B Corp: Driving meaningful work at Hello Chef

By Aug 31, 2023 B Corp

Jim Collins once said, “It is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.” Our CEO, Ahmed Al Akber, shares this sentiment and firmly believes that meaningful work starts with a purpose that goes beyond profitability. This belief became even more prevalent during a period of personal reflection in January 2022, which led to him discovering a movement that has since become a major focus for the entire company: B Corp.

B Corporations, certified by B Lab, are companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency (you can read more about our journey to certification here). The movement aims to encourage organisations to leverage the power of business as a force for good – a goal already achieved by over 6,000 businesses worldwide.

“B Corp made me realise what I had felt but didn’t know how to express for several years: there is far too much short-term thinking in business,” said Ahmed. “As a father of two small children who are learning about how people and companies should act for the future, I felt that now was as good a time as any to make meaningful changes.”

Energised by the prospect of becoming the first UAE-based food company to potentially achieve certification, Ahmed quickly mobilised a team to pursue the project, embarking on a 12-week B Corp course to understand the road ahead.

“Working through the certification process as a team allowed us to collectively grasp the impact we have on our customers, employees, the environment, our community, and other stakeholders,” explained Ahmed. “I finally had a means not only to comprehend the issues surrounding how our company needs to act, but also the direction and tools required to drive change.”

Once the certification process commenced, improvements – both internally and externally – began unfolding rapidly. Notable highlights included ensuring that our employees’ salaries met or exceeded the estimated living standards in the UAE; extending our parental leave beyond the minimum requirements, and formalising and publishing various company policies such as our code of conduct, data privacy policy, and supplier code of conduct.

However, achieving certification meant much more than simply ticking a box or earning a badge of honour, and this challenge was frequently encountered by the team throughout the journey.

“There were instances in the process whereby we could have done something without actually making a meaningful impact with that initiative,” admitted Ahmed. “For example, our anti-corruption and bribery workshops required us to create a risk register of identified risks and proposed initiatives. Although this met the minimum requirement for B Corp certification, we chose to do the right thing and push ourselves to improve our processes as much as possible, regardless of the difficulty.”

Some of the most notable initiatives that stemmed from this project included how our team deals with suppliers, the management and timing of our financial audits, how inventory was received into the business and tracked, and the handling of cash payments for business expenses. “All of these required us to be honest about the risks involved and led us to rethink our processes to be more in line with international standards,” added Ahmed.

Staying true to this mantra paid off as it became clear that those involved genuinely believed in the journey (read about what achieving certification has meant to the team here). “We knew we were doing this for ourselves and no one else,” said Ahmed.

Looking ahead, there is still much to accomplish, and the team is even more energised after passing certification in June 2023.

“One aspect we have yet to conquer is the amount of packaging we use and the food waste we generate within our business,” said Ahmed. “We began carefully measuring these metrics in 2022, creating and sharing internal dashboards to monitor our performance. We have already taken steps to improve in these areas, and we hope to have strong results to share by the end of this year.”

As only the third UAE-based company to achieve certification, and the first food company among them, the B Corp movement remains relatively unknown in the UAE. However, that hasn’t dampened the spirits of those involved in Hello Chef’s journey, and the team hopes to inspire others to follow suit and utilise business as a force for good.

“We would love to see a community of other businesses join us in redefining what success in business means – from social and environmental performance to transparency and legal accountability,” said Ahmed. “I believe that anyone who undergoes the process of becoming a B Corp will find it enriching and, once completed, will have a much stronger business.”

Read more: How we raised our sustainability game in 2022

Want to find out more about becoming a B Corp? Visit the website here.