How Form Nutrition Became A B Corp, with Damian Soong
Anchored in the belief that you can “realise the greatest version of yourself while being mindful of others,” Form Nutrition are a vegan protein and nutritional supplement brand that pride themselves on being performance-led and aspirational while remaining purpose driven.
Just over a year ago, they were awarded B Corporation certification status after a rigorous application process in which they had to prove Form’s positive impact, public transparency and accountability, with their social and environmental performance, and the welfare of their employees all key considerations.
We spoke to Form’s co-founder, Damian Soong, about the process of becoming a B Corp, how it’s changed the business and how they’re making purpose as important as profit.
Form has always been a purpose-driven business, so what made you take the next step and become a B Corp?
B corporation assessment separates greenwashing brands from enterprises that are genuinely using business as a force for good.
We had purpose and giving baked into the brand from before day one - our pre-launch sign up campaign wasn’t the usual discount code offer, it was giving a meal for every sign up. These days brands see bringing positive impact simply as a marketing tool and a box to tick to attract conscious consumers. Of course, benefiting others is a great thing, but authenticity is so important, it has to be part of the brand DNA so consumers can trust the business intentions.
We took the step to become a B Corp as we wanted a framework to work with and also to hold ourselves accountable to. Both these things are extremely important - one has to keep improving and performing.
You’ve been a B Corp for just over a year now. What difference has it made to your business?
A lot, the structure and framework of the assessment is rigorous and means you’re always interrogating what you do. A couple of examples are moving all our vegan protein packaging to compostable which was a market first, and initiative such as reForm, our reuse program for the glass jars used for our nootropics.
In terms of people, a big difference is the type of talent that the certification has attracted. Passionate people who want to be part of our mission and feel fulfilled by being contributors to a business that meets the highest standards of social and environmental impact.
Finally there’s a great community of like-minded leaders and business and some great events organised by B Corp!
How did you find the process of becoming a B Corp?
It’s hard and a lot of work. We had to wait a while until we had the resources that freed up the time to focus on it. It’s rewarding however, you learn a lot about your own business and start to uncover a lot of opportunities.
What was the biggest challenge in qualifying as a B Corp?
It’s a very rigorous process and the biggest challenges will vary from company to company, we were lucky in that we already had very strong processes and documentation, but I know for many this documentation is a big challenge. Working through your supply chain and the audits and documentation required from them is hard work too.
You’ve long been a champion of the idea that businesses should have a social impact - tell us a bit more about your work with the Bansang Hospital in The Gambia…
We started the Form Feeding Fund to provide food for patients and escorts at Bansang Hospital in The Gambia. A very poor region, where many are subsistence farmers, people would leave their homes to go to hospital as they had no money for food when there, or just as bad they would leave hospital before they were fit to do so - often in the case of children. What’s great about this project is not just the food that it supplies, but the fact that then enables healthcare so we are able to really double down on the good our customers support can do.
I’d worked with the Bansang Hospital Appeal before, and with Form it made perfect sense for a nutrition brand to be helping with food for those in need. It was also important to be something tangible and that all our donations go 100% to the front line. Its founder Anita Smith has effectively dedicated her life to supporting this hospital, to the point that she was awarded an MBE by The Queen.
Environmental impact is also a key consideration for achieving B Corp status – what changes have you made over the last few years to reflect this?
As a fully plant-based brand we’re already one step ahead as we have none of the impacts of animal agriculture in our supply chain.
In terms of changes we’ve made over the last few years, the two big ones were moving both our 520g packs and 40g single service sachets to full compostable material. This was a lot of work and no solution existed when we first launched back in 2017. We ended up working to bond a plant-based cellulose to paper to create a compostable pack that was food-safe and could be fully colour printed.
But really the commitment is about making more conscious day-to-day decisions, like when and how often we travel, delivery logistics, suppliers and providers, eliminating plastic, what we do with our rubbish, how we look after our staff, a lot of decisions we look at at a much deeper level through the lens of B Corp.
What commitments have you made going forward, in line with your B Corp status?
It is an ongoing commitment and process, most recently we were one of over 500 B Corporations from around the world who have committed to becoming Net Zero by 2030 at COP25 in Madrid. This is some 20 years ahead of the 2050 targets set by the Paris Agreement and a good example of the extra lengths the B Corporation movement goes to.