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How client screening upholds your business values

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Does your business live up to its social and environmental values and claims? How can businesses walk the walk on positive impact, especially when core business activities and revenue generation are involved?

The answer might surprise you. It’s not just about the incredible impact you make – it’s also about who you choose to do it for.

68% of consumers in the UK are increasingly holding businesses accountable for their entire impact. That means not just the products or services they offer, but also the wider supply chain including the companies they choose to partner with. Working with a client whose practices contradict your mission can seriously undermine your credibility, integrity to your core values, the positive impact you strive to achieve and puts your reputation at risk. For service-based businesses in particular, where direct operational impact is often limited, aligning with clients whose practices contradict your mission can be particularly damaging. 

Take the creative industry, for example. Some agencies have faced criticism for taking on clients in the fossil fuel sector whilst conversely declaring a spotlight on climate change. While the creative work itself might be impactful, the association with a controversial industry can cast a long shadow. Companies can struggle to get recognition for their good work if they work with certain industries. For example, a company working with clients in a controversial industry might not be eligible to become a B Corp, even if they have a positive impact overall. Under the current B Corp guidelines (May 2024), companies serving clients in controversial industries (namely pornography, tobacco, recreational marijuana, defense/offensive firearms, weapons, prisons, gambling, nuclear power/hazardous material, coal mining and oil sands fossil fuels) are not able to certify as B Corp.  

How do you ensure your client list reflects your company’s commitment to a better future?

The answer lies in a powerful tool often overlooked by purpose-driven businesses; the client screening process. This isn’t just a nice to have process that gathers dust in a desk drawer – it’s a crucial element for any professional service company that wants to align its impact with its core values, purpose and wider impact. 

Implementing a client screening process lets you take charge of the narrative. By clearly defining the types of projects you’ll take on, you ensure your work actively contributes to the positive change you want to see in the world. This not only mitigates potential reputational risks, but it also helps you attract clients who share your vision.

Here are a few things to consider when designing your own client screening process:

  1. Do you have a list of specific “no goes”? A good way to develop this list is to ask: in which circumstances would you absolutely not consider working with a client?
  2. What specific criteria do you want to assess when deciding whether or not to work with a client?
  3. Do you need to assess any criteria to understand how your prospective clients may contribute to your own Theory of Change or impact strategy?
  4. Who makes the call and what are the mechanisms to run prospective clients through your screening mechanism and eventually decide whether to work with them?

Building partnerships with integrity

Because every business is different, every company will have its own unique client screening process – and many companies have already embraced this approach, whether you realise it or not. 

One example that we admire is that of fellow B Corp Nice and Serious who, with their Moral Compass app, show the importance of aligning client values with agency mission by asking all staff to anonymously vote on whether each prospect is a good fit for the agency. Another example is one of our professional services clients that developed an additional element to their legal due diligence process. The additional part of the process flags whether the potential client plays a part in a controversial industry and a decision is made during frequent senior leader meetings. 

At Greenheart, we are especially well placed to understand the power of a well-defined client screening process because of the nature of our services: working with traditional businesses, there may be a higher perceived risk of greenwashing, but also a greater opportunity to make a significant, transformative impact. We designed our very own process to ensure every project we undertake aligns with our company’s mission and values. Concretely, our process looks at a number of factors such as potential for transformative social and environmental impact, risks and possible remediations, but also values alignment and eagerness to build a mutually respectful partnership.

We also design bespoke client screening processes for our clients. By combining our internal expertise and our deep understanding of clients’ aims, we create a client screening process that empowers you to make ethically and commercially informed decisions about future partnerships. 

A strong client screening process is a powerful tool for a purpose-driven business. Greenheart can help you develop a process that strengthens your brand, protects your reputation, aligns with your values and ensures every project contributes to a more sustainable and commercially relevant future. 

Email us contact@greenheartbusiness.com and take your commitment to impact to the next level.

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