B Corp certification obtained by Havas New York

B Corp certification obtained by Havas New York

At Havas, we believe that corporations have a key role to play in solving the biggest challenges our world faces today – and every day, we strive to operate responsibly for ourselves and our stakeholders. While we’re always looking internally to continuously improve ourselves and strive for better, it is also critical to engage with outside organisations to make sure we’re measuring up.

That’s why we’ve set a company goal for Havas Group to become B Corp as a Group within the next 2 years, using a country-by-country approach to drive positive change for our people, for our business, and for the planet. Havas London, Havas UK, Havas Lemz and most recently Havas NY have already achieved certification; now, Spain is beginning the process, as is France with Havas Paris, BETC and Havas Media France.

The mission of Havas Impact+, our sustainability programme, has long been to encourage our agencies to harness the power of creative ideas through action and communication to bring about positive change in society and help our clients become a force for good. Being B Corp certified is an integral part of this process, but it is more than an award or recognition. It shows that we are a part of a community that really believes that the planet, people and profit all go hand-in-hand.

This autumn, Havas New York became the first major network agency to become a certified B Corporation™, marking a significant milestone in the agency’s ongoing commitment to social, environmental, and economic good as the cornerstone of its business strategy.

Two of the people who spearheaded this certification were James Huerta, Executive Director, Creative Technology, and Lindsey Bagg, Director of Talent, who spoke with Dare! about the certification and what other companies should keep in mind if they choose to pursue it.

What motivated your decision to aim for B-Corp certification?

James H: As most employees here should (hopefully!) know, Havas’ collective mission is to make a meaningful difference to the brands, businesses and the lives of the people we work with. B Corp certification is just one of the tangible ways the company’s mission is being realised. We are so proud to be able to drive our US flagship agency to this certification and the ongoing improvements for our future.

Lindsey B: Becoming a Certified B Corp and Public Benefit Corporation, with a publicly stated benefit of ‘helping underserved youth’—as well as the recent appointment of our agency’s first Chief of Social Impact, Lindsay Stein—are significant steps in redefining the future of work and its effect on our employees, communities, clients, and the environment. Before I joined Havas 6 years ago, I intentionally included B Corps in my job search (there were not many New York companies at the time) so I was thrilled when our New York CEO, Laura Maness, expressed her vision for our US flagship office to become certified. Job seekers want to work for companies that align with their values, and they aren’t convinced by performative messaging on social media. The certification shows that we are doing what we are saying and there’s no way to fudge the numbers.

In your opinion, why do you think it is important to have this certification?

Lindsey B: Being a certified B Corp means that we have a continuous improvement framework to build an inclusive and sustainable economy that works for everyone. More than anything, it telegraphs our values of making a meaningful difference to attract the calibre of talent and clients we want to surround ourselves with—people and companies that are committed to using business as a force for good. The decision to become a Certified B Corp was made based on our desire to become not only the best company in the world, but the best company for the world.

James H: We find that many brands are looking for agency partners that have similar societal, cultural, and environmental philosophies. Havas New York’s B Corp certification journey has already attracted companies such as global real estate services firm JLL, which has been named one of Ethisphere’s “World’s Most Ethical Companies” every year for over a decade and is one of Barron’s 100 most sustainable companies.

What was the biggest challenge in obtaining the certification? How long did the process take?

James H: It’s a long journey to get certified. For Havas New York, from the time we first cracked open the B Impact Assessment until our official certification was almost two years. And what’s important to remember is that attaining the certification is a huge milestone, but it isn’t the end goal—we feel like this certification is a license to maximize our impact and continue to improve how our company operates within our community and across the world. One challenge for us was aligning on the scope of our certification with B Lab; as a large global company, we had to get really clear about the boundaries of our certification which involved getting deep into the structure of various Havas legal entities.

Lindsey B: The B Impact Assessment is designed to be rigorous, which makes achieving the certification that much more rewarding. The assessment addresses every aspect of the business with a fine-toothed comb; it examines a company’s impact on their workers, community, environment, and customers as well as the company’s governance structure and accountability. It’s split into two categories: Operations, which covers a company’s day-to-day activities, and Impact Business Models, which awards additional points for business models designed to create additional positive impact. Being in HR, I am used to completing lengthy compliance reports, but I have never worked on an assessment as detailed as this one. The biggest challenge was organising our data in a way that would give us credit according to B Lab’s standards. For example, we were doing a lot in terms of our charitable giving and pro bono work, but we didn’t have a structured policy around it.

How does obtaining this certification ladder up to broader company goals?

Lindsey B: Havas New York’s decision to become B Corp certified is part of our global network ambition to become the leading communications group on environmental issues and achieve carbon neutrality in 2025. We in New York have been on this journey for many years. We have always been an agency rooted in creative consciousness and have been celebrated for cultivating a growth culture that centres on innovation and putting a meaningful employee experience at the heart of our business strategy. Large-scale behavioural change starts at home—you have to be able to walk the talk.

Would you encourage other Havas agencies to embark on the journey?

James H: Regardless of whether you are certain you want to certify, we would definitely recommend checking out the B Impact Assessment and using it as a learning tool. It’s one of the best kept secrets out there as a free resource that can help you evolve your business and learn a lot of the tenets of “business as a force for good.” It has the added benefit of being highly tied to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which is a globally accepted framework for improving our world.

Lindsey B: If your agency is strongly considering certification, we would recommend taking a look at B Lab’s Welcome Guide and reaching out to someone on the support team listed in the guide to make sure that you are set up to succeed with B Lab. Their process changes as they grow and the movement intensifies.

What are your top tips for agencies considering embarking on the journey to B-Corp?

Lindsey B: First I would suggest heading to bimpactassessment.net and familiarising yourself with the process. B Lab’s FAQs are a helpful start and subscribing to B The Change Weekly will keep you updated on the latest insights from the other business around the world using business as a force for good. Once you are familiar with the process, create an internal B Corp Task Force consisting of passionate members of your staff and be prepared to commit 20% of your time for at least 2 years!

James H: I’d say this: It requires support and drive from your leadership, so make sure they fully understand the benefits and the process so they can help you along the way and remove roadblocks you might encounter. Also, check out “The B Corp Handbook, Second Edition: How You Can Use Business as a Force for Good” by Ryan Honeyman and Tiffany Jana as a good intro. And think about formalising your agency’s approach to sustainability and CSR policies. You will have to do that as part of the certification anyway, so giving some thought to what kind of agency you want to be and writing down those rules is the beginning of strong policies.

Is there anything we haven’t asked you that you’d like to mention or highlight?

Lindsey B: While the certification was a lot of work and we ran up against a number of challenges, we found it highly rewarding to learn so much about sustainability, but also about how our business works. On a daily basis we were working with legal, facilities, finance, client services, HR, as well as our leadership and client teams.

James H: This process gave us an opportunity to reimagine how we operate and allowed us to amplify our impact on our people and our planet.  We both agree it was the most rewarding achievement we contributed to at Havas and hope other agencies around the globe will join the movement.