Urban Foundry was awarded BCorp Certification in 2018 and became the first organisation in Swansea (and the third in Wales) to be badged with this accolade.
In a nutshell, BCorps are a global movement of people using business as a force for good.
This month, we announced that we have just secured our reaccreditation and scored even higher than before.
You can see our entry and our current scores by clicking here.
It’s a rigorous process with organisations having to demonstrate they meet the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability and aspire to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
Below is an interview that Lucy Beddall from Ten:15 Marketing held with Director and founder of Urban Foundry, Dr Ben Reynolds.
Q and A with Dr Ben Reynolds from Urban Foundry BCorp
Urban Foundry is a creative regeneration agency based in Swansea. They seek to create projects and initiatives that change the world for the better – improving people’s lives, making great places and building business with purpose.
Urban Foundry have delivered projects large and small across the UK for a wide range of clients, ranging from multi-million pound regeneration schemes to small community projects.
Locally, they are perhaps best known for creating the award-winning Swansea Bay Street Markets portfolio that includes Uplands Market and Marina Market. They also manage the PopUp Wales initiative and social enterprise HQ Urban Kitchen.
I asked Ben about what it means to be a BCorp and how he implements it across his staff and many projects:
Congratulations on your reaccreditation. How do you feel about it?
I’m thrilled. And I am pleased to say that we also increased our score by 5, which may not sound like a lot, but you have to work hard for every point. It’s particularly pleasing as BCorp have introduced new criteria since we first became accredited, so just keeping the same score as before required more work, let alone increasing our score.
More importantly it’s what it stands for that means a lot to me. This has never been a PR exercise or a Perspex sign to fix to the wall. For me, being a BCorp is a way of life – it’s part of our DNA as a company. We incorporate it into everything we do and use it as a measure when making decisions. It’s a commitment and a celebration of all the values that we are passionate about.
What sort of things does a BCorp do?
BCorps can do everything any other company can do, but it must operate ethically and pass the BCorp test. A key element of that, which is a pass/fail aspect of becoming a BCorp, is that you must write into your company’s constitution that you will consider the interests of all stakeholders (not just shareholders) when making decisions. We look at every aspect of our business; waste, processes, the products we buy, the suppliers we use, who we work with and for, our staff – even our cleaning products. The whole team are on a mission to make a positive impact to ourselves, our community and the planet. As an example, we’ve been a Living Wage Employer since 2017, so all our staff know that we value them as people and what they do.
We’ve just launched a new social enterprise in Swansea called HQ Urban Kitchen and ensure that all the ingredients and suppliers are local. Plus, the packaging and equipment is sustainable. Julie James MS officially opened the venue, and we even had a good luck message from First Minister Mark Drakeford.
Being a BCorp is reflected in our business from the smallest change to introducing big policies.
How do your staff feel about working for a BCorp?
I never like answering for someone else, but I know from what the staff have told me that they value it and are proud of it. We have a fantastic intern working with us at the moment, and he said it was one of the reasons he applied for the role. The staff often ask themselves “Is this BCorp enough?” and if it isn’t, they look for an alternative approach. We seek to employ people who are passionate about the same things that we are. Urban Foundry is an inclusive employer, and we celebrate our drive to make a positive difference to our own lives and the lives of other people.
Everything we do as a business makes an impact. We just ensure that it is a positive impact.
What happens after you gain accreditation?
Being a BCorp is an ongoing process; you have to recertify every 3 years. We aren’t the finished article (no BCorps are). It’s about continual improvement but meeting a certain minimum standard, and we’re always looking for new ideas about what we can do to further improve. We don’t always get it right but as soon as we identify an area of improvement, we do our best to find a better way of doing things.
How has Urban Foundry evolved since your first accreditation in 2018?
Wow, that is a question with an exciting answer! When we were first awarded BCorp status, there were 3 of us working in a small office in Princess Way. Since then, we’ve grown to 16 staff. Like everyone, we were hit by the pandemic, so it hasn’t been an easy ride the past 2 years, but despite some stressful points we’ve come out of it stronger than we went in. Being a BCorp helps us to articulate our values and means people don’t just have to take our word for it – they can see that we’ve been independently (and rigorously!) accredited – clients tell us that they love working with us because of our values and objectives. We will never ever be motivated by profit over purpose. And that is what makes us different. I am a firm believer that you can create amazing projects that make a positive difference AND make a profit.
What’s next for Urban Foundry?
We’ve just opened our new HQ Urban Kitchen venue and there’s more to come there with evening opening and events, and we are expanding our PopUp Wales project in Swansea and now in Bridgend too. We are working with Natural Resources Wales and Swansea Council on Green Infrastructure schemes, and we’ve just gone weekly with our hugely popular Marina Market. We’ve also recently opened a Swansea Library of Things in the Quadrant Shopping Centre as a pilot and we’ll be looking at what the next stages of that could be.
I’ve also really been enjoying my stint as ‘entrepreneur in residence’ at Swansea University, working with students with their own business ideas. We’ve got lots of other initiatives in the pipeline too and we’re all very excited about where we are heading. We spend a lot of our lives working, so it is important to me that we make a positive difference to our community. And that we have fun whilst we do so!
To find out more about BCorps, visit https://bcorporation.uk/
If you’d like to chat to Ben about any of the above or are interested in working with Urban Foundry, please email email@example.com