not only craft the best gin in the world but to craft the best gin for the world – with a strong founder force they kept this vision and identified B Corp as the best way to help them on their impact journey.
But what is B Corp?
B corps are for profit companies that look after people and planet while making profits. B Corp certification proves your company meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance – an indicator that is increasingly being used to influence the choices of investors and consumers. There are 5,000 B Corps globally, and counting.
To certify, your business must achieve 80+ points across the five key areas of the B Impact Assessment (BIA): governance, workers, community, environment, and customers.
But B Corp is more than just a certification; it’s a framework for ESG strategy and a tool for continuous improvement.
Sipsmith’s Kaizen team (Kaizen means continuous improvement in Japanese) had worked really hard on completing the BIA and working on improvements to their score. They were sitting at just under 75 points on their BIA when they approached Seismic in August 2020.
They were looking for additional confidence in their BIA responses and score prior to submitting their assessment.
How did Sipsmith overcome this?
Some of the BIA questions are quite nuanced. Seismic conducted multiple stakeholder calls, consulting with all Sipsmith’s different departments. This aided a rapid review of their BIA answers to check they were correct, that everything had been captured properly and that it aligned with B Lab’s requirements.
We then helped identify additional improvements to implement and efficiently improve Sipsmith’s score beyond the BIA threshold of 80 points.
Andy Schmidt, Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer at Seismic, comments: “When you get to a certain number of points in the BIA – for example around 70 points – it can be difficult to get an overview of how you can access those last points. At Seismic, our team is perfectly positioned to give our objective and expert view on how B Corp certification can be achieved.”
Seismic calculated what would add value to Sipsmith, what was in line with their mission and vision, and whether the goal was achievable or not, then we shared each goal between the different departments and different themes, so each individual stakeholder received a chunk of the improvement plan that was specific for them. For example, diversity and inclusion, learning and development, and improvements in employee benefits were the HR department’s part of the project.
We gave each Sipsmith department a list of easy, medium and hard goals as well as stretch goals. We then looked at what they could do short term as they wanted to submit quickly.
Sipsmith certified with an impressive 83.2 points in May 2021.
Certifying as a B Corp isn’t easy, and some may think that having a parent company might get in the way of your sustainability goals, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Sipsmith are a fantastic example of a company who have maintained their integrity throughout their scale-up: this can be attributed, in no small part, to the fact that their sustainability journey is founder-led. Being acquired by the world’s third-largest spirits company has given Sipsmith even more opportunities to share their purpose and vision.
Sipsmith continue on their sustainability journey
Seismic is now working to support Sipsmith with rolling out and embedding a robust and comprehensive sustainability roadmap. The Seismic team is working closely with Sam Galsworthy, Cofounder of Sipsmith and Ellie Stirk, Sustainability Lead, the Executive Team, and the Kaizen team, to help the business further establish itself as a sustainability leader in the spirits industry.
Sipsmith have set themselves an inspiring goal of improving their BIA score by 25 points by 2025, which is no small feat!
Ellie Stirk, Sustainability Lead and Kaizen Coordinator at Sipsmith, comments: “Having that extra level of knowledge and detail gave us huge confidence when we submitted our assessment for certification…The Kaizen team have great chemistry with Seismic and we very much enjoy our ‘jamming’ sessions – we always leave reinvigorated and with new ideas.”
Having that extra level of knowledge and detail gave us huge confidence when we submitted our assessment for certification.
Sam Galsworthy admits to having what he calls ‘severe FOMO (fear of missing out)’ when there’s a call about sustainability and he’s not involved! Alongside his cofounders, he’s a real driving force behind Sipsmith’s sustainability journey.
Sipsmith are planning to continue to work with and learn from Seismic, using the team’s Sustainability experience to become increasingly impactful forces for good and lead the way in their industry.
Hear more from Sam Galsworthy on our Seismic Soundbites podcast.
Seismic is an international team of impact experts on a mission to help businesses prosper by becoming increasingly impactful forces for good. In addition to their broad sustainability experience, Seismic has developed world leading B Corp expertise, helping hundreds of companies leverage the B Corp framework to understand, improve, measure and communicate their impact.
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