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Blog | Our road to becoming B Corp certified

June 17, 2022

Great news! After an 18-month journey, VP Capital is one of the first European family offices to obtain the coveted B Corp certification

Receiving the B Corp label is a confirmation of our original ambitions to achieve the very highest standards of our social and environmental impact. Since our start as a family office, we have been asking ourselves how we can use capital to have a positive impact on people and the environment. Moreover, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our operations. B Corp is more than a label, it is a movement and community that sees business as a force for good. We owe this accolade to the entire VP Capital team; thanks to their dedication and belief in the vision of our family office, we have achieved it.

The B Corp movement meets regularly both locally and internationally. For example, this week there is the B For Good Leaders summit in Rome, where leaders from around the world are coming together to talk about leadership and how our companies can be deployed to accelerate the transition towards a regenerative economy that creates more social and environmental value than it extracts.

B Corp summit in Rome

What is B Corp?

B Corp stands for Benefit Corporation. Under the motto of "using business as a force-for-good", B Corps are working together to make the world a better place for their employees, customers, suppliers, society and, of course, the environment. This growing community represents a truly sustainable way of doing business: using a business as a positive force; being the change itself.

The B Corp certification is an international, demanding, high-quality certification for companies that take into account all their stakeholders and contribute in every way to a more inclusive and sustainable economy. There are currently 5,132 B Corps in 83 countries across 156 industries. These companies - small and large - have made sustainability a permanent part of their DNA and know how to create value in multiple ways.

The number of B Corps has been growing rapidly in recent years. But those who think that a B Corp certification is just another hallmark are mistaken.  Based on a list of over 300 questions, companies have to demonstrate how sustainable they are, and then codify this as a goal in the statutes. This is to prevent greenwashing, a growing problem of which a number of examples were recently in the news.


Why did we choose B Corp?

Sustainable progress is key to not only success, but our planet’s very survival. At VP Capital, we continue to move forward in a fast-changing and dynamic world.  For example, the EU is preparing new laws and directives to encourage financial services companies to share information about their sustainability (CSRD, SFDR and more). In addition to the legal obligation for organizations and companies, a lot of people have also taken sustainability to heart on a personal level. Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have changed society. Many people are more mindful of the choices they make. With that personal change, people are paving the way for the transformation of the entire system. The market for sustainable and impact capital continues to grow, and sustainable businesses are doing even better than before.

Leveraging capital for positive impact is our vision and B Corp provides external validation of this with a comprehensive assessment of our impact on all fronts.

Astrid Leyssens, Head of Sustainable Progress at VP Capital, follows the community closely and believes that, of all the different possible labels, B Corp is the most holistic and progressive. "The B Corp process gives us a certificate that offers clear insight into where we stand in terms of Business as a Force of Good, in the broadest sense of the phrase, whether it applies to our employees, our suppliers, social conditions or our planet."

B Corp is more than a label, it is a movement that is driving change and that is what we want to be a part of with VP Capital.

What path have we taken?

Many sustainability developments, such as our sustainability model and Progress Report, were already in place, but the B Corp certification prompted us to further structure, formalize and embed those developments into the organization.

At the end of 2020, we entered the B Corp certification process. That process took approximately 1.5 years and consisted of the following phases:

  1. Exploration and preparation by ourselves;
  2. Determination and approval by B Lab of definitions and scope for certification;
  3. Completion of the B Impact Assessment (BIA), a questionnaire of 200 detailed questions, including supporting documentation;
  4. Review of 'eligibility' (are there reasons why the company could not become a B Corp);
  5. Evaluation of the company structure and      any controversial aspects and answers given in the BIA;
  6. Verification phase: in-depth check of supporting documentation and evidence, additional questions.

Everyone on our 12-member team contributed to integrate the B Corp principles into their daily work.

Our investment strategy was also scrutinized. As a result, impact has become an even more prominent part of our investment criteria.

  • To better secure impact in our investment decisions, we have tightened up our due diligence process. For example, upfront screening for ESG and impact by a third party is now a mandatory component. We avoid investments that are non-impact or negative and ensure that we take all stakeholders into account in investment decisions, which we have legally laid down in our Articles of Association.
  • Our donation policy was also scrutinized and tightened. Thus we are giving away more and more funds to charities in our investment areas that work around social and planetary challenges.

During the B Corp process we were also certified Carbon Neutral (3rd year) together with our portfolio companies, we further developed our sustainability model and had our carbon targets validated by the SBTi. This makes VP Capital the first family office in the Benelux with these validated objectives.


What are the next steps?

Now that we are B Corp, we obviously want to stay that way. We remain focused on delivering the greatest possible positive impact, now also through the B Corp network. We will continue to develop our organization and work on parts that were still assessed as insufficient or suboptimal in the audit process, including:

  • Making our own office environment more sustainable
  • Developing a diversity policy
  • Improving our staff assessment and development cycle
  • Introducing an annual employee satisfaction survey
  • Making more conscious choices for sustainable suppliers
  • Increasing the share of our investments in underserved communities
  • Increasing the share of our impact investments and making it clearer what impact is being realized.

During the first assessment we scored 98.6 points, but we want to improve our next score!  The great thing about B Corp is that it inspires us and challenges us to make the company even better. To achieve a higher score, the improvement must be demonstrable. Moreover, the assessment becomes more stringent the longer a company grows and is a member of the movement. We are happy to become part of the community because it allows us to be inspired by companies that are already further along in various areas. That way we can keep moving.

Creating impact is the common thread in everything we do. We create impact by helping heritage companies become more sustainable, by donating to philanthropic initiatives, by following the B Corp principles, by supporting innovations and by investing in impact funds-and companies.

Yet, impact investing still needs more capital to further scale up the solutions that are there now. We therefore hope that investors will move out of markets that are insufficiently forward-looking with an eye to future generations and contribute their capital to solutions for biodiversity, water scarcity, carbon reduction, pollution, poverty reduction and promoting equality and inclusion.

We would like to encourage other companies to follow our path and become B Corp as well. The bigger this movement becomes, the better. We are happy to share our acquired knowledge and experiences with our portfolio companies, fellow family offices and other associates. In addition, we propagate "Business as a force for good" as much as possible in everything we do. In this way we share our knowledge in multiple areas and also want to inspire others. In our 5-pillar sustainability model we have explicitly named this as 'Engage our network'.