Citywealth caught up with Josh Matthews, co-founder and managing partner of MASECO Private Wealth, to discuss their journey to becoming a B-Corp. MASECO was certified as a B Corp in 2013 and was the first B Corp in the financial services sector in the UK. Josh shares their learnings as a company and his advice to others in the industry considering B Corp status.
Tell us about the start of your B-Corp journey.
Back in 2010, when MASECO was just over a year old, Barry Martin, an old friend of mine, introduced me to the concept of the B Corporation. The values of the B Corp organization were aligned with mine, but when we first took their assessment, it highlighted how far away we were from becoming a B Corp. After a few years of re-shaping the business, MASECO certified as a B Corp in 2013 becoming the fifth company to join the movement in the UK and was the first B-Corp in the Financial Services sector in the country.
We wanted to become a B Corp because we wanted our values to shine through in what we did everyday (including in business) as opposed to just in our personal lives. It was also a signal to clients and the broader world that we strive to manage and operate ethically and sustainably and demonstrate that this is at the heart of what we do. We saw maintaining B Corp status as a way stay current with the changes in society and a way of measuring and tracking our progress as we moved forward. It also influenced the way we invested and gave money to charities while promoting the standards of accountability that being a B Corp member represents. For example, for every client we take on, we make charitable donations to help feed orphans in Africa, buy mosquito nets for people in at risk areas and help inoculate people from river blindness and other diseases.
Prior to becoming a B-Corp, we were already big believers in the 'doing well by doing good' philosophy. Rather than saying, ‘we should become a B Corp because it seems the right thing to do, let’s make all these changes to fit that,’ it was more like we said, ‘we are already aligned with these values, this is who we are, and it makes sense that we are a part of the movement’.
You broke a few ‘firsts’ when achieving B-Corp status. Tell us more about that, and the response at the time from the industry and clients.
One of the things MASECO did as part of our B-Corp journey was to introduce a range of "sustainable" portfolios for our clients and put "sustainable" on the agenda.
There has always been a belief that impact investors must choose between impact and financial return and that the more significant the impact focus is, the lower the return on investment. This does not always need to be the case.
We began introducing a sustainable option to our clients in around 2010 and our performance has been in line with our standard portfolios that we run. This has been met with a positive response from more and more clients over time. It became evident that it was possible to achieve a positive impact whilst still attaining substantial financial return. Over the past ten years, ESG investing has grown into a sophisticated investment and risk management approach, allowing investors to include environmental, social and governance considerations into their investment portfolios without having to give up return. As a result, this has increased the demand for sustainable portfolios and encouraged more businesses in the industry to offer this type of investment to their clients.
How has your B-Corp journey evolved? What are you focused on currently and is there still room for improvement?
Until a few years ago, B Corp awareness in the UK and abroad wasn’t as great as it is in the U.S, and it is only in the past few years that people increasingly want to work for, buy from and invest with companies that have mission and impact at the heart of their business model. When we started our B Corp journey, it was a very new concept that not many people in the UK knew about and generally, people weren’t as socially or environmentally conscious. However, now there is a rise of a new generation of enterprises that are actively pursuing social and environmental impact alongside financial goals. Therefore, it is important that we continue developing our strategy and goals to ensure as the first B-Corp in the Financial Services sector in the UK, that we remain a good example to other businesses in the industry.
We are always looking for new ways to use our business as a force for a positive change in the world. Our B Corp team is currently reviewing our strategy by assessing our strengths and weaknesses for each section of the B Corp assessment to improve every area and our overall B Impact score when we go through the recertification process in 2023. However, we don’t see this as a tick box exercise, but wanting to really make a difference.
What’s your advice to others in the financial services industry considering B-Corp status?
To become B Corp certified, as a business, you need to genuinely believe in the 'doing well by doing good' attitude, rather than just wanting to do it because you think it’s the right thing to do or that it might generate more business. A B Corp certification is not easy to get, and that is what makes it so meaningful.
One aspect of being a B Corp is that you are obliged to recertify every three years to ensure you still meet the requirements, so it is not a pledge, it's a test, and you need to not only pass once but continue to pass every three years. Therefore, you need to maintain your efforts and sincerely want to be a part of the movement – you should be asking yourself, is this something that is already well aligned with our business ethos and values?
Businesses of all sizes and across all industries are recognizing the need to change how they operate, and by becoming a B Corp, you can make a meaningful commitment to make this change and prove that business can be a force for good. If your organisation is honestly committed to creating real environmental and/or societal benefits, my advice would be to go for it. There are many benefits to being part of the B Corp movement, from attracting like-minded employees to cutting your overall business costs. Once you become a B Corp, you’ll gain access to B Corp community data, which allows you access to learn the most cost-effective means to be sustainable and best practices. The certification process can also help to identify needless and wasteful spending.
What’s next for MASECO?
With our next recertification in 2023, our B-Corp team is currently having regular meetings to review our strategy, strengths and weaknesses with a goal to improve on what we are already doing well. We are always looking for new ways to use our business as a force for good and we hope to continue to demonstrate our commitment to social and environmental responsibility and that companies can reflect the values of their people and be a force for a positive change in the world.
We are always looking at ways to do what is right and share ideas and best practices from others. For example, in July we ran a campaign internally and externally to raise awareness to reduce the amount of plastic we produce. Encouraging people to ditch single-use plastic. We plan to do more internal and external campaigns like this in the future.