Announcing the start of B Corp Month
We’re really proud to be one of the UK’s founding B Corps, and every March, purposeful businesses come together to celebrate B Corp month. It’s a time for B Corps to raise awareness of just how important it is to move away from the outdated “business as usual” approach, and instead demonstrate how business, if done right, can be a force for good. But what is a B Corp? Certified B Corporations, also known as B Corps, are companies that are said to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. There are now over 6,000 B Corps in 89 countries, across 159 industries. By being part of the B Corp movement, we recognise that the most challenging global problems cannot be solved by governments and NGOs alone. By harnessing the power of business, we know that as B Corps we have the ability to commit positively to impact all stakeholders. How does a company become a B Corp? Qualifying to be a B Corp is a comprehensive and rigorous journey, where aspiring B Corps must have their processes verified by the B Lab, who oversee certification. B Corporation believes that businesses should exist to deliver impact above and beyond just profit. As such, businesses are assessed in five key areas: governance, workers, community, environment and customers. On top of these, if a company has what is known as an Impact Business Model (IBM), they can gain extra points. An IBM refers to the way that a business is designed to create a specific positive outcome for one of its stakeholders. An IBM may be based on a product, a particular process or activity, or the structure of the business. Where do we fit in? Our Governance One area of being a B Corp that we think we excel in is our governance. Yoti is proud to be one of the UK’s founding B Corps, having received its first certification back in August 2015, the same year that B Corp launched in the UK. Before we’d even thought about how to turn a profit, we knew that as a company, we wanted to do business in the right way. We were well aware that in this industry, we would come up against complex ethical questions, simply because of the nature of what we do. So we had to find a way of ensuring that we had a robust framework to work against. In response to this, we came up with our seven founding principles, which have remained unchanged since the day we adopted them. That’s not to say that we won’t change them if we think they could be improved, but we think they’ve stood the test of time, and still hold strong as our foundations. Alongside these, we also have a comprehensive Code of Ethics, which we must abide by in every decision we make. This covers how we treat our employees, customers, business partners, and all remaining stakeholders. To demonstrate our commitment to being a B Corp, we have also made changes to our governing documents. We have made changes to our company’s Articles of Association, meaning that our business is held legally accountable to a broader purpose and is committed to considering the interests of all stakeholders. We also are held to account by our Guardian Council which consists of external, independently appointed experts in relevant fields such as human rights, data privacy and last mile tech. Alongside the Council, we have an Internal Ethics and Trust Committee, which oversees the development and implementation of ethical approaches at Yoti. We have made public pledges by signing up to the Fair Tax Charter, Responsible 100, 5Rights and the Biometrics Institute, all of which guide us in ensuring that we build ethical technology. And that’s only some of what we do. Keep an eye out for our upcoming governance series, where we’ll delve a bit deeper into our governance practices and what they mean on a practical level. But we know we can still do better We’re committed to launching our Digital Identity Toolkit, which we hope will help demystify the world of digital identity. It is aimed at those who want to learn more about digital identity and how they might be relevant to people in their lives or their work. We hope that by making digital identity more accessible, readers will be able to make more informed decisions about whether they want to make a digital identity or integrate the technology into their organisations. If you want to know more… We’re currently in the process of recertifying for B Corp status (since companies must recertify every three years). You can check out our most recently available B Corp score and impact report if you’d like to know more, or you can get in touch. Otherwise, keep an eye out for our upcoming governance series, Digital Identity Toolkit and new B Corp report.
Social purpose in a time of crisis
Events over recent weeks have been unprecedented. At Yoti, we have been inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and wholeheartedly support calls for the end of inequality and exclusion wherever it exists and in whatever form it takes. Racial equality is very much an issue of identity, and being a digital identity company the issues at hand are more pertinent to us than for many other companies. As signatories of the Safe Face Pledge, we have made a public commitment addressing harmful bias in artificial intelligence technology and embedded transparency into our business practices. Today, we are releasing a paper which looks at our own successes and shortcomings, in addition to a wider assessment of social purpose in the corporate world during these challenging times. More specifically, the paper examines the emergence of social purpose in the corporate world, how businesses define their missions and visions, and how companies have responded to two of the greatest events of recent times – the Coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests. An extensive list of examples of responses from companies can be found in the appendix. You can download a copy of Social Purpose in a Time of Crisis here. As a company, we have made some progress on diversity and inclusion, but it’s clear we need to do a lot more. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to accelerating the work we have already started. As CEO of Yoti, I am proud of our achievements over the years that have seen us build genuine social purpose into our business. As a B Corp, we meet detailed standards of performance which are benchmarked globally and our Guardian Council play an active role in ensuring our business and products serve everybody. We’re committed to eliminating bias from our biometric technology and take a transparent approach to publishing the accuracy results across skin tone and gender. All that said, the Black Lives Matter protests have forced businesses around the world to look more closely at their own records and despite what we have achieved, our own period of reflection has shown that we have fallen short in a number of areas. As CEO I am committed to putting these right, and today we make a statement of intent towards that goal.
He who eats bread with you
B Corps are companies that use business as a force for good. The “B” stands for benefit, and refers to benefiting workers, benefiting the community and benefiting the environment. It is truly a revolution, driven by the nonprofit organisation B Lab, who are reminding us what companies can really do. Although the word “company” today may make you think of balance sheets and revenue, it actually originates from the French word compagnie: ”a society, friendship, intimacy; body of soldiers”. If we look further back, we find the Latin phrase companio: “he who eats bread with you”. Companies were originally about people and sharing, which is exactly what Yoti has been about from day one. The backstory: day one at Yoti Before we even had a name, we understood the complex ethical questions we would likely come up against. We knew that if we were going to ask people to trust us with their most personal information, we would need to set up an ethical framework to guide us and help us answer these questions. We came up with our seven founding principles which continue to feed into everything we do. We knew we’d also need an independent board of trustees who could hold us to these principles and advise us with expertise from relevant fields, such as human rights, data privacy and last-mile tech. And so was born the Guardian Council. While we were setting up our foundations in the summer of 2014 and had finally settled on a name – Your Own Trusted Identity (Yoti) – B Corps had just crossed the pond from the US and launched in the UK. Their mission and framework really resonated with the kind of company we were striving to build. We were awarded our B certification in July 2015 and became one of the first founding UK B Corps. And we have been driving good ever since. The mission To qualify as a B Corp, a company must have an explicit social or environmental mission. A certified B Corp is legally required to take into account the interests of workers, the community and the environment, as well as its shareholders, in all decisions Yoti’s mission is to give people a safer way of proving who they are in the physical and online world. Our free consumer app and platform for business is designed to protect society from fraud – and help people know who they are dealing with, using less data. The practicalities A company must amend its articles of incorporation to adopt B Lab’s commitment to sustainability and treating workers well, as well as meeting B Lab’s comprehensive social and environmental performance standards. The key areas assessed are: Governance We have a strong ethical framework that is built on our seven ethical principles. Alongside the Guardian Council, we have an Internal Ethics and Trust Committee that oversees the development and implementation of our ethical approaches and ensure we develop in the right way. We have made public pledges to the Safe Face Pledge, Biometrics Institute: 7 ethical principles, 5Rights framework, the Articl8 member code of conduct and the Fair Tax Mark. Customers The Yoti app was built to give individuals a simple and secure way of proving and protecting their identity, online and offline. It is free, and will always be free, for the user. The app lets you share details with people you don’t know but may be interacting with online, for example on dating sites or classifieds. It also has a password manager to help you keep your passwords safe and age estimation technology that allows individuals to prove their age without needing to add an ID document to the app. We have also teamed up with CitizenCard to give young people access to a low-cost identity document to prove their age, which has taken the price from £17 to £9. Community We’re fully committed to supporting Sustainable Development Goal 16:9 – to provide a legal identity for all – especially to the 1.5 billion people who have no way of proving who they are. Following an extensive period of research and evaluation of social sector needs in the UK, Africa and South East Asia, in early 2019 we launched a brand new Social Purpose Strategy. The key pillars are Digital Identity Toolkit, a Digital Identity Fellowship Programme and our offline ID solution, Yoti Keys. Yoti has also donated £17,200 to charity in 2018/19 and commits 1 percent of revenue and 2.5 percent of profit to the Yoti Foundation. Team We have a brilliant team of over 270 people who we endeavour to support in many different ways. To build a culture of self-development, we give every UK employee a LinkedIn Learning license and an annual budget of £750 for training. Everyone at Yoti also gets five ‘selfie’ days a year to focus on volunteering or personal development opportunities. We offer a multitude of free activities such as yoga, boxing, meditation, anime, running, among many, to help them achieve the life side of things. Environment Through the use of digital ID, we’re striving to combat the huge number of lost physical ID documents – just under 40,000 out of 50 million in the UK are reported lost or stolen each year. Our electronic signature platform helps companies save on printing thousands of pages by enabling them to sign documents digitally. We also have a dedicated Green Team of volunteers who are responsible for managing, implementing and promoting our environmental principles and mission. The B Corps report in all its glory For ALL the ways we are striving to drive good, please have a look at our B Corps 2019 report in all its detail and colour. You can find our official B Impact report here.
A different kind of company
Yoti isn’t like many companies in the identity space. We were born from seven core business principles which feed into everything we do. We are held accountable to these principles by the Guardian Council, our independent committee of influential professionals who have expertise spanning human rights, consumer rights, online harms, data responsibility and sustainability. They make sure that we always seek to do the right thing, and that we are transparent about what we are doing and why. We also have an Internal Ethics and Trust Committee that oversees the development and implementation of our ethical approaches and work alongside the Guardians to make sure everything we do is in line with the seven principles. We are a certified B Corp company and have been internationally awarded for our commitment to rigorous standards of social, environmental performance, accountability and transparency. You can read our 2019 B Corps report to see how we are continually developing as a force for good. We are constantly developing innovative ways of providing digital ID solutions to everyone, whether that be through our fully-funded, year-long Yoti Digital Identity Fellowship or our Yoti Keys product. Our app has been tested to meet the Secured by Design requirements, and our security systems have been accredited by two of the most rigorous standards for information security management; ISO 27001 and SOC2. We have shared our age estimation approach with regulators and civil society bodies in roundtable sessions and it has been reviewed by the Center for Democracy and Technology. We have undertaken an Accuracy of Algorithm Review for regulators with Dr Alison Gardner and are the only company to have been certified under the scheme by the UK Government’s Age-Verification Regulator for age verification of adult content to meet DEA part 3. We have made public pledges to the Safe Face Pledge, Biometrics Institute: 7 ethical principles, 5Rights framework, the Articl8 member code of conduct, and the Fair Tax Mark. Our mission is to fix the broken identity system. This is not a journey we make on our own but with policy advisors, think tanks, researchers, academics, humanitarian bodies and civilians. If you would like to be part of this journey, we’d love to hear from you.
More women in tech!
A few weeks ago, we were invited to an event for Ada Lovelace Day at the Francis Crick Institute. The line up was brimming with inspiring female role models and speakers from companies like Made.com, Snapchat and Microsoft. But much more importantly, the room was packed with 200 motivated girls aged 16-18, looking for a springboard into a career in tech. This brilliant event was set up by Workfinder, a startup seeking to revolutionise work experience for young people, regardless of their background, by connecting them with exciting companies through their app. They put us in contact with Anisa and Farzana, two girls from local schools who we had the pleasure of spending a week with here at Yoti HQ. They gave us some brilliant insights into the minds of a teenager and did some great work publicising Yoti to a young audience. Plus, they even managed to do some coding! But don’t hear it from us. Here, in their own words, are their reflections on their week of work experience at Yoti. Monday Anisa This was my first day at the company and it did take me some time to find the place. But once you know where it is you won’t be lost. I remember that there is a small Sainsbury’s opposite the building! As soon as I got in I was wholeheartedly welcomed by the staff and then escorted to the floor I was going to be working in. My ID card was made in front of my eyes and it was so cool to witness! I was then equipped with a laptop to work with (I was not expecting it to be a MacBook) I was then instructed to complete all my login details which didn’t take too long. After that, I was handed over my first task which was a privacy task. So, I was asked to make a note of what could be improved in the Yoti privacy information and for this I had to be very critical as it was going to benefit the company. Farzana After lunch, we then met Hannah who set out an HR task for us to create a presentation about involving more women within STEM and the significance of it. As a person who has worked around this area and is very interested in this area this task became very fun and interesting for me. After finishing our presentation ideas, we played table tennis in the “Park” area and then we have met our primary host, Leanne. Tuesday Farzana It was easy for me to find the place as I remembered all the shops near the office so I arrived before my start time. My task for the days were to create a poster for an event, create a powerpoint for the STEM campaign and design a job description for any role of my choice. I was able to complete all my tasks within the given time and I thoroughly enjoyed the poster task as I learnt many new skills and was able to put my creativity into action. Wednesday Farzana I was set a market research task by two members of the marketing team. The task involved me coming up with the ideas of how to publicise Yoti to a younger audience. I came up with a video and poster which will be executed via social media and public billboards. After I completed my powerpoint I had lunch with some of the team members which was lovely! We conversed about schools, future, cultures and so much more. Once lunch was over I continued with my task as I was going to display my ideas. Then I presented my ideas in my first meeting and was given good feedback and suggestions on how I should physically showcase my ideas. I then created an advert in the form of a poster within 30 minutes which was quite challenging but taught me how to manage my time. My second meeting was in a large meeting room with many members of staff and it was my first time doing such a thing! My presentation went really well and I explained how Yoti can be advertised to attract a younger audience. Thursday Anisa The task I was set was based around research. I was asked to look for different companies which use Yoti and note down the way in which they advertise it. This was to help the company aware of the different styles that Yoti is presented in so they can ensure that all key points are featured and explained well. I then began working on a powerpoint to portray my findings. I presented my ideas to one of the product design members who explained the process of creating a new product, which was very interesting! Friday Anisa We were introduced to Ed who set a Coder Dojo task for us [a coding workshop for 7-17 year olds held at Yoti once a month]. It was to use the website Python which contains different modules and create codes which generates something in a program for example drawing a specific shape. It is quite interesting how these codes can make the slightest changes for the program and what each function represents in the program. Not only that, it was actually really fun! Farzana From this experience I was able to gain so many new skills as well as adopt a new perspective. I was able to understand the different types of tasks employees at a tech company are assigned with, as well as gain an insight into how new products are formed. We would like to say a huge thanks to Anisa and Farzana for choosing to spend your week of work experience with us. We learned lots from you guys and we hope you learned a thing or two from us too.
Adventures in social purpose
It’s been exactly 18 months since I joined Yoti, initially as Head of Social Impact but more recently under a revised title of Head of Social Purpose. We felt the word ‘impact’ was too focused on the end result, and not enough on the process, the DNA and the ethos of what we were trying to do. While we do, of course, want our efforts to have a positive impact, we believe that how you go about creating that impact is equally as important – perhaps more important – as the impact itself. Most of my career has been spent in the global conservation and development sectors, a place where commitment to doing good is more often than not obvious and plain for all to see. Things are a little different in the corporate world. With the exception of a few Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, my exposure to companies genuinely trying to ‘do well by doing good’ has been rather limited – until I started work at Yoti. Bringing all of our ‘doing good’ together into a coherent and comprehensive Social Purpose Programme has been a fascinating exercise for me, and for the company. And it would appear we’re on the right track with our recent nomination in the Best in Brand Purpose category in The Drum Social Purpose Awards. We thought it might be helpful to share a little of what we’ve learnt along the way. Look for the badge of honour We’ve all heard of greenwashing – the covering up of environmental harm caused by a company’s activities by producing a glossy brochure that pushes the few good things the company might do. Anyone can do good PR or spin a story, but not everyone can become a B Corp. B Corps are the badge of honour for companies doing good. Heavily audited, they are committed to ‘doing well by doing good’. I’ve heard this from many of my colleagues at Yoti, and it’s also true in my case – Yoti’s B Corp status was a big factor in my decision to join. Find a company whose products you believe in It’s hard to build a social purpose programme around a company whose products don’t improve the human condition in some way or another, or worse, that have the potential to cause actual social or environmental harm. First and foremost, join a company that has products with the potential to do the kind of good you believe in. For me, this was a no-brainer at Yoti. Keeping people safe online is a big deal. CSR doesn’t equate to purpose Companies can do great work through their CSR programmes, and many do. The trouble is by sectioning off the ‘good things we do’ into a separate department, or corner of the office, this tends to silo all the positive from the day-to-day drudge of the business. People want to work for companies that are good through and through, where everyone contributes – not companies that are around about average with a few people running a small CSR programme. Senior management buy-in is key I’ve been fortunate at Yoti to have the full buy-in of the CEO, CFO and entire senior management team. Not only do social purpose programmes cost money, from time to time they can divert resources away from other commercial activities that are crucial to the business. Building out a quality, meaningful social purpose programme without senior management buy-in is going to be close to impossible, not to mention the signal that gives to staff further down that purpose isn’t something the company wants, or takes seriously. Purpose has to matter to everyone, from the top to the bottom. Engage in a little silo busting Yoti is a digital identity company and our product offerings are a little niche (we’re obviously working hard to change that). Rather than restricting our outreach to the digital identity sector, we’ve been increasingly talking to the humanitarian sector (where our expertise has value) and various anthropology-focused networks (our social purpose work is very human-focused). We’re now increasingly sharing our experiences with others who work in social purpose. Think about the work you’re doing, and think about how it might cross over into other sectors. Nobody wants to talk in an echo chamber. Be evidence-based Try to develop a strategy that is evidence-based. Carry out research where appropriate, and be open to learning if you don’t have the answers. At Yoti a relatively small amount of money funded a piece of UK-based research last summer which seriously challenged our social impact ambitions. This lead us to pivot to a more international strategy which you see today. Embrace your ‘known unknowns’ Hold an internal workshop to gain a better understanding of how your colleagues see social impact and purpose – how it might be defined, and how it might be achieved and measured. Yes, you’ll almost certainly be learning on your feet so be open and transparent about the process – consider pulling everything together into an Impact Report of some kind. Be open and honest the whole time – not just with the end results but with the process. People will respect you for it. Define the undefined We recently sent out a short two-minute survey to Yoti staff, and one of the questions challenged them to define our social purpose in one sentence (Disney’s, for example, is “to use our imaginations to bring happiness to millions”). The responses were as fascinating as they were wide-ranging. This matters if you’re looking for a single, coherent message about why your company exists. Before you do too much, define what you mean by social purpose – and get everyone behind it. Embrace the wider sector At Yoti we don’t just have eyes on our own products and services. We believe that a healthy digital identity sector is in the interests of everyone. Because of this, a large part of our Social Purpose Strategy seeks to support the development of healthy debate around digital identity, and the democratisation of the technology behind it. We have invested time, money and resources into an exciting Fellowship Programme and the development of a Toolkit. Whatever the objectives of your social purpose efforts, don’t forget to look beyond your own four walls. Build networks. Buy books One of the most exciting things about starting something new is that it presents the best possible opportunity to learn. Reach out to other Heads of Social Purpose in other industries, and other countries. Ask them for advice. Ask them about their favourite social purpose books. Search for impact reports online to figure out how other companies define, measure and communicate why they exist. A few books I’m already beginning to find useful include: Roy Spence and Haley Rushing – It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose David Hieatt – Do Purpose: Why Brands With a Purpose Do Better and Matter More Markus Kramer – The Guiding Purpose Strategy: A Navigational Code for Brand Growth Aaron Hurst – The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World John Mackey – Conscious Capitalism Have I missed anything? If you head up social purpose within your own organisation I’d love to hear from you and swap notes. Or if you’re interested in social purpose more broadly, or know of a good book I should read, please do get in touch. It would be great to hear from you. After all, when it comes to doing good, we’re all in this together.