Sustainable Change: Governance
March 30, 2022
In our last blog post, we mentioned that we would be sharing some of Plank’s operations, business practices, and initiatives that we have been doing for a while, and talk through some of those that we have adopted throughout the B Corp assessment process.
In order to certify as a B Corp, a company must score a minimum of 80 points across 5 sections of the B Impact Assessment (BIA) — Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. Although we scored higher in some areas from the get-go, we spent a lot of time evaluating our practices, learning from others, and implementing significant improvements across the entire company. Let’s start talking about the first category — Governance!
As part of our commitment to becoming a Certified B Corporation, we feel it is important to remain open and transparent about what’s going on at Plank! For this reason, we have made some governance changes to keep us accountable and adhere to our values.
The Governance section of the BIA focuses on the company’s overall mission, ethics, accountability and transparency. We were asked a number of questions about the adoption of a social or environmental mission, how we engage employees and our community to achieve that mission, and also about the transparency of our practices in regards to financial information, feedback, diversity, and much more.
A lot of the changes we made here were all things that were either long overdue or simply in line with our values.
Defining a formal mission statement
One of the most important changes that came about from this section, and from the BIA in general, is the creation of our formal mission statement with a specific commitment to positive social impact. Although we had bits and pieces of this statement internally and public-facing, we wanted to be sure that we created one that better represents who Plank is today and what matters most to us.
Our values have been a defining characteristic of Plank for the past decade! Now we have a formal mission statement that works in concert with those values! The statement was created collaboratively amongst our team, and now it will join our values everywhere. We talk about these elements in job interviews, we reference them when engaging with clients, and we kick off each State of Plank internal meeting by highlighting them.Steve Bissonnette | Managing Partner
Our mission statement has been embedded into our team, our work, and our partners for a very long time. We are happy to now have it in writing with a formal commitment to a specific positive social impact. This adds an extra layer of accountability and transparency, making our values even more meaningful. After a lot of collaboration amongst team members, we are happy to present Plank’s mission statement:
“We use our business as a force for good by inspiring purpose-driven organizations to join us in making the internet a better space for all.
We bring out the best in our people and partners, by collaboratively building meaningful websites that meet the five pillars of our Ethical Web Design Framework:
- Accessibility & Inclusion
- Privacy & Security
- Device-First Design
- Development Best Practices & Sustainability
- Environmental Considerations
We connect artists to their audiences, citizens to their communities, and information seekers with the answers they need.”
Managing social and environmental issues
Having a mission statement is one thing, but identifying performance targets and measuring metrics relevant to our operations and business model helps to further monitor the impact of that statement. We want to be sure that the work we do adheres to our mission, and the best way to do that is to quantify our goals and measure their success.
With Plank’s Ethical Web Design Framework at the core of our work, we have identified specific KPIs within each of the 5 pillars, which serve as the minimum benchmark for all of the websites we build. Each pillar comes with its own user-centric principles that have a unique social and/or environmental impact on the web.
Since introducing this framework, we have started to track these metrics at the beginning of a project, and we will now be sharing our improvements upon a website’s launch. The purpose of this is to keep ourselves accountable to the commitments we have made and to publicly share the importance of these practices to our clients and to the general public.
Committing to legal accountability to our stakeholders
Another big step we took as part of this process was to amend our corporate governing documents to require consideration of all stakeholders in Plank’s decision-making — a model known as stakeholder governance. This means that Plank will remain legally accountable to all of its stakeholders; workers, communities, customers, suppliers, and the environment — not just shareholders. As a company that strives to balance people, profit, and the planet, this was a no-brainer for us.
Ongoing changes to job descriptions
Each Plank employee has a job description that outlines the summary of the role, communication expectations, responsibilities, goals & objectives, experience requirements, reporting details, and salary band. This is shared internally for all employees to see and is shared publicly on job postings. They are also used for benchmarks throughout our employee review process and when assessing bonuses, raises and promotions.
In order to ensure internal management and good governance, we review and update these documents frequently. We make sure to consult relevant team members on these job descriptions to make sure that they are properly representing each employee’s expectations, goals, and the actual work they do!
Improving our employee manual
We’re very excited that Plank has a brand new internal employee handbook and operations manual! Our original was outdated and needed to be cleaned up, modified and included some major improvements. This was certainly a huge win for everyone involved.
We are now working on defining a process for instructing all managers, employees, executives, and newly hired employees on the employee manual on a regular basis. We believe this is an important step to ensure good governance and a healthy workplace for all.
Empowering employees to take on leadership roles
One thing that Plank has been doing for a long time, prior to adopting stakeholder governance, is empowering employees to move into leadership positions and take more ownership of company-wide decisions. By involving employees in the decision-making process, they are more invested in the holistic success of the company, the team, and their role in the organization.
Plank recognizes that no one knows their discipline as well as the employees doing the work, which is why we entrust our own to lead their teams. In 2021, we decided to properly reflect this in the job titles, org chart, and peer review process, in order to help clarify and structure our company to better grow, and provide more space for new roles within the company. One of the main benefits we have seen as a result of these changes is how disciplines are able to provide assessments and give feedback that is more directly related to their career path. By having team leads for each discipline, we have created a dynamic that ultimately makes more sense for the success of employees and the company.
Starting from Within
Governance is certainly at the heart of business — it’s how we organize and operate in support of our raison d’être. We look forward to continuous improvements and making Plank a better company for all of its stakeholders. What better way to do that than to include them in our decision-making processes?
The best part of all of this is that there is no right answer. There are so many opportunities to use your business as a force for good and to contribute to the transformation of the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet. As always, we encourage you to share your company’s practices for good governance.
Stay tuned for some of Plank’s business practices from our highest-scoring section on the BIA — Workers!