Back in February 2022, we became the UK’s first B Corp certified wine merchant. As an independent merchant based in Cornwall it was a huge achievement; we may be small, but we like to think big!
This B Corp month, we want to share our progress and explain why becoming a B Corp has changed the way we do business – and the whole way we think about our business – for good.
Here’s Old Chapel Co-Owner Louisa Fitzpatrick to bring you up to speed on our B Corp journey…
Firstly, can you explain why you decided to go for B Corp status. Is it better than other environmental certifications?
When Jamie and I went into business together, we had a big kitchen table discussion about values, and how we wanted to do things differently. We both aspired to have a positive impact on the local community, but also on the wine trade itself, and in areas like wine education, diversity, and supporting women in business.
B Corp certification was the obvious route to go as it’s all about people, planet and profit. By considering those three elements right across your business, you become a stronger, more creative, and resilient company.
B Corp is one of the most highly regarded environmental and social certifications in the world. It’s the antithesis of green washing, requires complete transparency, and an honest, pragmatic approach to measuring, improving and evaluating your social and environmental impact. So yes, it really is the bees’ knees when it comes to certification!
Why do you think it’s relatively uncommon in the wine business?
From an environmental point of view, wine is difficult. It uses lots of resources to produce, is heavy to transport, and requires lots of packaging which can be recycled but is rarely reused.
We have to work within those constraints, pushing at the boundaries where we can, for example to reduce carbon emissions (more on this later). Our business is not going to solve the world's climate crisis, and neither are we perfect. But we can make improvements, and that’s what we strive to do by being open to new ideas.
What did it take to become a B Corp?
Far from a tick-box exercise, it involves a thorough investigation into all aspects of your organisation. It took us around a year to complete the process, with the help of our excellent mentor, Muryel Boulay from B Other Wise Ltd, who helped us with a thorough audit of the business.
Now that we’re certified, we need to produce an impact report every year, and be recertified every three years. It’s a lot of work, but that was one of the things that convinced us it was a worthwhile exercise in the first place – you can’t rest on your laurels as a B Corp business! It helps us focus on what we want to achieve, and identify the steps we need to take in order to get there.
What of those steps are you working on at the moment?
On the environmental side, we’re introducing more canned wines, because there are some brilliant wines being made in this format these day and they are less carbon-intensive to produce, transport and recycle. People are becoming more accustomed to great quality wines in alternative formats, and we can tap into that.
In the past 12 months, we’ve created a new distribution strategy by employing the services of a carbon free courier for local deliveries. This complements our e-cargo bike service for small deliveries around Truro. The result is that we’ve cut our monthly non-electric mileage by more than half.
We’re continuing to increase the number of organic wines in our portfolio, as organic growing is better for soil health and biodiversity.
This year, we’re also focusing on supporting our charity partner, iSight Cornwall. We’re planning a sensory tasting with a difference for spring, and will be volunteering at other events throughout the year.
We’re also working internally to implement policies on maternity, paternity, fertility and adoption leave which will help support diversity and career progression now and in the future.
Do you work with other B Corps?
Yes, there’s a growing club of B Corps based here in Cornwall with whom we share ideas and explore collaborative opportunities. The Chamber of Commerce is running ‘B23’ this year, aiming to help another 23 local businesses achieve B Corp status. It’s a really open, inclusive community which continues to help us on our journey.
Becoming a B Corp has also enabled us to connect with larger businesses. Having the certification in common helps break down barriers when it comes to size and geography, because you know you have shared values.
This month, we’re running a special offer on products from fellow B Corps, including The Uncommon, Pentire, Hattiers Rum and Avignonesi Wines. Click here for current offers.
What advice would you give to other small businesses considering becoming a B Corp?
I’d say, if the B Corp movement aligns with your aims, and you have the dedication to commit to the process – do it! It’s helped us make better business decisions across the board.
There’s a lot of navel-gazing involved which helps you define your values and long-term aspirations. Not an easy thing to make time for in most businesses! I’d also say get a good mentor, and start the process with an open-minded attitude and a willingness to be transparent. Businesses in Cornwall considering embarking on the process should join the LinkedIn group B Local Cornwall + for news and events.
To find out more about our B Corp certification, click here.