What does it really mean to be a B Corp?

A while ago I shared some information about how we are using software as a force for good and how we collaborate with our customers and suppliers to create positive impact together in our everyday work. This is one of the core aspects of how we live by our company and B Corp values, but it’s only one side of the coin. There is also a lot of benefit creating work that is not directly related to our everyday task of developing great software, and I would like to share a bit more about what’s going on “behind the scenes” with you.

As our colleague Aureliano elegantly explained, there are “two different types of benefit: the project related and the company related. The first one relates to what you do with your customers, the second is about what you do in your processes.” In this post I would like to focus on company processes: it sounds really boring, but there’s lots of cool stuff going on here!

Caring for our Team

First of all: the team. People make up the core of the company and without happy people you won’t get amazing results. It sounds simple and obvious, but this aspect is very often overlooked in businesses: people are not seen as “people”, but rather as “resources” or “functions” and they have to be highly performing, and not necessarily happy. In mondora we firmly believe that happy people perform way better and enable the company to exceed expectations and reach very high standards and results. This is why a large part of our company processes focuses on employee wellness at work (and outside too). We are so focused on employee happiness that we use it as a metric to determine how well the company is doing!

Flexibility

The company is structured in a way that promotes flexibility and freedom, two core principles of employee happiness. Firstly, there are no set working hours: people can come in at different times in the morning, and leave early or late in the evening. We ask that everyone respects meeting and call schedules, but apart from that there is great flexibility in working hours: as long as it’s not disrupting the work of the team, each individual can start and finish their work day when it’s best for them. This is very helpful for employees with children for example, and it’s also great for tailoring the work day around the times when one is most productive, which in turn is beneficial to the company. As well as time flexibility, there is also space flexibility: people can choose not only when, but also where to work from. The office, home, a cafè, a mountain top…wherever! Again, the simple rule of working with the team and not disrupting workflow applies here too, and each individual is responsible for making appropriate decisions and considering company needs.

People make up the core of the company and without happy people you won’t get amazing results. It sounds simple and obvious, but this aspect is very often overlooked in businesses: people are not seen as “people”, but rather as “resources” or “functions” and they have to be highly performing, and not necessarily happy.

Freedom, trust and responsibility

A high degree of flexibility goes hand in hand with a high degree of freedom: this is where self management comes in. mondora is organised in small teams, and each team manages itself. There is no team leader or area manager and this implies a low amount of control and a high amount of responsibility. Everyone is on the same level and equally responsible for the work of the company. In order for this mechanism to function well a very high level of trust is required: in everything they do, people are trusted to make decisions that are in the best interest of both the company and the customer they are working with. When we say everyone is equal we don’t mean that everyone performs exactly the same functions, but rather that everyone’s ideas and opinions have the same value, and each individual contributes to the team and company with his or her diversified knowledge and expertise.

Help and counselling

Outside of the basic organisational structure, there are further mechanisms in place to promote employee happiness and wellness. Firstly, a rather intangible but extremely important benefit is that of receiving support in times of need: if a person requires time off due to family circumstances for example, arrangements are made to accommodate for this without the person having to use up all holidays and leave hours. Secondly, in order to further support people that work in mondora, we have a free counselling service run by trained psychologists: employees can call a toll free number and speak anonymously with a psychologist that is available 24 hours a day. This service is also extended to family members and is aimed primarily at stress prevention.

Work environment

A good work environment promotes wellness and happiness and we have lots of benefits aimed at creating a great place to work in. From our commuting app Cycle2Work to a comfortable office heated with Tyrolean stoves, to free organic food, tea and coffee, we try to make coming to the office as enjoyable as possible. We have a fully equipped kitchen large enough to cook for everyone and a beautiful mindfulness room on the rooftop terrace with wooden floors and plenty of cushions. We don’t forget about our remote workers either and try to include benefits that they can also enjoy, such as our branded Dopper bottles that encourage everyone to eliminate single use plastic, and organic cotton company t-shirts. Oh and let’s not forget virtual coffee breaks!

:m team players enjoying a “home cooked” office lunch together

Learning

And last but not least..teaching and learning! In a self managed company people don’t “move up the ladder”, but they progress horizontally, learning new skills and teaching what they know to their peers. mondora promotes continuous learning and personal development and encourages people to participate in trainings and conferences (we had some people take a worthwhile trip to Paris recently). People in the company also organise one-off “4to5” learning meetings (where anyone can be a teacher for one hour) and longer courses, such as English and Public Speaking, that everyone is welcome to attend. Occasionally we invite external teachers for extra courses or activities, such as meditation classes, yoga and philosophy workshops.

Caring for our Community and Environment

Caring for the team is one core aspect of applying benefit processes to the company, but it is not the whole story. As well as people within the company, we also have to pay attention to all stakeholders that are outside the company, and that are affected in some way by the work we do. Company stakeholders include the local community, customers, suppliers, the local land and environmental resources, to name a few. Benefit processes must focus on these external actors too and here are some of the ways in which we consider them in company practices.

Farming, Land and Traditions

mondora’s mission statement features a commitment to the land by supporting local organic farming. In practical terms, the company hires a farmer every 20 employees. Farmers work the land and provide the office with delicious organic vegetables, fruit, honey, wine and cereals. At the same time, a portion of local land gets farmed using biodynamic methods, thereby restoring health to the soil and air (and to the people that eat the produce too). Similarly, the company supports local organic cheese production through HireBitto, a project aimed at helping cattle farmers and cheesemakers who choose to work with traditional, non intensive production methods.

:m team farmers and helpers

Choosing suppliers wisely

Who we work with also affects the kind of impact we generate. mondora has a purchasing policy whereby local suppliers are selected wherever possible, and screened for positive practices. Similarly, suppliers who are able to demonstrate their commitment to the creation of benefit, B Corps and other sustainable companies are chosen over more traditional businesses. We have also set up interdependence agreements with some suppliers, so that we are able to work on creating benefit together.

Working with competitors

Often a company will work against, not with, competitors. In mondora we believe that collaboration is the key to positive change and we work closely with local competitors to create a network of software companies who are highly innovative and able to attract top talents and offer excellent work opportunities to the local community. One issue we often see is that young people are forced to move to large cities to get a good job, and we are trying to address this issue by promoting and creating a better work environment with good opportunities locally. In this way we can retain local talents and collaborate with other companies in creating benefit for the community in which we operate. We now have a few cases of people who have gone the opposite way and moved from Milan to Valtellina to work with us!

Volunteering

Like all companies, mondora is made of people and we can’t forget the contribution that individual people have in the creation of benefit for the local community and land. As well as supporting individual volunteering choices by offering extra paid time off to employees engaging in various activities, mondora also creates company volunteering opportunities. For example a few colleagues have recently been teaching coding classes to young children thanks to an interdependence agreement between mondora and a local customer. Others have taught a coding course at the local prison, as part of a professional development programme. Sometimes developers take a day off from coding and join the farmers in the fields. Others help non profit companies with software solutions and websites free of charge and complete these tasks as a side project during working hours. People are also encouraged to suggest charities and volunteering activities that the company can take part in locally.

:m team player Dino teaching a “MiniCoder” course to local children

Sharing is Caring

It’s great for a company to focus on strong values and consider the wellbeing of all stakeholders in business processes, but all this is of limited value if knowledge, mistakes and learnings are not shared with the wider world. It’s not really impactful benefit if no one outside the company ecosystem is benefitting from it! This is why we believe it is so important to have a high level of transparency and share our processes and results publicly on our blog bcalmbcorp.com. We share our work methods, our achievements and our ideas in the hope that other companies will find them useful and adapt them to their ecosystems. In return we obtain feedback and fresh ideas from other companies who also share their processes, so that we are able to keep improving and learning! Finally, not everything we do works and not everything has an exclusively positive impact: for this reason we are also working on measuring the unintended or potential negative impact of our processes, and we will be sharing a detailed report of this soon!

Over to you: what processes and methods do you have in place to create benefit? What are your experiences and suggestions? We would love to hear from you!

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