'I buy from B Corps, so I decided to become one myself'

Steamhaus MD opens up on the Manchester-based AWS partner's two-year B Corp quest

Doug Woodburn
clock • 4 min read
'I buy from B Corps, so I decided to become one myself'

Outside of running Manchester-based AWS consultancy Steamhaus, Daniel Faraday-Foster recently started an environmental science degree, and tries to buy from B Corporations where possible.

So it was, in his words, a "natural step" for Steamhaus itself to join the growing global movement of companies pledging to put purpose before profit.

There are currently around 5,500 B Corps globally, including outdoor clothing outfit Patagonia, cosmetics firm The Body Shop and ice cream brand Ben & Jerry's.

Often cited as the pinnacle of sustainability accreditations, B Corps must meet "the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability".

B Corp quest

Steamhaus officially achieved the certification in July, an accomplishment Faraday-Foster said was two years in the making.

Having sold his previous hosting venture, Melbourne Server Hosting, in 2013, he founded Steamhaus in 2015. It has about 40 active clients, including rail inspection company Sperry Rail, and 20 staff.

"My focus as an employer has always been looking after staff and trying to create a workplace where people want to work and enjoy the job," Faraday-Foster told CRN.

"I started my previous company when I was 18, so that's just always been my approach.

"And from a personal point of view, I've become more and more concerned about environmental issues. I see B Corp as the gold standard of accreditations for this kind of thing, so it was the natural route to go. It's one of those things that, when you become aware of it, you start to see it everywhere. In my own life, I prefer to buy from B Corps where possible."

Outdoor clothing specialist Patagonia is one of about 5,500 B Corps worldwide

Steamhaus provides project and managed services around AWS, whose cloud technology is often seen as more efficient and sustainable than on-premises alternatives.

Not all AWS consultancies are taking advantage of all the benefits offered by cloud, Faraday-Foster claimed, however.

"A lot of [AWS] consultancies just lift and shift your on-prem workload to an almost identical environment in AWS, which is sort of missing the whole point. We will do a transformation project and then use native AWS services, which are by their very nature, far more efficient because they've been written to do a certain job," he explained.

When you first look at [the impact assessment], it's very overwhelming. The number of questions in it is pretty scary. 

Steamhaus first resolved to pursue B Corp status around two years ago, with most of the intervening time taken up waiting for the backlog of applications to clear and the ‘impact assessment' process, which took around nine months. The audit itself only took about one month.

"When you first look at [the impact assessment], it's very overwhelming. The number of questions in it is pretty scary. You then have to set aside a couple of hours every week to chip away at it and get to a point where you're relatively confident that you're going to get through the audit process," Faraday-Foster said.

"We're a small company, and we're a consultancy, not a product-based business. So I think a lot of it was naturally quite a lot simpler for us than it will be for other companies."

Although Steamhaus was already doing a lot of things in the "right way", the biggest challenge was creating formal policies and documenting this, Faraday-Foster added.

"It's cemented that we were doing a lot of things the right way, even just things like around equal opportunities policy, ethics policy, environmental policy. We were doing a lot of the right things, but you've got to have evidence - they're not just going to take your word for it," he said.

AWS are quite enthusiastic about it and it seems to carry some weight with them. But I've never seen it as something I'm going to get a measurable RoI from

Very few firms in the tech channel have been certified as a B Corp to date, with software distributor QBS among the first out the gate.

Does becoming a B Corp make it more likely that target customers will choose Steamhaus over competitors?

Probably not, at least for now, Faraday-Foster conceded.

"There's obviously a bit of a B Corp community and we've had companies contact us as fellow B Corps. So there is sort of an internal marketplace that goes on," he said.

"But it's not in our nature to do outbound salesy stuff anyway. I'm really hopeful that [customers become more likely to buy from B Corps] because I try to have hope that we've not completely screwed the planet. I hope that's where B Corp is heading.

"Certainly AWS are quite enthusiastic about it and it seems to carry some weight with them. That's potentially the most tangible benefit there is. But I've never seen it as something I'm going to get a measurable RoI from."

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