Everywhere you look, B Corps are beginning to garner the attention of bigger and bigger audiences, and gain the attention they deserve from mainstream media platforms.
‘Just 13 Aussie finance providers are B Corp Certified’ read a recent headline on nationally syndicated newswire Stockhead. And what readers can tell at a glance is how many Australian finance providers are Certified B Corporations, with only two of them listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).
Maybe it sounds like a lot to you? Maybe it feels like a drop in the ocean? But rest assured — what you can’t quite tell from reading the headline alone is ‘just’ how much even a baker’s dozen worth of businesses dedicated to doing things differently can upset the apple cart, especially in an industry largely predicated on maintaining the status quo.
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Much like the other 7500+ businesses across this fast-growing movement, B Corps in the finance industry work hard every day to generate value for their stakeholders by allocating time and resources to sustainability initiatives, and creating positive social and environmental impact designed to shift the global economy to one that is more inclusive, regenerative and equitable for all.
From reaffirming their commitment to business as a force for good to sharing insights on navigating recertification, here is how three B Corps in the finance industry are leading the way and mobilising money for the greater good.
Lead with your values, the market will adjust — Australian Ethical
Australian Ethical is one of Australia’s leading ethical investment managers with a 37-year track record of what they call ‘responsible investing’. One of only two finance B Corps currently listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), they also became the first listed company in Australia to earn status as a Certified B Corporation back in 2014.
With the stated aim of delivering returns for investors, while driving the transition to a more sustainable economy, doing good is always top of mind for their team. And having just achieved a score of 168.5, the proof is there for all to see.
“While it’s not something that people outside of investing, or finance always have as top of mind, returns are dependent on the continuing good health of the planet and society. As a result, markets around the world are starting to adjust, slowly but surely. Our success as a purpose-driven company proves that a more inclusive and sustainable model is possible without having to sacrifice investment or returns.”
— Marion Enander, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, Australian Ethical
By investing in companies and assets that they see as part of a sustainable economy, and by restricting investments in companies they don’t, Australian Ethical finds meaningful ways of exercising its power and influence as a large enterprise to create a better world.
“In the financial year ending June 2023, we had over 250 engagements with companies around four key focus areas that we’ve identified to have the biggest potential impact on transitioning to a sustainable future. We also donate 10 per cent of our profits to the Australian Ethical Foundation, which provides grants to start ups and early-stage ventures to fund the most effective ways to combat climate change, as well as multi-year strategic grants to established not for profit organisations.”
— Australian Ethical
With an Ethical Charter enshrined in their Constitution, alongside B Lab’s Purpose and Stakeholder Governance requirement, Australian Ethical has consistently been amongst the top performing B Corps when it comes to customer experience and harnessing the power of customers to drive advocacy and change.
“When we divested from a particular company because of concerns around the sustainability of one of the last healthy koala colonies in NSW, we engaged with the state government, requesting a public consultation on environmental impacts. But we also asked our customers to write to their elected officials, with nearly 3000 letters being sent from customers and the general public.”
— Australian Ethical
Image by Flickr from Pexels
Drawing a parallel between their Ethical Charter and B Corp accreditation, Australian Ethical believes that the power of the certification and recertification process — or the practice of measuring and managing your impact more broadly — is that they are “so wide-reaching and cover so many areas of business practice” that there is an “interconnection at the heart”.
“No change is achieved without action. We get on and do ‘acting’ as a proof point for how business should be aiming to lead and inspire others.”
— Australian Ethical
And this is a key pillar of the change they are seeking to lead in the finance industry: taking imperfect action and being held accountable for all of it. Given the chance to choose one area of business to improve, they shared:
“We’d like to see more businesses understand the power of their money: from how they’re banked, where they invest any surplus cash, or where their employees are investing their super. Money really does make the world go round and investing in positive outcomes for the future does matter.”
Making a difference beyond borrowing with Liberty Financial
Part of taking imperfect action is the commitment to continuous improvement — a fundamental part of being a B Corp. Through countless hours of deliberate, concerted action for a better world, businesses are encouraged to see certification and recertification as the next step of an ongoing journey to progressing impact and transforming the global economy.
And while ‘flair’ is not something we might usually associate with a finance company, the team at Liberty Financial wears the badge comfortably as it puts its values up front for all to see.
Since becoming a B Corp in 2019, Liberty Financial has found a myriad of ways to keep its customers, staff, investors, and the community at the heart of its operations; boosting business impact by being Fair, taking every opportunity to Learn, and being Accountable, Invested and Resourceful (FLAIR).
“As a leading lending group that champions free-thinking, we are not afraid to think outside the box when determining ways that our business can and does make a positive difference.”
— Liberty Financial
Liberty free thinkers at this Run The Tan challenge, raising funds for mental health charities.
Working towards carbon neutrality by 2030, and implementing a slew of sustainable changes across the business, Liberty Financial drew on the practical tips in the B Impact Assessment to identify areas to improve, bolstering their B Impact Score by almost 25 points in the process.
“Since we last certified, we have implemented a range of following impact-related initiatives. We mobilised leaders and team members to help identify and implement changes toward becoming carbon neutral by 2030. We updated position descriptions for all leaders to include three green-based KPIs to deliver each year, weaving sustainability into our everyday activities.”
— Liberty Financial
Undergoing significant renovations throughout their office space in Melbourne/Naarm, including upgrading appliances to a six-star energy efficiency standard and installing LED lighting, they were able to reduce Scope 2 emissions by five per cent. Through a partnership with Waste Ninja, they also implemented a new waste management process in house, halving landfill waste and diverting food and organics to EPA-licensed recovery partners who convert it into organic fertiliser and renewable energy sources.
Image by Yuliia Chyzhevska from Canva Pro
Taking customers on the journey of reducing environmental impact, the response has been significant and team members are more determined than ever to create more green-focused products in the lending space.
Beginning by offering interest rate discounts to eligible customers purchasing electric vehicles, solar panels or funding sustainable business projects, the team at Liberty Financial have also instituted a number of programs for customers experiencing financial hardship. This includes an outreach program that trains team members to better identify and support those experiencing mental health issues and domestic or family violence.
Amidst a range of other community and volunteering programs, and working with First Nations consultants to increase procurement from First Nations-owned businesses, they also introduced Cultural and Ceremonial Leave, supporting First Nations team members to attend significant events and ceremonies.
“We believe that our people are our most important asset – and we’re proud to offer an extensive range of initiatives to support diversity and inclusion within our community.”
— Liberty Financial
Liberty’s new sustainable office level at our Melbourne tenancy, featuring First Nations artist, Kate Constantine’s ‘Buraga’ created specifically for Liberty – symbolising our step up to reconciliation.
Reaching gender parity at the team leader level across the organisation, they have worked closely with organisations like WGEA, MFAA Opportunities for Women and WORK180 to foster an environment of equity and inclusion, including initiatives and support for the 15 per cent of their workforce who identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Over the past three years, we have also introduced a Fertility Support Policy, Reproductive Health Leave Policy and Progressive Parental Leave Policy, Gender Affirmation Guidelines and ally training to support LGBTQIA+ team members. To support team members from diverse backgrounds, we introduced multi-faith facilities and World Cultural and Belief Leave, enabling our people to be celebrated and encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work.”
— Liberty Financial
Already looking ahead to their next recertification in 2026, Liberty Financial believes that while most people want to create a positive business impact, the implementation isn’t always smooth sailing. Using the B Impact Assessment as a guide, businesses can better ensure there’s not only clear evidence to support their efforts, but a strong understanding of ‘why’ you are doing it in the first place, which goes a long way to achieving results.
Image by vuk8691 from Getty Images Signature
Investing ethically for a better tomorrow with Ethinvest
Often the most successful businesses respond to and take meaningful action on issues that their ideal customers care about. And with climate anxiety at an all-time high, B Corp Ethinvest is enabling customers to align their investment portfolios with their values through financial planning and advice.
With a dedicated focus on ethical investment, Ethinvest helps customers shape their investment portfolios to fund the kind of world they would like to live in. By instituting a codified complaints policy, tailored quarterly reporting and creating shareholder advocacy policies that provide the basis for transparency and accountability, Ethinvest is stepping up to the plate and batting for its customers and for the planet.
“Our primary goal for B Corp recertification this time around was to reaffirm our commitment towards building a better society and healthy planet. We continued our strong client focus on investing ethically for a better tomorrow, and broadened our approach to community through a number of impact initiatives. And lastly, we have found more ways to ensure impact is embedded in our governance.”
First certified in 2014, Ethinvest has since launched the Ethinvest Foundation, which invests with an ethical impact focus to benefit charities working to protect the environment and combat the threat of climate change. Over the past year, they have seen clients donate a record amount to charity through their Community Impact Foundation. And in 2020, the fund trustees decided to allocate up to 20 per cent of donations to social causes, and to address issues such as rising homelessness and mental health challenges.
“We see collaboration as a way to amplify the impact we have in our own business. So, in the next three years, we are committed to increasing community and staff involvement in impactful initiatives to strengthen our positive social impact and promote a more socially responsible future.”
The team at Ethinvest
Three tips to smooth out the recertification process
Sharing your experiences and demystifying the process of becoming a Certified B Corporation is all part of the deal, and one of the ways we can support as many businesses as possible to channel their impact and influence for good.
If you are coming up to recertification, these three finance Bs have a few words to the wise to help you on your way:
- Where [responsibility] sits for certification within the business matters. Ensure that it’s embedded at the heart of business strategy, and have a central point of contact who has an understanding of the whole business and can send a strong signal about who you are, both internally and externally.
- We recommend running through the entire B Impact Assessment with a number of people who can help to provide evidence or support your responses. That way, there is greater collaboration and consistency in the process. We also found that being able to measure our efforts was motivating and aligned stakeholders across the business. With each iteration, the process becomes less daunting, easier to digest and more encouraging.
- A mindset of continuous improvement is valuable as you strive to increase your impact. We found that maintaining clear and organised documentation streamlined the process, as well as allowing sufficient time to answer all the questions. Regularly reviewing our metrics and involving key members of our team helped ensure a smooth and successful recertification process.
As always, we are grateful to this community of B Corps for their ongoing transparency, openness and honesty about the certification (and recertification) processes, which inform our Guide to B Corp Recertification resources.
If your business has any questions about certifying (or recertifying) as a B Corp, please email: email@example.com and our dedicated team will be happy to help.