2030hub’s B Corp story really began in 2005 when our Founder and seasoned expert in responsible business, David Connor realised that the world didn’t need yet another consultancy firm. Instead, what was needed was a new type of activist advisory business guided by a purpose that also connected local opportunities to a global values-focused community.
When the B Corp movement began to emerge in the US in 2006, where he was regularly working at the time with 3BL Media in corporate sustainability communications, David was immediately drawn to its ethos and methodology as a way to ‘bridge the gap between UK’s social enterprise movement and the traditional mainstream limited company structure.
Skip forward a mere 17 years and 2030hub is now a certified B Corp and Liverpool has a growing community of B Corps and that journey has been a hell of an adventure. The long wait for the reclaimed scaffolding board B Corp trophy is over. Finally.
David is also one of the early formal B Leaders, trained by B Corp UK to support businesses on their path to accreditation and has helped many gain their own certification and advised numerous others. Throughout this interview, you will learn more about his longstanding advocacy for B Corp as well as 2030hub’s journey towards certification.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your history with B Corp?
"I've been in this responsible business space for a long time which makes me feel really, really old, by the way. B Corp launched around 2006, which was about a year after I set up as a consultant in responsible business after leaving Everton Football Club. I’ve always been one of those people who even if I have to go and buy a vacuum cleaner, will probably research it for about two weeks to find out what's the best vacuum cleaner and where's the best price. I am an overthinker and it was through research that I started looking at all of the latest thinking and practices around Corporate Social Responsibility (i.e. pre-’sustainability’ as the dominant if overly abused / philanthropic corporate term) and quickly realised that I was seeing activity more about protecting the company (less bad - don't catch us out) rather than protecting the environment (more good - what the planetary system NEEDS to thrive).
In the early 2000s, the term sustainability started to gain traction as a way for businesses to look at their impact on the wider world, not just their own self-interest. As the internet and social media evolved, it became easier for consumers to access information about companies and their practices. This led to a greater demand for transparency and accountability from businesses.
I did bump into B Corp Co-Founder Jay Coen Gilbert at a conference in New York around 2014 but completely stumbled a few words through over-excitement. One of the very few times I've struggled to talk!
What interested me was that the concept of B Corp was to move beyond traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and focus on proving a positive impact on society and the environment and building into core governance, while still being profitable. And this was something that I could relate to in my early career as a consultant. I was trying to help small businesses in Liverpool understand that being good wasn’t just about philanthropy, it wasn't just a cost, there were opportunities, and some were huge. If you did the right things, you would make more money and you would save money as well.
Soon after B Corp launched in the UK, I reached out to their then Executive Director Katie Hill and enthusiastically offered 2030hub as a physical northern hub and place-based approach away from what was always going to be a very London-centric start to B Corp in the UK. Shortly after that I (and Stephen Sykes just after me) completed the training to become a formal B Leader and began shouting about B Corp locally, planting certification seeds all over the place, advising businesses towards accreditation (with the spectacular Fifty Eight - the highest scoring B Corp at time of certification - due to their approach far more than our guidance - as one of our very first clients) and hosting regular awareness sessions locally.
So for a few years, I was flying back and forth to the US working with 3BL Media as well as working with local businesses in the UK. By getting more involved in the corporate world in the US and watching the B Corp movement slowly grow, I knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of. The evolution of the structure of B Corporations and certification fascinated me and introduced to businesses this new idea that you didn’t have to be a social enterprise, you could just be a good company - and prove it. This sounds really obvious but back then it really wasn’t.
Part of the challenge for me was the lack of interest. Liverpool wasn’t the centre of responsible business but it could be, and this is something we’re trying to change and can already see an increasing interest in progressive sustainable practices. Over the years, we created a springboard, we've helped nurture many early adopters that will hopefully catalyse a wider movement.
Our approach to advocating for the values of B Corp has been markedly different, and although 2030hub has always been a B Corp in principle, we obtained our certification only last year. We understand that there are many great businesses that haven’t got the time or resources to go through the really rigorous and robust B Corp assessments. Not having the accreditation shouldn’t exclude businesses from being part of the conversation and community.
Things have changed a lot since you first started in this space, what do you hope to achieve this year as a business?
It’s an exciting time for Liverpool as we continue to see more and more businesses not only pursuing B Corp accreditation but also demonstrating an increasing interest and concern around sustainability. Having attended the celebratory event of 1,000 B Corps last November, I was thrilled to see what the movement has grown into and just how powerful our impact can be when the private sector is on-board. The speed of growth of the B Corp movement over the past 18 months in the UK has been startling.
B Lab UK have targeted the NW as a key growth territory and 2030hub are determined that Liverpool is central to that growth, especially given our active footprint across Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and also potential new place-based projects to the east and south.
This year, we hope to encourage and educate even more businesses on the urgency of change and the importance of an organisational structure that prioritises people and the planet. 2030hub has hosted over 20 B Corp awareness events and workshops throughout the years and we'll continue to introduce and guide, but probably adding more activity away from Liverpool to spread the word across the North West and beyond.
We've been pushing hard for a Liverpool City Region B Local - a group of certified B Corps within a specific area who self-convene to help accelerate awareness and support - for what feels like forever. This should now be happening straight after this B Corp Month so another big success locally.
Another huge opportunity we see is to work with Marketing Liverpool to integrate B Corp across visitor economy agenda. We already have Hawksmoor in the city but as we push the wider sustainability agenda 2030hub is keen to ensure B Corp is part of this particular 'build back better' approach to economic growth.
2030hub is also being asked to support more organisations on their impact reporting which are also a key commitment to the B Corp movement. Both measuring and communicating your non-financial impact are huge and daunting tasks and we are uniquely experienced to advise on both.
I always hoped Liverpool could be the first UK B Corp city as I can't think of a better spiritual home. B Lab can keep London as the HQ but we know how closely it connects to the spirit of business here.
It's not going to be a boring year!"
Check out our Liverpool B Corp Month events: