Changing business for good: Mayo Wynne Baxter’s journey

9th May 2024

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Rebecca Louis, private client partner and responsible business champion at Mayo Wynne Baxter, which is a certified B Corporation, discusses how the Sussex law firm is committed to changing the world of business for good, in both senses of the word.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of purpose in a business. Profit may enable a business, but purpose is what drives it.

While, historically, a business’s purpose may have been to maximise shareholder value, in today’s rapidly-evolving world, more companies are highlighting the importance of non-shareholding stakeholders, such as their people, local communities and the environment.

As a large regional law firm that has been embedded in the Sussex community for more than 150 years, we are entirely committed to making a positive impact in the areas in which we serve. That is why being a purpose-oriented responsible business is at the heart of our values and forms part of our sustainable, hard-wired growth strategy.

Becoming a B Corporation

This well-ingrained attitude led us to receiving our B Corporation accreditation in January 2023 – a key milestone in our ambition to change the world of business for good; and validation of all the great things we were already doing as part of our long-standing commitment to responsible business practices.

Organisations with certified B Corporation status are legally required to consider the impact of business decisions on their people, customers, suppliers, communities and the planet.

Since launching in 2007, more than 8,600 companies working in 162 industries worldwide have achieved the certification and, as more leaders recognise that businesses need to play their role in driving societal and environmental change, the number of companies actively seeking B Corporation status is growing.

This rise is reflective of a sea change in society, and a focus on climate change and social good, with consumers demanding purpose-led businesses and employees wanting to work for companies with clear values.

The benchmarks to achieve accreditation are incredibly high and the auditing process is rigorous, with non-profit B-Lab independently scoring aspiring B-Corps across governance, workers, community, environment and customers to determine the business’ social and environmental performance.

Certification signals a commitment to transparency through publicly publishing results. It shows clients and customers that the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability have been met.

Purposeful and profitable

The conventional wisdom when it comes to business is that there is a choice to be made between making money and doing ‘good’. This is, however, a false dichotomy. It is a misconception to say B Corporations have to stop being as profitable.

Since becoming a B Corporation, we have seen rapid expansion and expanded our footprint across Sussex. While we are awaiting the results of our most recent financial year, in 2022/23, we reported 12% revenue growth – six times the growth we experienced in the four years previous – taking our turnover to more than £12.7m.

For us, helping to address the challenges our society is currently facing not only makes moral and ethical sense, it also makes commercial sense as our clients, communities, suppliers and regulators increasingly expect this approach. Clients are expressing their approval through public reviews and our five-star Trustpilot score reflects this as they rate us as ‘excellent’.

Driving change

For us, responsible business is not just a box-ticking exercise – it is who we are and how we do business. Our B Corporation values are embedded in our business strategy and fully supported from the top-down. To keep ourselves accountable, our responsible business ambitions are constantly tracked and analysed – pushing us to do better and achieve more.

Our responsible business initiatives are structured around three key pillars – people, communities and the environment – which serve as the foundation of our commitment to positive change, guiding our actions and decisions.

Empowering people

We know that our greatest asset is our fantastic people, and we spare no effort in fostering a supportive, inclusive and empowering workplace culture. From providing ample opportunities for professional development to prioritising diversity and mental health, we ensure every member of our team feels valued and supported.

Outside of salary, bonuses and holidays, our people have access to a number of benefits including Simply Health and Bupa packages, as well as empowered working: the autonomy to work, when and where best suits their lives and clients. This is hugely beneficial to all, but particularly supports those who may have caring responsibilities, or health requirements – such as menopause – to work when they are best able to focus and deliver.

Detailed and clearly-defined routes to progression are provided to our people at all levels. Funded CILEX, SQE and legal apprenticeships are routinely offered, with full study support policies, as well as training for business development, management training for team leaders and other training for non-legal team members. This enables us to retain loyal and motivated people for long periods and take pride in assisting with a key part in their learning journey. In fact, many of our partners started their legal career with us and progressed upwards.

Our people-led ‘More in Common’ inclusion groups bring all employees together through events and discussion. The groups include topics such as LGBTQ+, disability and mental health, and provide people with a platform to share experiences and educate each other in how to become better allies and advocates.

Our commitment to empowering our employees extends beyond the workplace. We actively encourage our staff to volunteer in their communities, supporting causes they are passionate about.

Whether it is mentoring young people or fundraising for local charities, we believe in giving back and making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. For example, some of our people volunteer as part of the Lewes and District Dementia Alliance Group and a couple take part in the Girls Network, which aims to inspire and empower girls from the least advantaged communities by connecting them with a mentor.

As a result of making our working environments happy, healthy and flexible, we hold a Silver Accreditation from Investors in People.

Supporting communities

As an integral part of the Sussex community, we are dedicated to giving back in meaningful ways. Whether it is through fundraising for local charities or volunteering our time and expertise, we are committed to making a tangible difference in the lives of those around us.

Every two years, we appoint a local charity to be our charity partner and focus our fundraising efforts in supporting them. Currently, this is the Air Ambulance Charity Kent Surrey and Sussex – an independent life-saving charity, which has provided world-leading pre-hospitality emergency care whenever and wherever it is needed for more than 30 years.

So far, we have raised nearly £8,000 for the charity through a busy programme of events, including a Seaford ParkRun takeover, a Rugby World Cup sweepstake, a silent auction at our Christmas party, and a team quiz night featuring a hamper raffle. Most recently, we raised £1,000 by selling the legal reference books in our Eastbourne hub as we ready ourselves for an office move later this year.

We have plenty of other fundraisers in the diary for the rest of our partnership, including a summer party raffle, a summer Olympics events and some of our people will even take part in the gruelling Three Peaks Challenge, which involves climbing the three highest mountains of Scotland, England and Wales in 24 hours.

To strengthen both our volunteering and fundraising efforts, we have implemented a responsible business committee, which is committed to driving positive change in the community and providing opportunities for our people to support causes they are passionate about.

Preserving the environment

Environmental sustainability is a core focus of our responsible business initiatives. From reducing our carbon footprint to sourcing sustainable materials, we are taking concrete steps towards a greener future.

Some of the eco-friendly practices we have implemented in our day-to-day operations, include being paper light for more than seven years; using renewable electricity in our office hubs; and ensuring 100% of our stationary is either sustainably sourced, recycled or recyclable.

All our hub refurbishments not only support agile working and provide space to host events, they also form part of commitment to minimising our environmental impact, with at least 80% recycled, upcycled or sustainably-sourced materials.

For example, collaborative spaces and meeting rooms are furnished with upcycled refurbished chairs and sofas; lampshades and cushions are made from recycled fabric; and interest books are donated or sourced pre-owned. There are also pallet-clad walls in kitchen spaces and boardrooms, with the space lit with energy-efficient LED lighting.

To ensure we are doing our part in protecting the planet for future generations, we are constantly exploring innovative solutions to minimise our environmental impact and promote sustainability.

Knowledge sharing

We believe that businesses have a responsibility to contribute to the greater good, and we are committed to leading by example.

After achieving our B Corporation certification, we joined forces with two other local accredited businesses – including Bird & Blend, which has stores in Brighton, Worthing and Canterbury – to create the Sussex B Corps LinkedIn group.

Now home to more than 160 members, the group promotes the B Corp community in Sussex with the aim of networking and sharing information and success stories.

Let’s Go! Net Zero, a county-wide initiative in West Sussex to help get businesses started on sustainability, has an innovative programme of free, open-door events where companies can hear from experts and industry peers as they share their advice and experiences.

In January this year, I was on the panel for its ‘how to take action on net zero if you’re office-based: a sustainability masterclass’, where we discussed everything from sourcing sustainable stationery supplies to adopting low carbon cloud services.

Furthermore, I will also be on the panel of speakers at Bird & Blend’s SustainabiliTEA Business Chat in June, which will focus on people. One of the main aims of this event is to inspire businesses by sharing approaches, practices and challenges of investing in creating a safe, healthy, creative and inclusive workplace and how that impacts employee performance and efficiency.

Looking ahead

As we reflect on our journey so far, we are proud of the strides we have made towards becoming a more responsible and purpose-driven business. However, we recognise that our work is far from over. Moving forward, we remain steadfast in our commitment to driving positive change, both within our organisation and beyond, and in the coming years, we will continue to build on our success and expand our impact across all three pillars of responsible business.

By prioritising our people, communities and environment, we are not just changing the way we do business; we are helping change the world for good.

As we continue on our journey, we invite others to join us in embracing the power of purpose and driving positive change in the world around us. Together, we can create a more sustainable and equitable future for generations to come.