Setting Out on A Journey of B Corp Certification

Yukiko Kuroda is the founder of PFC and also serves on the boards of a number of listed Japanese companies. Learn more about Yukiko here.

Note: This article is the first relating to PFC's journey to B Corp certification. It was first published in March 2021. You can read more about PFC's commitment to B Corp here.

Ever since I founded People Focus Consulting (PFC hereafter) in 1994, I’ve always wanted it to be not just a profit-making machine, but an organization with a heart that tries to help under-served people. On the other hand, I was not interested in creating a non-profit organization because I believe in the creativity and dynamism that business can bring. With such ambition, PFC has actively been involved both in CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities such as donation and pro bono work for NGOs and in CSV (creating shared value) activities developing and delivering life skill programs for people in Cambodia and Uganda. You can read more about our social impact activities here (Japanese only).

When I first learned that Certified B Corporations "are for-profit companies at the heart of a global movement of people using the power of business to create a shared, durable prosperity for all” I realized that it is exactly what we aspire to be. 

In recent years, this kind of thinking seems to be surfacing as mainstream, with so many companies publicly announcing their commitment to SDGs, ESG, and SRI, although there may be some that could be denounced as “SDG-washing" (article in Japanese1). At PFC, we decided that we should get an official stamp so that we can be distinguished from those “fake” companies, stay at the front runner of this trend, and be able to lead our client organizations in the right direction. So, in January 2021, our journey to B Corp Certification began.

As I scrutinized the certification criteria, I was taken aback to realize how high the bar is. For example, every year for the past 20 years, PFC donates 1% of our revenue, not profit, to social causes. I think if it were for a public company, the shareholders would say that it is outrageous and would not allow such practice to take place. However, by B Corp standards, this is “normal”! 

Another example of our challenge is addressing environmental issues. Generally speaking, environmental impact would not be considered a material issue for professional services firms. And while some of our employees have been taking initiatives on a personal basis, we have not paid much attention to it as a company until now. However, B Corp certification will not let us overlook environmental issues.

As I realized that obtaining B Corp certification would take a long time and a lot of collective effort, I asked all employees of PFC to join me with this effort if they are interested and willing. To my pleasant surprise, about 40% of our employees raised their hands. I assume some more would have wanted to join had they not been so busy with client work. During our kickoff meeting I asked them how PFC will be when we get the certification. Here are some of their answers.

  • A role model and catalyst for corporations to create sustainable social impact – “social organizational development”.
  • A company that we can be proud of, recognized by ourselves and others as being socially engaged based on the global standard.
  • A more environmentally friendly company.
  • A company that can embody triple bottom line always with social perspectives.
  • PFC’s foundation will be stronger than ever. PFC team members can lead clients with confidence as PFC is half a step ahead of clients.
  • I could brag to my family that PFC may be a small but is full of pride.
  • Each employee will be aware that PFC 's work leads to the resolution of social issues, and all our work will be judged based on social goodness.
  • I hope that the term “social organizational development” will become more widespread and that we will be able to say, " PFC is the pioneer of this concept " (like we say that PFC was the first to introduce facilitation in Japan).
  • A company that links daily work with sustainability and is utilized in individuals’ daily lives
  • Through this initiative, I hope that each person and PFC's purpose will become stronger. Even if each person is working independently and remotely, we will be an organization that shares vision and purpose, and it invites clients and society to this purpose!
  • The social contributions we have been working on are recognized by world standards, and we want to be able to boast that we are a member of PFC!
  • Not only can we express the benefits to the world in an easy-to-understand manner, but I also think that it is an activity that will be the basis for PFC to be sustainable for a long time in the future.

I don’t know if PFC will be able to earn B Corp certification, but we are going to work on it over the coming year to fix or initiate whatever is needed. I plan to report out the progress, our learning, and struggles in this blog from time to time, so that those readers who have interests in B Corp certification can travel with us on this journey virtually.

1 Link is to a Harvard Business Review / Diamond article in Japanese co-written by Kuroda.