In this new series, we introduce our B Corp Champions. Spread across all teams and sectors these dedicated individuals share their knowledge on B Corp, to not only improve practices in our own firm, but to help others implement their own changes.
Can you tell us why you wanted to become a B Corp Champion and how it fits in with your role at Stephens Scown?
Working for a B Corp certified law firm which lives and breathes its commitment to the community, planet and people is inspiring and really drives a willingness amongst Scowners to contribute positively. Being a B Corp Champion means I am a keen supporter and advocate of B Corp values at Stephens Scown.
My role is Head of our HRExpress Team, which is a scheme that gives employers access to specialised HR advice and support from the Stephens Scown employment law team. We have over 220 clients who subscribe to this service and they range from large, national employers with many employees to smaller, local employers.
I wanted to be a B Corp Champion because the firm’s values align with my own personally. Being a B Corp Champion means I get to share ideas with the wider Employment team, support them to understand the positive consequences of being B Corp and how we can support our clients, if they want to explore sustainability within business, ethical HR or employee wellbeing.
What impact has the firm becoming B Corp had on you?
We have been a B Corp law firm for 12 months now and the B Corp values are firmly embedded at Stephens Scown in lots of different ways.
The firm is great at organising external and internal speakers to talk to us about issues facing the planet and what we can do to help. Our Giving Back team recently gave an excellent talk on sustainability and the various ways we can make improvements in different areas of our lives. This was done in a very non-judgmental space and resulted in lots of conversations between Scowners about doable changes we can make personally.
Allowing us three days’ paid leave each year to undertake volunteering work for charities and deserving causes of our choice really helps you see the bigger picture, as you hear about the great work others are doing for worthy causes and it’s easy for you to get involved in matters close to your heart. Alongside having office and firmwide charities, which we support throughout the year, the firm also sponsor us when we undertake challenges for charities we choose. The firm has sponsored me to do a walking challenge for the WWF and given me paid time off to volunteer at the Amber Foundation (a charity which supports 18-30 year olds facing complex problems), where I will shortly be using a day to talk about alternative routes into law as a career.
What changes have you seen within your team since becoming a B Corp?
In providing our HRExpress service, we are increasingly conscious that some employers are concerned not only in complying with the law, but also have ethical concerns they wish to take into account when we are advising them. For example, we regularly advise employers on how they can conduct very stressful processes, such as redundancies, performance management and disciplinaries. They often tell us they want to do this in an ethical way, supporting their employees’ wellbeing along the way. A core value of HRExpress is to offer pragmatic, purpose driven and personable advice. Where appropriate and of interest to clients we also now look to incorporate B Corp’s three principle values too (balancing people, planet and profit) into the advice we give.
We have seen an increase in organisations wanting to embrace ‘Ethical HR’. Ethical HR isn’t about inaction, being ‘soft’ or ‘ducking’ an issue that has to be tackled. In fact, it can give a real competitive advantage for your business, as it looks at the wider impact of HR decisions and can increase employee engagement and decrease the risk of claims.
We also advise businesses more frequently who wish to expand their benefits and policies to support sustainability – for example extra holiday if travelling sustainably, environmental training, and sustainable travel to work schemes.
We have extended our program of hosting our popular Ethical HR breakfast events. They are a great forum for employers to have conversations with peers about how they can approach HR in a more ethical way and how challenges can be addressed with a focus on people.
Why do you think it’s important for a business to consider becoming a B Corp?
The primary reason it’s important for businesses to consider B Corp is to show real commitment to the planet, their community and their employees. Even if a business is not ready to apply for B Corp status, taking steps to make improvements in the areas assessed in a B Corp application means a business can start to make a real difference.
A benefit of upholding the B Corp values is that this can also give an organisation a competitive edge, including in growing its business and brand, along with promoting staff recruitment and retention. We find that when clients are looking to recruit high calibre staff, they are increasingly interested in working for an employer which has a focus on sustainability, tackling climate changes, supporting the local community and employee well-being. Furthermore, an employer that is interested in upholding these principles is more likely to be a valued partner for its customers, with organisations being proud to be associated with them. This just makes good business sense.
Lastly can you share with us something you do personally at home or at work that has either a positive impact on the environment or wellbeing of others?
I always look for ways to keep up morale in the team and focus on positivity. On Blue Monday this year (the third Monday in January, which is regarded by some as the most depressing day in the year!) I sent a message to the our team’s Whatsapp group suggesting that we share something happy from 2024 so far. This meant we exchanged positive thoughts and photos, which was a great morale boosting and team building way to start the day.
The firm supports a hybrid working model, which means I can work from home for part of the week and reduce the impact of travel. On the days I come into the office I use the train and walk for part of my journey into work. Being based in the office and at home gives me the best of both worlds. I get to spend time in the office with my amazing team, sharing knowledge and I enjoy the social side of working in person with my colleagues. Working from home means less travel time, a better work life balance and more time to spend with my daughter. Sometimes I even have a lunchbreak on the seafront of my hometown, which makes me very happy.
Stephens Scown’s HRExpress service supports employers. Hazel Sanders is a senior associate and Head of HRExpress and would be happy to discuss further – contact the HRExpress team on firstname.lastname@example.org or 03300 945 276.