If ever we were waiting for the opportunity to change the way we do business, surely now is the time. With the devastating effects of climate change becoming ever more frequent, widespread manifestations of inequality and injustice, and now a global pandemic that is forcing us to confront the efficacy and sustainability of the way organisations conduct business, the events of 2020 have culminated into a long-overdue wakeup call that we can no longer ignore.
Now, we know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: it’s one thing for a finance company to ‘talk the talk’ about being ethical and sustainable, and it’s another thing to actually live by those values. You’d certainly be forgiven for doubting the sincerity of a financial services business claiming the moral high ground in an industry that time and again proves itself to have an immoral track record (think: Hayne Royal Commission). And we agree – talk is cheap, but the time to walk is now.
For a decade, Pure Finance has been calling for a more ethical and equal financial system where no one is left behind. But, we also know that change starts with us. If we want finance companies to be held to a higher standard, then we need to be out the front, leading the charge, and prepared to put our money where our mouth is, literally.
It’s for all these reasons (and more) that we decided to embark on ‘Plan B’. Which is, to become a certified B corp. If we really, truly believe that a financial services company can and should exist solely to benefit its customers and the wider community (which we do), and we want finance to be a force for good in people’s lives (because, of course) – then we need to be courageous and committed to doing things differently. That meant putting our policies, practices and principles under the microscope and voluntarily submitting ourselves to the scrutiny of the B Corp certification process.
Now that we’ve become the first specialist mortgage brokerage in the country to gain B Corp certification, we want to set a precedent for what we believe must be the future of our industry: radically transparent, for the benefit of people and planet over profit, and sustainable. Hopefully, we’re the first of many.
Never heard of a B Corp? That’s ok – you’re about to, and it might just change your world.
B Corporations or ‘B Corps’ are companies that actively balance purpose and profit and have been independently certified by non-profit B Lab. Deemed to have met the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability, B Corp certification is to business effectively what Fair Trade is to coffee or cotton.
Wearing the B Corp badge has become a way to give people confidence that the processes and systems companies say they have, have actually been put to the test, and they have the report card to prove it. Getting certified is not easy (and nor should it be) and includes a robust seven-step process to ensure the ethical, social, environmental, and cultural responsibility of your business. B Corp status is currently the only recognised global certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance, and better yet, it’s not a one-off ‘tick a box’ process, but a long-term accountability mechanism, with certified businesses required to undergo a reassessment process every three years.
The evidence is plain for all to see: the old school way of doing business is unsustainable, extractive, and not going to create the kind of equitable and compassionate world we need now, or into the future. By now it’s hard to mount a compelling case that companies shouldn’t be held accountable for their environmental and societal impact. But, in righting the wrongs of the past, one thing we can all agree on is: some industries have more heavy lifting to do than others and the finance industry is one of those.
Following the damaging Hayne Royal Commission in 2019, you cannot argue that this industry has not played a key role in perpetuating systems and structures that have created prosperity and wealth for some, and the continued oppression and exploitation of others. Finance, especially mortgage broking, is an industry known for hiding details in the fine print, characterised by predatory behaviours and some really awful business practices. And, let’s be real – ours is also an industry that’s involved in the buying and selling of stolen land.
We all know the oft-cited quote attributed to Einstein that defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Yet every year when ‘Australia’s top mortgage brokerages’ are ranked, we see the same measures of success: total book size, and total loans selected and settled. Surely we can agree that it’s time to measure success and impact by more than just the bottom line?
If we want a new normal for this industry, we have to create it. We need to think about the cultural and attitudinal change we need, design for it, measure it, and be held accountable for it. Again, talk is cheap. We know that people want their financial services to be more ethical and they want proof, and rightly so. So what does change in the finance industry look like and what should we be held accountable for?
For us, having a purpose- and values-driven approach has formed the fabric of our business from day one. We identified early on that there is no meaningful success without sustainability and that, if your business is operating for the gain of some at the exploitation of others, then it’s only a matter of time before your services will be rendered meaningless. And the proof is in the pudding (well, the inboxes), because doing business in this way has made us profitable even during a pandemic because, and here’s the kicker, people actually want to work with companies they believe in and feel good about.
By now you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘building back better’. More than just a feel good slogan, ‘building back better’ has become the catch cry of the B Corp and purpose-driven business movement in Australia. It signifies a shift to purchasing from companies that can deliver high-quality products and services, that reduce inequality, that create a healthier environment, and that promote stronger communities built on dignity and purpose.
As Anna Crabb from B Lab Australia and New Zealand says: “This is what each and every certified B Corporation commits to when joining the global community of people using business as a force for good.” In that way, the B Corp badge rises as a beacon for the future of business and for a post-pandemic economic, social and environmental recovery.
If the pandemic has reminded us of anything, it’s that we are all connected and that radical transparency and accountability are not just ‘nice to haves’ but are at the core of what it means to do ‘good business’. In many ways, this is our last chance to do away with ‘business as usual’ and to realise that this race towards exponential growth and profit, with little regard for the impacts on our fellow human beings, our planet or future generations, is a race to the bottom; a race with no winners.
For some time, we’ve been on a mission to prove that ethical, purpose-driven finance is better in every respect. Better for our customers, our team, our community, our planet and, yes, even better for profits. And now, we’ve got the report card to prove it.
If you’re curious about our road to ethical finance, check out this piece we featured in recently for Conscious Capitalism. And if you’re thinking of becoming a B Corp yourself and want to chat to us about how we did it – drop us a line here!