This year, the Williams Group
(Wg) is celebrating two major milestones: turning 45 and becoming a Certified B Corporation. The latter required the women-owned strategic communications agency to become verified as meeting B Lab’s high standards for social and environmental impact.
With its Certified B Corporation
(B Corp) status, the Grand Rapids-based firm joins an international movement of purpose-led companies using business as a force for good.
The B Corp Certification process
, administered by the nonprofit B Lab, measures a company’s social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. To become certified, companies undergo a rigorous review of the impact of their operations and business model on their workers, customers, community, and environment.
In addition to earning the B Corporation designation, Williams Group was granted two Impact Business Model
distinctions for proving that its strategic communications services generate significant and meaningful outcomes for underserved populations.
“Our clients lead the charge on some of today’s most critical issues, from increasing equity in education to safeguarding democracy,” says co-owner Meghan Kraley. “It’s a real privilege to have this opportunity to reflect on our role in their success, and to have independent validation that our work has a direct impact on the populations we seek to serve.”
Rapid Growth recently connected with Kraley and Chea Jackson to learn more about the company’s B Corp certification.
Meghan KraleyRapid Growth: Williams Group provides a full range of services — including strategic planning, design, writing and program management — supporting clients across the United States and beyond. How did the company get its start and how has it evolved over the decades?
We opened our doors in 1978 when Denny Williams started writing copy and offering advice to a few Midwestern companies. In the early years, our work was primarily in the office furniture industry, and we still have deep roots in this sector today. Throughout the ‘90s, we grew our expertise in work culture communications and began supporting more Fortune 500 clients across North America and internationally. We also entered the philanthropy sector through our work with Michigan community foundations, which quickly scaled to include national foundations, nonprofits and associations. Forty-five years in, our client base and strategic communications capabilities continue to evolve and grow. What hasn’t changed, though, is our commitment to our people and community. Doing the right thing for our colleagues, clients and the work we support has been core to this company since day 1.
RG: You’ve said that caring for the people is core to the way you do business, but going through the certification process was an opportunity to codify many commitments already part of the company’s DNA. What inspired Williams Group to pursue B Corp status?
Chea and I took on ownership of Williams Group in 2020, and we were very mindful of all we were inheriting. We wanted to continue treating our associates well, giving back to our local community, growing our DEI efforts, evolving as the world does. … The idea that we could bake those commitments into our corporate DNA, that we could truly define our business by its values and protect them for the future—that felt especially meaningful.
RG: As part of its journey to B Corp status, the Williams Group’s commitment to giving back was reviewed, such as its pro bono projects with West Michigan schools and charities and commitment to donating at least 10% of its profits each year. The firm also scored well for the high satisfaction and low turnover of its employees, as well as its responsible and equitable practices. What did this accomplishment require of Williams Group in terms of resources and time commitment?
We were pleased to discover how well our priorities already aligned with the B Corp standards—we didn’t have to invest in changes to our operations and practices in order to be certified. That said, B Corp Certification wouldn’t be as rigorous as it is if it didn’t require significant investment. Completing the initial assessment, compiling documentation, undergoing review and validation totaled a few hundred hours. And this is just the beginning! Our whole team will be involved in keeping us on track and pushing the company to get better and better. Recertification is only three years away, and we want to keep our score climbing higher.
Chea Jackson RG: You say being certified as a B Corp on your first try is such a proud moment for Williams Group because it is validation of the way the firm has operated for 45 years—aiming to do the right thing for the people and places its work involves. Still, winning certification changed Williams Group's operations in any way?
Absolutely. While we learned that we are operating well beyond the benchmarks in some areas, going through the assessment also opened our eyes to places where we could be doing more. Those areas are informing our internal priorities in the years to come. For example, our commitments to community now play a much larger role in our day-to-day decision making. We’ve always tried to make responsible choices—from the materials we source to the businesses we buy from to the vendors we work with. Now with B Lab guidance, we have more concrete ways to measure the social and environmental impact of our decisions, and can act accordingly.
RG: To maintain certification, Williams Group must submit documentation and undergo verification every three years. You credit the three-year cycle for helping the firm identify internal priorities and maintain a mindset of continuous growth. Any advice for other businesses considering a similar path?
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Taking the time to really define our values, scrutinize our practices, benchmark our approaches against others, and create a roadmap for the future has been a rewarding journey. B Corp Certification isn’t a one-time achievement—it’s a commitment to continuous improvement. So get your team engaged in the process, help everyone rally around the effort, and imagine all the ways your business can be a force for good … then go be it!
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