May 30, 2024

Paradigm Norton vows to keep pushing for positive ethical change after retaining B Corp status with record score

FINANCIAL planning and tax services expert Paradigm Norton has retained its B Corp certification with a larger improvement in its score than any UK company recertified in the last year.

The 20-year-old company, which has around 90 staff based at its offices in Bristol, London, Exeter and Torquay, first gained B Corp certification in 2019 with an overall score of 85.7. B Corp encourages organisations to make a positive difference by taking an ethical approach in five areas of their operation – Clients and Investment, People, Community, Environment and Governance.

The company was reassessed last year across five areas of its business and given an overall score of 148 – a 72 per cent increase on its previous rating.

Companies bidding to win or retain B Corp status, which is judged every three years, first complete a self-assessment form before a rigorous examination in person by assessors from B Lab, the not-for-profit organisation behind the B Corp movement.

Steve Watters, who joined Paradigm Norton just before it first won the certification but became Head of Impact three years ago, took responsibility for retaining not only the accreditation but improving the way the company operates by ensuring it keeps an ethical approach at the centre of everything it does.

Mr Watters formed a staff team representing relevant departments, dubbed the ‘B-Keepers’, and challenged them to examine each of the five areas of the business and identify how things could be done better.

“We considered what does ‘good’ look like in governance? What about the stewardship of our people? What about our suppliers and our impact on the environment?” he said. “For each of the three years running up to the recertification we planned what we were going to try do in each area and closely monitored our progress.

“This is a company that has really strong values and was already trying to do the right thing, so I was pushing at an open door. It was pretty easy for us to make the case for making changes that impacted positively across the business.

“We thought ‘we’ll do the things we think are right and if we do that, the score will look after itself’ and that’s basically what’s happened. The increase cannot be attributed to any one initiative – instead, it was our progress across the board.”

Despite this he was still taken aback when he received the recertification report. “The minimum overall score required is 80 points and it is hard enough to get above that the first time,” he said. “So then when we had scored 148, we were surprised and delighted to discover how far we had moved forward in three years and to find ourselves being held up as an example to others.”

The company has been invited to take part in a B Corp webinar to discuss its outstanding improvement and is offering advice other companies preparing for their B Corp applications.

In the area concerning its workers, the company increased its rating by 99.7 per cent – which is higher than any other UK score on B Corp’s ‘Best for the World’ list. “During the first certification the company was in the process of becoming employee owned – the employees own around 80 per cent of the shares and are part of an ownership trust board – so that’s a very strong area and the employees have a powerful voice,” said Mr Watters.

The company has also placed far stronger emphasis on ethical investment, with more than half of its 1,200 clients now choosing socially responsible options. “That’s been a very big part of the journey over the last few years,” said Mr Watters.

“We’ve gone from developing some really strong ethical investment and impact investment options for our clients to making that the default for any new clients. That’s because research tells us we can expect these investments to perform just as well.”

The retention of B Corp and the scale of its improvement in so short a space of time has only inspired the company to do more, said Mr Watters. “We made a really big leap forward but there is still a lot more we can do,” he said. He said the company is working with suppliers to help them meet high ethical standards and with fund managers to encourage them to influence the companies it invests in on behalf of clients.

Mr Watters believes B Corp status will become increasingly important and valued as clients become more concerned about business striving to work ethically and sustainably. “I think sooner or later the old way of doing things is going to have to die, so the question is, do you want to be a leader in it or do you want to follow behind with the crowd later?” he said. “And why would you not want to do business in this way?”

Find out more about Paradigm Norton’s services and read its B Corp recertification report at paradigmnorton.co.uk.

Pictured: Paradigm Norton Head of Impact Steve Watters, right, with some of his ‘B-Keepers. Thanks to their efforts the company retained its B Corp certification with an overall score of 148 – a 72 per cent increase on its previous rating and the largest improvement of any UK company recertified in the last year

Pictured: Paradigm Norton Head of Impact Steve Watters

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Paradigm Norton Financial Planning is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.