Armanino joined the ranks of Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Fetzer Vineyards as a certified B Corporation in March 2021, meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
We spoke with Armanino Foundation Executive Director Mary Tressel about what B Corporation certification means and how we became one of the leading accounting firms achieving this distinction.
First, what is a B Corporation and why was that an important certification to achieve?
Certified B Corporations balance purpose and profit. They are subjected to intense scrutiny of all aspects of their businesses and are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on all stakeholders. We join the ranks of only 16 other accounting firms in the world to have achieved this accreditation. In our case, this certification is a public demonstration of our firm’s commitment to use business as a force for good.
How did Armanino get started in this process?
In the fall of 2019, I stopped by Tax partner Larry Kuechler’s generous book giveaway table. The B Corp Handbook – How to Use Business as a Force for Good jumped out at me as a relevant title, given my role. As I read each chapter, I grew more convinced that the way Armanino lives out its purpose was in perfect alignment with the B Corporation movement. I presented the opportunity for our firm to go through the certification process to CEO Matt Armanino and the Armanino Foundation Board and got an enthusiastic approval to move forward.
The executives were enthusiastic, but did you also present the idea to staff? What was their reaction?
Armanino’s Staff Advisory Board, a team that represents staff-level employees, invited me to speak about our plans for 2020. When I discussed our B Corporation application, the entire group, like our executives, eagerly supported the idea. Every head was nodding, they had big smiles, and they told me how meaningful it was for Armanino to take our corporate social responsibility efforts to a whole new level. They felt this would be a big differentiator for us in recruiting new team members because it shows how deeply the firm cares about people and the environment.
SAB member Eric Chien connected me with a new employee, Anthony Rotolo, and these two staffers participated in our B Corp discovery sessions with leaders from our People (HR), Operations and Finance teams to kick off our certification process. A member of the Strategy and Transformation team, Anthony started a nonprofit consulting group at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo that helped local companies attain their B Corp certification. He was an invaluable thought partner throughout this process.
How did Armanino prove itself worthy of B Corporation certification?
We provided documentation for more than 200 rigorous questions in the categories of Governance, Workers, Community, Customers and Environment. The median score for an ordinary business is 50.9 and Armanino scored 80.0. We achieved the highest possible scores in some very impactful areas in these categories.
For Governance, our partners amended their partnership agreement to adhere to the B Corporation principals. In the Workers category, we achieved the maximum available points for staff empowerment, promoting team members from within our firm, offering life skills training and professional development programs, and providing broad supplemental health benefits. Through the Armanino Foundation, we also enable two-for-one employee donation matching and the ability for staff and partners to nominate nonprofits for charitable giving and community service.
We achieved the highest Community marks for creating an equitable and inclusive workplace, and we received the top scores in all available Customers categories for monitoring and addressing our clients’ satisfaction with our services and managing the value and impact created for them. In the Environment category, we reduce our impact from travel via videoconferencing and providing alternative commute options.
How long did the process take?
It took a full year from start to finish. The process is complex and not for the faint of heart – I commend Astine Alaverdyan and Sarah Harris from our Legal team and the entire Armanino Foundation Board for their commitment to seeing it through to successful completion. Now that we have walked the walk, we can help our clients achieve B Corporation certification and make an even greater impact.
Any parting thoughts?
I think Armanino’s purpose in making a positive impact on the lives of our clients, our people and our communities has been a bit of our own secret for many years. By achieving this global, third-party verification of our efforts to do the right thing, we are in the company of 3,500 great standard-bearers and set apart in our profession as a true leader. We believe that business has a responsibility to act for the greater good in society, and our B Corporation certification proves that Armanino is doing just that.