Recertified As A B Corp

by Don Friedman on March 23, 2017


Old Structures Engineering has been recertified as a B Corp, a process that takes place every two years. This was our first recertification and my overall feeling is that it’s nice to know that our original certification wasn’t a fluke.

There were two interesting aspects to taking the B Assessment for the second time. The first is that we were randomly selected – as are one out of ten companies being certified – for a detailed examination of our data. It took some extra work but it also turned up some interesting facts. (For example, in 2016, 57% of our billings were for projects where the building in question has been designated as a landmark by a government agency. I did not realize that percentage was so high, since a lot of projects are on old-but-not-designated buildings.) Also, the people we dealt with from B Lab were so pleasant that it felt less like an audit than it did like taking an internet personality quiz.

The second interesting moment came when i realized that, as a small professional services firm based in New York, there were a lot of aspects of the Benefit concept that are unobtainable for us. With the exception of our office manager, all of our employees are engineers, so we’re hiring from a limited pool of candidates. After payroll, rent, and taxes, our biggest expense by far is insurance for professional liability and health. Since there’s no such thing as an independently-owned neighborhood professional-liability insurance company, we have no choice but to deal with big publicly-owned corporations. Since we rent roughly one percent of a large building, we have little control over how environmentally-friendly our office is. None of these issues is absolute – we have tried to keep the staff diverse, we have used local and independent companies for services when we can, and we have an office that is, to the best of our ability, greenish – but the situation is not ideal.

The situation is not ideal but it is also perfectly okay. Of the more than two thousand certified B Corps, only a very few are professional-services firms in New York. The questions on the assessment are designed to cover a wide range of companies and not every goal represented by a question is going to be obtainable to everyone. Beyond that, we now know which areas we should (and can) focus on to improve our company. And that knowledge is, ultimately, the most important result of taking the assessment.

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