Blog

Purpose isn’t new for us: it’s in our DNA

6 October 2023

With our submission this month to become a B Corp, Opencast has formalised the purpose-driven nature of our work. But, as chief executive Tom Lawson says, the move is more about continuity than a radical change of direction for the business

When Opencast was founded in 2012, when our founders decided to offer a different kind of technology consulting. From the outset, the business has been about building technology in the right way – using the right approaches and the right technologies for the job in hand.

Our work, however, has never just been about delivering technology - we have always emphasised the importance of people alongside the technology.

This year, we have written new public-facing statements detailing Opencast’s purpose, mission and vision. This has been part of an effort to articulate our business DNA more explicitly. We now clearly state our purpose is “making life better through the power of people and technology”.

We have articulated our mission: to “deliver human-focused solutions to the challenges our clients face…by harnessing the potential of people and working together to ensure technology is done in the right way.” The next logical step was to articulate our overall vision. For us, our success will “make a positive impact on society through solutions that are simpler, more sustainable and fairer for all”.

But is any of this really new? The reality is that Opencast has always been a purpose-driven business.

Opencast’s philosophy has always been to do the right thing for the greater good. We know we can go further and have a bigger impact, but we have always had an insistence that we do the right thing for our people, our clients and society.

But it has also become clear from global trends, including on climate and social inequality, that businesses must be more explicit about our reasons for being, and our social and environmental responsibilities, too.

Societal expectations have shifted. People and investors expect more from companies in terms of the ethics and morals we demonstrate.

Our purpose, mission and vision statements give us the opportunity to make our position on these issues more visible to everyone we interact with – internally and externally.

Drone shot of Opencast company.

B Corp submission

An important way in which we have formalised our invigorated approach is in our submission in the past few days to become an accredited B Corp – or ‘benefit corporation’.

Becoming a B Corp company is not easy, but we believe in the aims and intentions of this global initiative, led by B Lab, a non-profit with offices around the world.

To be granted and to maintain certification, companies must receive a minimum score of 80 from an assessment of social and environmental performance. They must also integrate B Corp commitments into their governing documents, and pay an annual fee based on sales.

Right now there are just over 7,500 certified B Corporations across 161 industries in 92 countries – and Opencast aims to be one of them.

Becoming a B Corp is about far more than getting the validation and certification around a set of beliefs and behaviours that we already hold true. For me, it is about making sure companies benefit everyone and they positively impact the communities in which they operate and the planet as a whole. That strikes pretty much to the core of who we are.

We see B Corp as a way of enabling us to firm up our commitments. To track and improve so that we are a better company – doing more for our people, our clients and our communities. It is a formalised way of externally measuring and validating what we do now and what we plan to do in the future.

We already behave in a way that aligns with B Corp’s aims and objectives. We are not, and never have been, a purely profit-driven and narrowly shareholder-focused enterprise. So we don’t have to transform the business or massively change our way of doing things. But we have been doing a top-to-bottom review of our ways of doing business, we can focus even more on achieving a positive social impact.

We are now sharpening our focus on three ‘pillars’ identified by our social impact strategy, which are in line with key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the UK Government’s Social Value Model:

  • health, inclusion and wellbeing
  • places and planet
  • a fairer economy and society.

Becoming a B Corp will make some of our approaches to decision making more systemic, improving our consistency and transparency.

One possible impact of becoming a B Corp will be on our work with suppliers, partners and clients. We will have to be more alert to the impact – both positive and negative – they have in the world. We’ll need to ensure anyone in our supply chain, or we provide solutions to, don’t undermine the commitments we make as a B Corp.

We need to discuss and debate issues and be open and transparent with our decision making – this is integral to the type of company and organisation we aspire to be.

We are not, and never have been, a purely profit-driven and shareholder-focused enterprise.

Authors

Tom Lawson

Chief Executive

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