Sustainable, ethical and transparent banking: that's what Triodos is all about. A usual suspect in the B Corp network, so to say. Triodos and B Lab, the non-profit that awards B Corp Certification, can actually learn quite a bit from each other's methods. "Both of us rate our clients on a sustainability scale," says Thomas Van Craen, Managing Director of Triodos Bank Belgium.
"Four years ago, Triodos got certified as a B Corporation. Our Dutch colleagues were the ones who took the initiative. As a branch of Triodos Bank nv, the B Corp Certification also applies to Triodos Bank Belgium", explains Thomas Van Craen. In the meantime, the sustainable bank already successfully completed the certification process a second time, achieving a score of 136,4 points.
A strong network
What added value does B Corp Certification offer Triodos?
Thomas Van Craen: "Triodos chose B Corp for several reasons. In the financial sector, there are labels and networks on the product, process and company level. Within the banking sector, for example, the Global Alliance for Banking of Value (GABV) is a similar network. But B Corp doesn't just recognise the efforts and quality of your entire company; it also unites a whole range of sustainable and socially responsible companies across sectors. So B Corp has a different goal than other labels: it wants to get our entire economy moving."
"The methods B Lab uses to guide companies through the certification process also serve as valuable experiences for our own activities here at Triodos Bank. As a sustainable bank, we too rate the sustainability of the companies and projects applying for a loan from us. That makes it interesting for us to see how other organisations do this."
"The biggest benefit for us, however, is the extensive network of innovative and inspiring companies that B Corp creates. Thanks to B Corp, we are now part of a network of companies in which Triodos Bank fits right in. Every single one of these members wants to add value to society, which creates a very strong bond."
"There's also a real willingness in all of us to engage in discussion with B Lab about our experiences and expertise. B Lab in return incorporates our feedback into its own methodology. We as companies are also able to influence and inspire each other. This offers us the opportunity to give back to B Corp. We're a core group of companies organising networking events, and sharing our experiences with other organisations thinking of applying to get certified."
An intensive process
What were your biggest challenges on the road to getting certified?
Van Craen: "The process of getting certified is very labour-intensive, with a very high burden of proof. While the assessment questionnaire tries to take all aspects of a company into account, it can be quite challenging to apply it to your own organisation."
"As the B Corp Certification bar is incredibly high, a lot of companies don't qualify. But that's part of B Corp's added value: the entire certification process is free, so any corporation can use it as a benchmarking tool, a way of gauging where they stand today in relation to where they want to be. This allows applicants to explore what they need to change in their business operations to eventually certify."
Has being a certified B Corporation influenced your operations?
Van Craen: "As a sustainable bank, Triodos has always focused on constant improvement, positive development and the impact of its activities. B Corp Certification was just the logical next step. In that sense, it didn't really change anything in the way we run our operations."
Can this certification affect your position in the market?
Van Craen: "Today, B Corp is still not yet that well known among European audiences. So highlighting the B Corp Certification of your products to promote them won't really create true added value commercially. But the situation is different in North and South America, where B Corp already serves as a kind of quality label for the consumer. I expect B Corp will attain a similar position in Europe in the future."
"When it comes to b2b relations though, B Corp Certification is already quite valuable in the European market. I'm seeing members specifically choosing to work with contacts they met through the B Corp network, for example. At Triodos Bank too, we enjoy working with other B Corporations."