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It's not that easy being green – what my company gained from becoming a B Corp

The managing director of a prescription app talks about how B Corporation (B Corp) certification pushed the company to become more sustainable

In vogue; a hot topic; all the rage. Whatever way you want to say it, community pharmacies are part of a world where buzz words such as ‘sustainability’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are becoming increasingly important to patients.

And it's not hard to see why.

Every ounce of carbon neutralised is critical as the healthcare sector is responsible for almost 5% of global greenhouse emissions – if it was a country it would be the fifth highest polluting nation – and medicines account for about 25% of carbon emissions within the NHS.

So what can community pharmacies do to respond?

Many have already leapt into action. Some have committed to stop selling wet wipes containing plastic fibres, while others have introduced injector pen recycling. Some have even started using materials made by environmentally friendly 3D printing. However, becoming B Corp certified is another way for community pharmacies to demonstrate their commitment to going greener.

 

 

Logical step to pursue B Corp certification

 

But what is B Corp certification and how do you become certified?

B Corp certification is granted by B Lab, a non-profit association helping businesses to be “more ethical and sustainable”. More than 1,000 UK businesses have so far been certified.

Lloydspharmacy's online prescription service Lloydsdirect became one of their number when it became a certified B Corp earlier this year. This means it has been verified to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.

The company serves more than 600,000 people in England and dispenses around a million items a month.

Read more: Lloydsdirect gains sustainability certification for 'goals outside of profit'

Lloydsdirect's managing director, Connie Cha, explains that the company started the process to become a B corp in 2020. The business was looking at how it could respond to huge growth spurred on by COVID-19, and it seemed that becoming a certified B Corp aligned with its business values.

There was also a patient-centric element, Ms Cha says. A lot of the company's patients had asked whether some of their medicines could be consolidated into the same box so they weren’t having a “damaging effect on the environment”.

 

B Corp certification benefits

 

To become B Corp certified, a business is assessed in terms of governance, workers, community, environment and customers. Those looking to receive certification have to achieve a minimum score of 80 out of 200 on the B Impact Assessment.

Lloydsdirect achieved 85.4, so is definitely not “resting on [its] laurels”, Ms Cha says. 

Read more: Climate change: What can community pharmacy do to become greener?

The process has made the company think about its environmental impact and optimise its packaging sizes. 

Overall, Lloydsdirect has found seeking B Corp certification a “really educative process”, she says.

However, Ms Cha says there still are ways the company can go further and the journey has helped to highlight “stepping stones…to make further improvements”. “The certification is…the start and then you have a re-certification in three years,” she explains. 

While Lloydsdirect started the certification process in 2020, it was partially disrupted by COVID-19. Its application was only picked up and progressed through to an assessment stage earlier this year and initially received an analyst to review its application in early 2022.

The company spent a lot of its time on its carbon emissions calculations and had a sustainability expert advising it on this work.

Read more: Meet the pharmacies striving for a more environmentally friendly, greener sector

Ms Cha says that following the successful certification, the company’s patient care team received a lot of interest from patients wanting to “understand more about it” and they have been really interested in the sustainability part.

She adds that B Corp certification “is a really helpful framework for communicating what you stand for”, such as how your company does business, what its values are and the problems it is trying to solve.

 

What's next?

 

For Ms Cha, B Corp certification is the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end.

Lloydsdirect is only just starting its B Corp certification efforts, she says.

The company has created three governance and environment-related pledges for the first half of this year, which will take it through to October.

The first pledge is to create a code of conduct and ethics and make sure it is fully integrated and communicated throughout the company. With its team members working in lots of different settings – pharmacy, patient care and the office – the code of conduct and ethics must reflect the responsibilities of all of the team.

Read more: Podcast – How I’m helping pharmacy become greener

This will support the company’s second pledge, which is to improve awareness about B Corp certification and define ownership and project responsibility so that the company can introduce more ambitious pledges in the future.

It is also going to assess the footprints of its sites as well as its environmental management, waste, energy, utilities processes and related factors.

Finally, it is thinking about the additional packaging improvements it can make to reduce its footprint in this area.

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