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Impact

B Corp Advocacy: In Conversation
14.05.24

NHO has been B Corp certified since March 2023 – a reflection of our values and our vision to elevate the value of design and its potential for positive impact. We believe all businesses, regardless of their size, have influence – and thus responsibility – for employees, clients, governance, the environment, and our communities. B Corp provides a framework to ensure that influence is positive; a toolkit for successfully marrying purpose with profit.

Here, Lillian Lim, Director of NHO, speaks with Melbourne based property developer, Milieu, Australian rug brand, Armadillo, Sydney based creative agency, Frost*collective and architecture and interior design practice, Studio Prineas, reflecting on their B Corp experience in the hope it will inspire yours.

This conversation features:
• Michael McCormack – Managing Director, Milieu
• Jodie Fried and Sally Pottharst – Co-Founders, Armadillo
• Alarna Rose – Head of Purpose, Armadillo
• Vince Frost – Founder, CEO and Executive Creative Director, Frost*collective
• Carlo Giannasca – Chief Operating Officer & Partner, Frost*collective
• Eva-Marie Prineas – Principal of Studio Prineas

Lillian: Thank you all for joining us, and congratulations on achieving B Corp certification. Michael, what inspired Milieu to join the B Corp movement, and how does being a certified B Corp align with the company’s ethos, values, mission and goals?

Michael – Managing Director, Milieu: We’re a purpose-driven developer and our foundations are rooted in a progressive cause – to provide thoughtful and considered solutions that build better cities, while embracing social networks and the business landscape. Our alignment with B Corp’s philosophy encouraged us to pursue certification as a proof point of our company ethos. The B Corp framework has encouraged us to have meaningful team discussions and implement ongoing improvements as a force for positive change.

Breese Street by Milieu, designed by DKO with Breathe Architecture.
Photography by Tom Ross.

Lillian: Eva-Marie, your architecture and interior design practice, Studio Prineas, achieved certification in 2023. Can you walk us through the process?

Eva-Marie – Principal, Studio Prineas: Absolutely. We discovered the movement about five years ago and felt it was a tangible way to formalise our studio’s priorities and processes – a push from good intentions to material actions. We began implementing practical ways that we could work towards the spirit of B Corp, then committed to a 12-month certification goal. We split the five ‘Impact’ areas – Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers – between the team, which allowed everyone to feel invested and take ownership. One simple but meaningful move was to change the constitution of the company. Other tasks involved formalising our processes we already had in place into structured policies.

Eva-Marie Prineas, Principal of Studio Prineas.
Photography by Felix Forest.

The Studio Prineas team.
Photography by Felix Forest.

“We began implementing practical ways that we could work towards the spirit of B Corp, then committed to a 12-month certification goal. We split the five ‘Impact’ areas – Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers – between the team, which allowed everyone to feel invested and take ownership.” – Eva-Marie Prineas, Principal of Studio Prineas.

Lillian: That familiarity with B Corp’s ethos must have been invaluable in readying the business for certification. Of course, becoming a B Corp can also be a challenging journey. Jodie, are you able to share a challenge that Armadillo encountered in the certification process, as a leading rug supplier?

Jodie – Co-Founder, Armadillo: B Corp recertification takes place every three years, which requires an exceptional level of transparency and accountability. We’re currently entering this phase and our main challenge is maintaining standards across our supply chain. We’ve recently introduced processes to create additional visibility across the quality control, health and safety, and sustainability of our third-party suppliers, who we are fortunate to have long-term relationships with.

Lillian: That must be a complex landscape to navigate as a manufacturer, particularly as your business continues to expand. Sally, can you elaborate on the steps Armadillo has taken to minimise its environmental footprint?

Sally – Co-Founder, Armadillo: Our rugs are hand-woven from natural fibres like silk, wool, linen and jute, and accredited with a Declare Label by the International Living Future Institute, which verifies that they do not contain any materials or chemicals that cause harm to human health or the environment. Our long-term goal is to gain full supply chain traceability back to the initial farmers and growers of the raw materials we source, and on the other end we are trying to steward the thoughtful disposal of our rugs by partnering with TRAKS on Australia’s first rug recycling program.

Jodie Fried and Sally Pottharst, Co-Founders of Armadillo.
Photography by Victoria Zschommler.

Armadillo Staccato rug series.
Styling by Joseph Gardner, photography by Anson Smart.

“Our long-term goal is to gain full supply chain traceability back to the initial farmers and growers of the raw materials we source, and on the other end we are trying to steward the thoughtful disposal of our rugs by partnering with TRAKS on Australia’s first rug recycling program.” – Sally Pottharst, Co-Founder of Armadillo.

Lillian: Thoughtful initiatives such as these are critical given waste is rife in the design and construction industry. What are your thoughts on this, Eva-Marie? How can architects and designers improve global outcomes?

Eva-Marie – Principal, Studio Prineas: We recognise that we work in an industry that is one of the largest producers of carbon and, as architects, it is our responsibility to wield our influence in a way that supports more positive outcomes on both a macro and micro level. Our team focuses on small and consistent measures to minimise our carbon footprint and we’ve produced significantly less waste than even 10 years ago. We went through the Carbon Neutral certification process and offset our minimal emissions for 3 years. We’ve now channeled those funds towards professional development for our team and clients, so we can design better outcomes for the future of our planet.

Fisherman’s House by Studio Prineas, which sensitively connects a 19th century fisherman’s cottage with a new, off-form concrete tower.
Photography by Gavin Green.

“We recognise that we work in an industry that is one of the largest producers of carbon and, as architects, it is our responsibility to wield our influence in a way that supports more positive outcomes on both a macro and micro level.” – Eva-Marie Prineas, Principal of Studio Prineas.

Lillian: The B Corp framework has the capacity to shape business operations, culture and relationships too, a key motivating factor for Frost*collective. How has this played out in your creative agency, Vince?

Vince – Founder, CEO and Executive Creative Director, Frost*collective: Our B Corp accreditation has made us more selective about who we work with. We make sure we only do business with clients who share our environmental, social and governance (ESG) values – a filter to decide who we do and don’t work with that holds us to a higher standard.

Vince Frost, Founder, CEO and Executive Creative Director, Frost*collective.
Photography by Alana Landsberry.

“Our B Corp accreditation has made us more selective about who we work with. We make sure we only do business with clients who share our environmental, social and governance (ESG) values – a filter to decide who we do and don’t work with that holds us to a higher standard.” – Vince Frost, Founder, CEO and Executive Creative Director of Frost*collective.

Lillian: I imagine that helps to bolster aligned messaging in the studio, which can be transformative to internal operations and culture. Michael, what are some specific initiatives, policies or practices that Milieu has implemented as a result of pursuing B Corp certification – in particular, considering ethical decision-making and responsible business practices at all levels of the organisation?

Michael – Managing Director, Milieu: Our Supplier Code of Conduct defines how we collaborate with peers and collaborators who share our values. It emphasises community and social responsibility, individual choice and workplace respect, and ongoing environmental stewardship and development. We’ve established a wellness benefit policy so all employees can access free exercise classes, flexible public holidays, MERS (an employment rewards scheme), and ‘Charitable Giving,’ a community investment policy, which has seen us support Pay the Rent, Creative Culture (CCP), Lifeblood, Homes for Homes, and Open Kitchen.

Open Kitchen, a Milieu Hospitality initiative launched in April 2020 that provides complimentary meals to people in the hospitality industry.
Photography courtesy of Milieu.

Centre for Contemporary Photography’s Summer Salon, supported by Milieu.
Photography courtesy of Milieu.

Lillian: Carlo, what Frost*collective projects best reflect the B Corp values and the company’s mission to ‘Design a Better World’?

Carlo – Chief Operating Officer & Partner, Frost*collective: Refettorio OzHarvest Sydney is an Australian-first social impact collaboration between OzHarvest and Massimo Bottura’s not-for-profit organisation Food for Soul. It’s a unique place designed to offer our city’s most vulnerable a free nourishing meal made with rescued food. As a pro bono partner, we contributed time and expertise to create the interiors, engaged artists and helped determine the functionality of the space. We’ve also refreshed the brand identity of Camp Quality – a not-for-profit organisation that supports children and families impacted by cancer. One particularly rewarding project was the magnetic brand we created for Fellten – a global, future-thinking vision by the founders of two global leaders in EV classic car conversion, Australia’s Jaunt Motors and the UK’s Zero EV.

Fellten brand by Frost*collective.
Photography courtesy of Frost*collective.

Fellten brand by Frost*collective.
Photography courtesy of Frost*collective.

Lillian: Alarna, we’ve touched on the appeal of B Corp certification in attracting values-aligned clients. How does this play out as a product supplier, particularly in relation to Armadillo’s commitment to its customers, from quality product to ethical marketing practices and providing opportunities for meaningful customer feedback?

Alarna – Head of Purpose, Armadillo: Customer service is at the core of our business, from formal quality control mechanisms to third party product certifications, a designated after-sales care service to customer engagement surveys. We are true believers in the approach to ‘buy once and buy well.’ To ensure exceptional quality, our rugs undergo internationally recognised testing for VOCs, colorfastness, durability, and overall texture, before they’re launched to market.

Armadillo LA.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns.

Lillian: Learning from and working with others is key, particularly when we strive to tackle ambitious business goals. Eva-Marie, what partnerships or collaborations with local organisations or non-profits is Studio Prineas undertaking that demonstrate its commitment to community involvement and social responsibility?

Eva-Marie: We support Two Good Co’s mission to provide cooked meals and care packs to shelters that house women affected by domestic violence. Our contributions range from donations to volunteer cooking days with our team and clients. We also regularly support the Indigenous Literacy Foundation in preserving and teaching First Nations languages at risk of being lost – an engagement that reflects our commitment to respecting and honoring Country in our work.

Lillian: How about Milieu, Michael?

Michael – Managing Director, Milieu: As part of our commitment to shaping better cities, Milieu actively supports emerging arts and culture. Since 2018, we have partnered with the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) through sponsorship and collaborations, and in 2022, we extended our support by backing the CCP Creative Residency program, facilitating networking and outcomes for creatives. This year, we proudly serve as the Fitzroy and Collingwood precinct partner for PHOTO 2024, Australia’s largest photography festival. PHOTO commissions artists to create and present work at urban sites, emphasising inclusion and access. The festival program prioritises diverse and progressive discourse, with most events free of charge to the community.

PHOTO 2022: International Festival of Photography.
Photography courtesy of PHOTO.

Lillian: It’s wonderful to see these cultural initiatives springing up and engaging the public. Eva-Marie, can you share any final advice for businesses interested in becoming B Corp certified?

Eva-Marie – Principal, Studio Prineas: If you are considering certification, it needs to be embedded in the philosophy of your business. B Corp certification is not something that sits on the side as a box to tick. The philosophy and commitments of being a B Corp must translate to the way you run your business. This messaging needs to underscore your conversations with clients, consultants, and potential employees to attract the right projects and staff, and reinforce the philosophy, pursuit and spirit of your company.

Lillian: Thank you all for sharing your time and insights.

Learn more about the B Corp movement here and read about NHO’s journey here.

“If you are considering certification, it needs to be embedded in the philosophy of your business. B Corp certification is not something that sits on the side as a box to tick. The philosophy and commitments of being a B Corp must translate to the way you run your business.” – Eva-Marie Prineas, Principal of Studio Prineas.