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Becoming a B Corp – what the benefit economy means to Bank Australia

Becoming a B Corp – what the benefit economy means to Bank Australia

When the Melbourne-based co-operative of credit unions became Bank Australia in 2015, they made a promise to continue raising the bar for responsible banking. Since then, Bank Australia have rewritten what it means to be a bank – customer owned and entirely transparent, Bank Australia uses its customers money as a force for good, so they can have a positive impact on Australia’s social and environmental landscape. 


A few weeks after they became a certified B Corp, we spoke with Fiona Nixon – Head of Strategy and Communications at Bank Australia – about the bank’s most recent push towards achieving the highest standard of ethical operations. We wanted to know what being a B Corp means to Bank Australia, and how the team at Bank Australia expect the benefit economy to shape the way Australian businesses operate in the future. 


TCS: Huge congratulations on the B Corp accreditation. Bank Australia has been committed to promoting ethical business since its inception, is there a reason why you chose now to become B Corp certified?


Fiona: We held off for a while, partly because we were really busy becoming Bank Australia [the credit union co-operative formally became Bank Australia in 2015] , but also we felt like this is really the right time to help the B Corp community. B Corp has come such a long way: the accreditation has become extremely rigorous and they’ve done an amazing job of building their credentials. More and more people know what it means now, and the more companies that go through the accreditation process, the more the awareness will grow. 

I also think that this time is really critical because we’re all aware that there are really pressing problems to solve, and business is going to have to play a big role in solving environmental and social inequity issues. I think part of the motivation for that has come from consumers themselves: people are expecting business to step up and are really trying to find the businesses who are genuine about acting ethically. And as well as consumers, more pressure will be coming from employees. Young, talented people are going to be looking for ethical organisations to work for, and a business is only as good as it’s people, so a business would be wise to take a look at the way it operates and improve its sustainability credentials.


TCS: B Corp certification covers a lot, and so many varying organisations have adapted their operations to become B Corp certified. Could you explain what being a certified B Corp organisation means to Bank Australia?


Fiona: For us, being a B Corp is really about joining this community of businesses who are all trying to use their individual way of doing business for a positive impact. Although we have a long history of trying to do that in our own sector, we really wanted to broaden out the companies that we’re in touch with, to broaden our knowledge and try and work out different ways to collaborate more closely. For our customers and staff, it’s really a bit of validation for all of the hard work that everybody has put in: some formal recognition that they’re contributing to something amazing. 


TCS: Tell us more about the B Corp community


Fiona: B Labs is the organisation that administers the accreditation, and they do a great job at connecting up B Corps. There are online portals through which people can communicate, and there are also groups that have been set up on specific issues. Joining the network is immeasurably valuable, because it’s about learning about best practices in different industries. 


TCS: Lots of companies now say that they are ethical and sustainable, but being continuously reviewed and assessed, B Corps have to genuinely stand by their values, can you talk a little about that?  


Fiona: Absolutely. Businesses are good at responding to consumer need, so positioning your business as ethical makes good business sense. But it’s B Corps that are being held accountable for the claims they’re making: as a B Corp, greenwashing isn’t an option


TCS: How do you expect the B Corp status to guide what you do as an organisation? 


Fiona: I think it’s largely about engaging everyone in the organisation to keep thinking about how we can improve. Our internal group (called the B Hive) is developing a strategy to identify where we want to make commitments: looking at the five pillars of B Corps and identifying what we can do better. As we come out of the COVID pandemic our primary responsibility is going to be to look after our customers as best we can, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be neglecting our other commitments to sustainability. Now it’s more important than ever for everyone in the organisation to be engaged with our values, and examining how we can work better to protect what we stand for.


For more information on becoming a B Corp, visit bcorporation.com.au. You can read more about Bank Australia’s B Corp commitments at https://www.bankaust.com.au/responsible-banking/bcorp. Our article exploring what being a B Corp means to other leaders in the Australian B Corp community will be live soon, so keep an eye on The Conscious Space Instagram.


Bank Australia is a proud partner of The Conscious Space. Take a look through The Conscious Space blog for our series of stories about the bank and the climate-driven projects they are involved in.

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