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In Conversation with B Corp Certified Business, The Sponge

20 October, 2020
Family Business
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In Conversation with B Corp Certified Business, The Sponge

1. Can you give us a snapshot of your business?

I’m Luke Faccini and I run The Sponge, a family owned branding agency. We specialise in helping 2nd generation+ business owners rebrand with purpose. It was founded in 2000 and since then we’ve helped 1,000s of businesses transform their brands.

Our purpose is to help all good businesses become better brands. A recent rebrand helped our client double their revenue from 4 to 8 million in under 12 months.

Our head office is in Brisbane and we have clients all over the world, from Tasmania to Estonia. We have a core team of 9, spanning strategy, creative, design, copywriting and development. To us, your culture is your brand, because it is how you show up in the world. That’s why we start there, before doing any design work.

2. What are your core values that underpin your business?

Disclaimer: I am a values nerd - a Barrett Values Centre Consultant.

A company’s culture is only as strong as its purpose and values. As big believers of this (and a guide for many), our day to day decisions are directed by our values. We celebrate team members who exemplify these values. We also revisit them annually to ensure they are current and there are no blindspots. To that point we added Profitably Abundant this year.

Our Values:

  1. Big Love, like family
    Our team and clients are family. We have each other’s backs and are devoted to every member’s success.
  2. Delightful Awesomeness
    Our playfield is “outstanding”, the step above excellence, where we continuously delight by delivering that extra awesomeness.
  3. Effectiveness over awards
    We create stuff that works brilliantly, focusing on being lean and finding the simplest, quickest path.
  4. Timeliness and Clarity
    We are quick, meticulous and never rush, so our work is always on time and its awesomest.
  5. Positive Workplay
    We play our strengths with energy and have fun. Smiles and happiness are warmly reciprocated and bring positive outcomes.
  6. Perpetuate Goodness
    With gratitude we help good, purposeful businesses become better brands, both profitable and cash strapped (via our impact streams).
  7. Profitably Abundant
    Our financial vitality enables us to comfortably work in our geniuses and be the greatest possible benefit for our families, clients, communities and the world.
  8. Obsession with Improvement
    Our unquenchable fascination for the better way fuels our continuous personal and professional growth.

3. Why did The Sponge decide to become B Corp certified?

For the first 15 years my branding agency was driven by the desire to do awesome work and make loads of money. And we did. As pure capitalists we worked for anyone that paid, regardless of what they sold.

Until a fateful December day in 2015, I was sitting on the couch in my bayside villa in Sydney, scrolling through Netflix for something to watch and I hit play.

To that point in my life I had never stopped to think about the true cost of the things I was accumulating. This documentary, called “The True Cost” was about to do a number on me.

It was fast fashion exposed. It revealed to me the senseless deaths, injuries and devastation caused by the race to the bottom for cost. For what? To maximise shareholder returns. Profit at all cost.

Before the doco was done, I was done. I had tears streaming down my cheek. I could no longer work for brands that were all about profit.

I rebuilt The Sponge as a purpose led, values driven agency that chooses to work exclusively with businesses with a positive intent for the world, not just an awesome product or service.

It was shortly after this that an author friend introduced me to B Labs, and when I saw the Certification I lept at it. I had to be involved.

4. What was the process like to become certified? Did you use the B Impact Assessment (BIA) tool and what was your experience using this tool?

The first step to certification is to do the free B Impact Assessment. It is an eye opening assessment! It introduced me and my team to many facets of business that I had not considered before. But they made so much sense when thinking about sustainability and ethics.

Back in 2016, the process was to complete the free assessment, score higher than 80 from 200 pts to qualify to certify, and say yes. Then you await the interview with B Labs to verify your answers.

A friendly team member at B Labs worked with us to produce the right documentation to support our answers. With their help we achieved a qualifying score and certified on January 1 2017.

The tool itself has evolved since then. We recertified this year (increasing our score by 13!) and noticed some good improvements. It helps us put focus on areas of our business that we would otherwise not think much about. This is especially important when you strive to be an ethical and sustainable business like we do.

The work we do with our clients revolves around purpose, positive impact and values. To be authentic, both need to be integrated into your business model. That requires complete alignment for the business, otherwise it can all go to dust if unsustainable or unethical behaviours come to light - even unintentional.

The B Impact Assessment helps bring all aspects of your business into the light. It is why we recommend every business do it, regardless of your intention to certify. It is free, and can only help you be better as a business, and as a person too.

5. What benefits have you seen from being part of the global movement of people who use business as a force for good?

I’m a big believer of Jim Rohn’s words that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. When I went to my first B Corp Leadership development day in 2017 I met dozens of people solving meaningful problems for the world through their business. And I was hooked. I’d found my tribe. These are the awesome people I want to spend time with.

Since then, I have become active in the business for good movement, and lead a community called GoodNorth. It is all about helping people connect profoundly with those with shared purpose and values, and then to foster collaboration. We do that via online and in person events. It is great to have values aligned partners to refer to clients and projects.

There is definitely a groundswell for the global movement of business for good right now. People want to support businesses that stand for something. And businesses want to be a part of it. We are seeing it almost every day with conversations about purpose and impact.

Business wise, it is a rigorous certification and holds some serious klout. We’ve had large organisations reach out to us because of it. They were specifically looking for a B Corp Certified branding agency because of the third party accreditation sustainability alignment with their direction.

6. Do you have any advice for businesses wanting to begin their sustainability roadmap?

Don’t wait for the time to be right. Start by doing the B Impact Assessment and work out where you are. Then attend a workshop (like the one coming up through FBA) or seek the help of experienced guides. It is a journey. And there are plenty of good people who want to help you be your best in business, some of them happen to be Certified B Corps.

Personally, I love nothing more than talking purpose, positive impact models and values. And even more so with family businesses. I would gladly have a virtual coffee with anyone keen to learn more about what these can mean for your business culture and bottom line. I welcome you to connect via our website here.

Ready to start your sustainability roadmap? Click here for more information about the B Impact Assessment tool or here to find out about our upcoming online workshop 'Build Your Sustainability Roadmap'.