From climate change to COVID, we’ve gotten ourselves into quite the mess. Our most challenging problems can’t be solved by government and not-for-profits alone; now more than ever, the world needs industry-wide collaboration to design a way out. But where do we start?
Over the last decade, a powerful social movement has been gaining momentum. In 2021, Frost*collective officially became a certified B Corporation, meeting the highest environmental and social standards so that our decisions positively impact our employees, our clients, our community, and the planet. Designing a better world has always been our mission, but now we’ve joined over 3,500 fellow B Corps working to create a more inclusive and sustainable future. Together, we’re using business as a force for good.
In conversation with founder and CEO, Vince Frost talks about the journey towards becoming a B Corp, how it’s enabled design to solve the world’s problems, and why collaborating for the greater good is vital for our future.
Why did you want Frost*collective to become a Certified B Corporation?
Back when I started in the 80s, many people thought graphic design was a way of making money. But I saw it as an opportunity to help people. I realised early on that the only way of saying that you’re doing good in the design world seemed to be competitions – an appeal to the ego where your designs would be judged purely on their aesthetic. It was never about understanding if the design was actually effective. I got sucked into that for a long time – entering loads of awards and winning loads of prizes, but apart from getting a pat on the back and some recognition, I felt something was missing. I wanted to do more good in the world, but there weren’t any standards that we could apply to our business. No one was saying this is what you have to do as an organisation to make sure that you have a higher chance of creating a better business and a higher chance of doing good.
Then came B Corp. I read a magazine feature on Patagonia – the leading example of a B Corp using their business for good things by giving back to society and being sustainable. At the time, they were thinking very differently from most companies, but Frost* was operating on very similar principles, and it was clear that over time, most organisations were going to head in the same direction. So it was the perfect opportunity to join a growing global community of like-minded businesses.
The global B Corp community exists because it’s become clear our most challenging problems can’t be solved by governments and not-for-profits alone. How can design help?
As a design company, we’re constantly looking for new ways of doing things. And when people come to us for help, we’re not just designing an outcome; we’re creating something. Whether it’s physical or digital, for places, people or businesses right across society – we have the responsibility to make sure we do the right thing. Design has the opportunity every day on every project to rethink, redesign, question, try things, gauge reactions, collaborate with others, solve the client’s problem, and create solutions that make the world a better place.
“Now, we can measure the positive impact of our design solutions, not as guesswork but by meeting the highest environmental and social standards. Becoming a certified B Corp helps us build a better business so we can keep designing a better world.”
Solving problems for the greater good is a big part of the culture at Frost*collective. As a leader and founder of the business, why is it important you set this tone?
I’m never content to just get the work done and call it a day because I believe in the potential of design to solve problems – for people, businesses and the planet. So as a founder, I have the opportunity to create an organisation where people can thrive. As a leader, I have a real responsibility to encourage our team to keep designing the best solutions possible.
Becoming a B Corp is a rigorous process – from the detailed self-evaluation process and multiple rounds of external assessments right through to incorporating a new legal framework into the company structure. And after all of this, there’s no guarantee. What helped you persevere and successfully certify?
It’s certainly not something you do overnight, but I did think it was going to be a hell of a lot easier than what it was. Back in 2005, we worked hard to make sure that the company was carbon neutral – we were the first design company in Australia to do so. But from there, it’s taken us a few years to elevate our game and officially get our B Corp certification. It required a lot of internal collaboration – from management filling out policy forms to heads-of-business aligning on which work to refuse and which to take on, to our entire team contributing ideas for how we can improve as a business. We could’ve thrown in the towel so many times, but with a lot of focus and determination from the team – we finally got it over the line.
Frost* has worked with several fellow B Corps, including KeepCup, Beckon and Koskela. How does being a B Corp influence who Frost*collective collaborates with, whether it’s people joining the team or the projects we choose to work on?
We’ve always partnered with like-minded people and businesses looking to make a positive contribution to the world, balancing profit with purpose. Fellow B Corp or not – our clients inspire us to solve problems that in some way benefit people, businesses and the planet, and we’re both guided by this principle when we work together. Our new B Corp status doesn’t change this approach; it adds to our momentum.
When it comes to growing our team – we look for people who don’t just have a great skillset but want to use their skillset for the greater good—those who align with our values and want to help people, businesses and the planet. The result is an incredible collective of people whose combined skills and values drive the businesses’ momentum for doing good.
What’s your vision for the future of the business as a B Corp?
Just because we have signed the B Corp agreement doesn’t mean our work is done. To maintain our certification, we have to undertake the same rigorous process every three years. We’re constantly looking for what might be coming out in the future, what other organisations or standards might come from people determined to find a way of doing things better—ways that are more sustainable, more effective, more conscientious.
In all the years I’ve been working, it’s really exciting to see so many clients come to us with good intentions and the determination to get it right. But I want this momentum to build. I want to do what we’ve already been doing, but better. I want Frost* to attract more organisations with bigger problems to solve so that the team has more opportunities to be challenged, and as a collective, we can keep designing better, more effective outcomes.
Designers are optimistic people, but we need to maintain this optimism as our industry dramatically changes. We need to evolve for the changing times, and maintaining our B Corp status for the years to come will ensure we make a real, sustained difference. It’s our next step to designing a better world, but we’ll be taking many, many more.
“Now more than ever, our world needs us to design our way out of the crappy situations that we as humans have created.”