Nadia Woodhouse – growing the B Corporation movement in Australia

Intrapreneur, food lover and a passionate sustainability consultant based in Melbourne. Four years ago Nadia made the blind leap from the world of financial accounting which she started in as a graduate, and now is happily ensconced in sustainability strategy, assurance and social impact projects with Net Balance. She never thought she would be able to combine her undergraduate degrees of finance with sustainability and social impact, but has found the perfect cause in B Corporations, and with a number of other dedicated people, has been instrumental in bringing the US-based movement to Australia.

Business, the most powerful man-made force on the planet, must create value for society, not just shareholders.

What is your idea?

The idea for B Corporation came from two visionaries who had just been through the sale of their very successful footwear company, and disappointingly saw everything that they worked tirelessly to achieve, eroded when the new owner focussed entirely on profit. The mission and very personality of the company was sacrificed for profit. Jay Coen Gilbert and Bart Houlahan joined with Andrew Kassoy to become the Co-Founders of B Lab, and they share passion for creating a better world through business by creating the certified B Corporation. By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business. Certified B Corporations are leading a global movement to redefine success in business.

I have to make it clear that I’m not a founder or employed by B Lab, just a passionate member of a B Corporation (Net Balance) who is keen to grow the movement in Australia!

How do you make money?

B Lab charges an annual certification fee to each B Corporation. This fee covers the certification process – including research into standards, running the impact assessments and audit process, promoting and marketing the certification as well as support staff for the B Corporations.

What are you working on right now?

I don’t do all of this by myself! I work closely with representatives from Small Giants and the Projection Room (the first and second Australian B Corps, respectively) – and as we’re all very committed to the cause, we do this in our own time. We’ve had some exciting news from the US that they are committed to having a presence in Australia, so our current goal is to bring in a dedicated manager to grow the Australian B Corp community and set up a formal, independent structure. Our aim is to have 100 certified Australian B Corps by the end of this year – a stretch goal but one which we think is achievable, and for which we can already feel a momentum building!

I have a great day job too, I work at Net Balance – Australia’s largest dedicated sustainability advisory. I work on amazing projects and in a nutshell, my job is to assist corporations as well as NGOs on their sustainability journey – whether it be around environmental and resource efficiency, social impact, or reporting and assurance of CSR (corporate social responsibility) commitments.

How do you make ideas happen?

I’m pragmatic, practical and goal oriented. I set myself weekly goals (for my personal and professional life) and ensure that I capture learnings if I did not achieve everything I set out to do. It’s important that these short terms goals fulfil my longer term vision so every couple of months I take some time out to evaluate my priorities, and re-set longer term goals if necessary.

I think it’s for this reason that I’m also the Chair of an International Charity called Spark*  – which exists to enable changemakers in some of the poorest places on the planet. Our board is extremely innovative and strategic, and my job is to ensure that we can reach a consensus and sing from the same song sheet!

What does your typical day look like? 

I feel energised when I’ve woken up early and either gone for a swim at Fitzroy pool or a workout at the gym. I’ll catch up with my Net Balance workmates and grab a coffee from one of the best coffee shops in Melbourne (Patricia) and then it’s on to prioritising the things I need to do. As a consultant, my job’s also pretty reactive, so this to do list gets re-written a couple of times a day. After hours I might engage with B Lab in the US, or I’ll check in with the Spark* executive team on strategy.

What challenges do you face growing B Corporation in Australia?

I believe that we don’t yet have the required legal structures in place for social business to operate effectively. Big business is currently favoured in Australia and is not conducive to social enterprise. Australia, over the last few years, has set up the basic support structures for social enterprise but it’s now up to the government to support this from a regulatory and administrative point of view. This means that we need to understand and quantify the value of social impact – and incorporate this into the value of an organisation.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

Not an idea, but a quote from Sebastien-Roch-Nicolas Chamfort – “A man should swallow a toad every morning to be sure of not meeting with anything more revolting in the day ahead.”

What organisations are doing cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

I have to give a shout out to the first 5 B Corporations in Australia. These are known as the ‘founding Australian B Corps’ and they’ve been working hard to grow the movement and build a community. B Corporations want to do business with each other, because they know inherently that their fellow B Corporations have the same value set and are working to create change in the way we do business.

What do you think the role of business is in affecting social change?

Well, I’m so glad you asked. Business is absolutely crucial to solving social problems. Government and the non-profit sector are necessary but insufficient to address society’s greatest challenges. Business, the most powerful man-made force on the planet, must create value for society, not just shareholders. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions and the B Corp movement offers a concrete, market-based and scalable solution.

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter?

Dr Karl (@DoctorKarl) for interesting science, Charlie Pickering (@charliepick) for insightful opinions and Tanya Ha (@Ha_Tanya) for practical green tips!

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

I’ve mentioned this above – I simply cannot go past a coffee from one of my secret spots, Patricia. They are true to their coffee mission and you can order only a black, white or filter coffee. The way it should be!

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter?

Dr Karl (@DoctorKarl) for interesting science, Charlie Pickering (@charliepick) for insightful opinions and Tanya Ha (@Ha_Tanya) for practical green tips!

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