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What it means to be B Corp certified for Austin Design Works Ltd

by | 22 Mar 24 | Long Reads, Sustainability

Austin Design Works

It’s been a “journey of discovery,” says Rachael Emous-Austin, co-director of Austin Design Works Ltd with her brother Matthew Austin. The architecture and landscape architecture design studio, based in the heart of the Cotswolds , recently achieved the highly sought after B Corp status, awarded to those who ‘balance profit with people and the planet’.’ “Before starting the process, we assumed we were quite environmentally and ethically responsible.”

It already had ISO9001 certification, after all. But applying to be a B Corp enabled Austin Design Works to go even further, putting new systems in place, firming up its principles and defining its overall mission as a business for the benefit of all.

Emous-Austin says the company had to drill down into its supply chain both for the office and for its projects, making sure that Austin Design Works supported local and/or diverse (such as female or ethnic minority run) suppliers, where possible. “For the office this includes things such as our energy, stationary, tech support, accountants, groceries. For jobs on site, it includes things like local stone, timber, and crafts people, as well as assessing the carbon footprint of imported and manufactured materials.” This is one of the reasons that Austin Design Works advocates the use of bio-based products such as hemp, wool, and lime in its buildings, “It is all about supporting a circular economy,” says Emous-Austin.

It also looked into its financial suppliers such as banks and pensions, ensuring they too are ethical. But most significantly, Austin Design Works has to legally change the company’s articles of association at Companies House. “This legally commits us to use business as a force for good, by creating a material positive impact on society and the environment through your business and operations and considering ‘stakeholder interests’ – pretty strong stuff and not something everyone is prepared to do, but we feel is the way that business should be done,” says Emous-Austin.

B Corp is all about continually improving, so for Austin Design Works, there are still goals to achieve. It will be benchmarking its ESG throughout the next year, the things it does to support its local communities in a socially responsible way and also implementing the triple bottom line accounting system, measuring its business in terms of people, planet, and profit.

“Currently we are getting involved in B Corp Month, a global celebration of the B Corp movement; it has been great to attend a conference with 450 other B Corps from the Bath and Bristol area. Because the process is a long one and often very hard work, it’s great to compare stories with others. It is a very supportive bunch of people whose common goal is doing business better,” says Emous-Austin.

Proud to be counted among businesses that are leading a global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy, Emous-Austin, and her team at Austin Design Works Ltd continue to push for a greener, more inclusive future.

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