Socially conscious footwear brand, Toms, has recently been certified as a B-Corp.
B-Corp certification is a third party verification of the how a business treats its people – both customers and employees – the planet and the communities it serves, ensuring that the business functions in an ethical, sustainable and transparent manner.
Speaking to Toms CEO, Jim Alling, Shoe Trader was interested to learn more about how being a certified B-corp will impact the company.
How will you newly certified B-corp status impact the Toms business?
The company was started out as a purpose, it grew into a company, a for-profit company.
There's a virtuous cycle that by the giving gave us a story to tell [which] increased the amount we could sell and then as we sold more, we gave more, which gave us even more stories to share, which helped reinforce the sales factor. So that virtuous cycle has been working for us ever since the beginning of Toms.
So we feel, 'ok, we know we're doing the work,' but there are cynics out there and there are critics who say, 'yeah I don't know if this is the real thing though. Is this company as good as they seem?''
In the case of B-corp certification, we can say, 'this is an impartial third party who has very regimented verification that you have to go through to prove that your footprint on the planet is such that you gain their certification.'
As we looked at our business and how we did it, without changing anything, we were already at a point where we were at the threshold to become B-corp certified.
So we then had them come in and do the actual certification with their auditors and we did pass without having to make any change.
Now what we also realised is, there are areas where we can do quite a bit better. So we're happy that we're B-corp certified, just as we're happy that people followed the lead of Blake and One for One giving.
We hope that more companies will look at what we are doing and that we are a for-profit, successful company and that you can do well in business while doing well in the communities and the people you serve.
What areas of the business need improvement?
I think where we have the greatest opportunity is in our carbon footprint.
I say that because I think the company was so focused on our giving and how we treated our people that – it's never that we were bad from an environmental footprint perspective – it just wasn't our primary focus.
But we were doing what we thought was right environmentally, but there are things we can do even better to reduce our carbon footprint and we've already put some things in place to make those improvements.
I think seeking the B-corp certification showed us some of the areas where we could be doing better.
And we don't want to be defensive, we are not perfect – I want to say that, triple underscore – we want to embrace what the critics say and we want to learn from that and we want to be transparent about what we do well and areas we can do better in and then we want to strive to make those improvements.