Briefing guide on the Responsible Business Standard: What is the Standard?

A national standard independently verifying best practice for business sustainability, environmental management and social responsibility. The Standard has received many accolades for the unique service it provides to small businesses, including support from the EU for CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), Councils and trade bodies.

Why Should Business Report on Social and Environmental Issues?

Organisations are being increasingly required by law (Companies Act 2006) to ensure they meet specific standards in environmental and social governance. “Triple Bottom Line ESG” reporting (Environmental, Social and Economic Governance) is now a statutory requirement for public-funded bodies, health, education, and PLC’s. In turn, small enterprises down the supply chain are being asked to demonstrate their social and environmental credentials. The UK Public Services (Social Value) Act March 2012 obliges public procurers to check all suppliers show evidence of environmental management and social value as a pre-qualification for a share of the UK public procurement budget worth over £100 Billion a year.

How does it work?

Most organisations already meet parts of the standard. Nonetheless, RBS certification is a robust process that starts with working through a comprehensive online course to ensure they are fully meeting requirements and, more importantly, have carefully considered how they are operating and what changes they could make to be the best they possibly can be.

As a starting point, organisations are welcome to take a simple online questionnaire that acts as a quick SWOT analysis, providing immediate detailed responses and signposting where appropriate. The questionnaire is free to take, is part of the process for applying for membership of ORB (although there is no commitment to become a member), but it is NOT part of the RBS standard process.

The more detailed review also identifies how to meet the standard in full. If extra support is needed the Organisation for Responsible Businesses can recommend a qualified consultant with sector experience to advise an internal manager. The consultant will provide the best value options for low-cost implementation.

Once applicants have worked through the course and feel they are ready, they can choose a certification option that best meets their needs and submit their application and evidence online. The assessor reports comprehensively on achievements and recommendations for ongoing sustainability.

Why Apply?

It shows evidence of sustainable operations and business continuity against an approved national standard. It reduces the risk of non-compliance with new Environment Laws. It improves opportunities to win tenders for corporate and public works. It uniquely includes both Environmental and Social Standards making it broader than other forms of certification, and it is less complex. It is tailored specifically for smaller organisations with 2 to 250 persons who are unable to divert financial and technical resources to meet other standards e.g. BS8555, ISO 14001, 6000, 25999, 22301. Those who have other standards can use them as a passport for faster accreditation. It widens marketability into public sector and corporate prime contractors. Local Authorities spend £40 Billion pa on external services and are now targeted to ensure 25% of suppliers are SMEs. The Responsible Business Standard enables small enterprises to prove their sustainability as quality suppliers for public limited companies, and public sector bodies such as NHS, schools, central government and local authority services.

Business Standard Certificate

Essex County Council has been supportive throughout the development of ORB and The Responsible Business Standard. Joanna sees The Standard as a tool to increase business and consumer confidence.

“The Responsible Business Standard sits comfortably alongside the Buy with Confidence scheme operated in Essex by our Trading Standards team. Both are aimed at increasing business and consumer confidence and ensuring commitment to quality, high working standards and good operational practice.”

Joanna Killian

Chief Executive, Essex County Council

“This new standard has been designed specifically for SMEs, businesses that typify the FSB membership. We believe The Standard is a very useful tool for these businesses, particularly in the supply chain and procurement arena. Trying to facilitate the number of smaller businesses that successfully tender for local authority and private sector contracts is something that the FSB is passionate about. We lobby at national level to make procurement processes more suitable for SMEs and in Essex we have been particularly proactive in this area.

FSB will continue to work hard to help local businesses win contracts, but there are two sides to this coin: businesses must ensure they are tender ready and can validate the standards their businesses operate to. Considering attaining The Responsible Business Standard certification could be a really helpful step in providing that evidence for tender applications and supply chain enquiries.”

Iain Wicks

Federation of Small Businesses

From an ethical fashion perspective, the launch of this new standard is particularly interesting and offers a rare opportunity to small UK based designers. A small ethical fashion business can now for the first time prove its ethical credentials, and officially be recognised in accordance with its achievements. This development comes at a time and age when the most common certifications such as Fairtrade or Organic are unattainable for many – often for financial reasons – yet buyers progressively require exactly these credentials.

The audit criteria and results of the Responsible Business Standard are clear, effective, very practice oriented and easy to communicate. The standard is a viable means of how to ‘do good and talk about it’ without having to turn a business’ processes upside down all at once. It allows a business to consciously opt for step-by-step improvement, while at the same time maintaining – as a fashion SME – a rare set of strengths and expertise.

Dr Pamela Ravasio

Ethical Fashion Journalist

De Marco Hunter Solicitors is a leading law firm specialising in employment law and business affairs. The company attained The Responsible Business Standard at gold level. De Marco Hunter Solicitors has been featured in both the traditional press and online business news sites. Principal, Sandra Garlick, has also been featured on BBC Midlands Today. As a business that does not advertise, in a traditional sense, they have been able to generate massive coverage as a direct result of achieving the Standard.

Sandra Garlick said: “We are already seeing the benefits of obtaining the Responsible Business Standard. We have used the accreditation process as a management tool to help us examine the way we operate as a business and that led to us updating a number of policies and procedures. Achieving the Gold Award has helped us to raise our profile and identify new ways of engaging with our stakeholders”

Sandra Garlick

Principal, De Marco Hunter Solicitors

Case Study: Brighton Malpass Markets Meat Retailer Show Us Behind The Scenes

In light of the horse meat scandal British customers of supermarket chains are waking up to the reality that they have been fed a load of nonsense, literally!

With public confidence in supermarkets crushed, Clive Bonny looks at Brighton based meat retailer and wholesaler in action Malpass Markets. The Malpass family have been in the meat trade for over 200 years and have traded at Rye, Langney, Heathfield, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Chichester and Ford covering a lot of Sussex.

Clive talks to the owner Jamie Malpass along with staff and customers to find out what goes on behind closed doors, how the meat is bought, where does it come from, what is the process, how the meat is cut and sold to the public.

Visit their website here

Applying ESG to Win Business


Click here to open video transcript

Hello my name’s Clive Bonny. I’m a Strategic Advisor with Clean Growth UK supporting early stage enterprises and high growth businesses.

In this short video I’ll be sharing how you can win more business in large supply chains by applying Responsible Business Standards

You’ll learn 4 key points

1 How your business and your employees can benefit

2 What the standards cover

3 How to choose a standard and check your status

4 Why it’s important to act now

So let’s start with the benefits. What’s in it for you and your staff?

Here are my personal experiences as a certified Responsible Business

Public bodies regularly send me tenders for projects up to £250K

Local Universities pay me to employ their business graduates

Trade associations give me free publicity as a good case study

Award bodies and social media channels promote me at no cost

Universities and government agencies pay me to work with sme’s

I’m a very small firm so if I can do this you can too.

You already have many credentials which may just need more visibility.

Point 2 What do the standards cover?

ESG stands for Environment Social and Governance. This includes how you conserve energy, support your community, treat people fairly, and operate legally in a resilient and sustainable way. It’s not rocket science just good business. These activities reduce your costs, increase revenues, attract and retain staff and customers.

There are many standards for different business sizes and sectors, including one tailored for firms employing just 1 to 50 people. You can choose a standard appropriate to your size and affordability.

As a small business owner I’ve used a certification body which covers all statutory areas and includes customer care, brand protection and business continuity planning.

It’s important the standard you select is aligned to statutory legislation. The UK Social Values Act drives public procurement. It requires public funded organisations to verify their supply chain has credentials in environmental and social value, with evidence of fair employment and business continuity planning.

Point 3 How to choose a standard and check your status?

Choose a standard which clearly and visibly publishes the evidence requirements online with a scoring system.

Is their certification process assessed and approved by a higher education body such as a University?

Do they use qualified independent assessors and verifiers?

Can you take a free online self-assessment?

Fees can vary by thousands of £ so please compare quotes

After selecting your assessment body a good starting point is to take a brief self-assessment online. This enables you to check gaps before a third party review.

Some certifiers offer you a pre-assessment review by a qualified consultant to ensure you have the best chance of success in the real exam. Investing a few hours in advance can improve the final outcome, especially if your Certificate lasts 3 years.

Please check your assessors personal credentials in advance. Their linkedin and website should show their own certifications, client endorsements, and ESG strategy and activities. A robust review is all about transparent evidence, so please look for it in your assessor.

Finally Point 4 Why it’s important to act now.

Within the next 2 years legislation governing public procurement obliges them to check all suppliers can prove their ESG credentials. This means more projects will become open to tender, many existing suppliers will lose business, and this opens the door for you. You need to be ready for this with your credentials in place.

My experience as an assessor the last ten years is some already meet the standard and just need to make their evidence more visible. Many others can be ready within months.

In 2011 I chose an assessment body affordable for a small business who offer the processes I’ve just described. As a result most of my projects in the last ten years have come from public sector bodies on long term contracts who pay on time. I’ve also reduced my overheads and continuously improved my operations following their standards.

In summary ESG standards enable you to

1 Open the door to a massive new market opportunity

2 Publish your credentials and enhance your brand value

3 Attract and retain the good staff, suppliers and customers

4 Take action now as a strategic priority

Thank you for watching. We hope you found this helpful

I’m Clive Bonny a Strategic Advisor with Clean Growth UK

Please contact us for more information

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