An architecture practice on its way to B Corp

London-based designs buildings that seek to address today’s urban, social and environmental challenges. The architecture firm’s aim is to create buildings and places that enrich culture and society.

Mae’s work includes the Sands End Community Centre, shortlisted for the Stirling Prize and providing a diverse, flexible meeting place for everyone in the community; Meridian Water Masterplan, a regeneration project in the London Borough of Enfield aiming to provide 10,000 new homes with over 40% affordable provision; and the John Morden Centre to tackle social isolation amongst the elderly. The practice has won many awards for its work including the Public and Social Housing Architect of the Year 2022 and the Mayor’s Award for Sustainable and Environmental Planning 2019, and it was shortlisted for the BD Social Impact Architect of the Year Award 2021.

Mae’s strong social focus positioned the firm perfectly for B Corp certification, a rigorous but rewarding process which verifies that a business is meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.

The practice is guided by the three principles of social, sustainable and spatial which correspond to their three action groups: Mae Zero (to create circular and environmentally-sensitive buildings), Mae + (to be an industry leader in low-cost and high-quality housing) and Mae B (to become a B Corp, balancing profit with people and the planet). Grain is supporting the third group. 

To kick off the process, we met with founder Alex Ely, director Denise Heseltine, and the Mae B team at their Southwark office. We explained the B Corp process in detail and explored each person’s background, inspirations, and aspirations. We asked loads of questions to truly understand the way the business operates, how it’s guided, and the challenges they want to tackle. They explained how they aspired to gain the B Corp certification as they felt it represents their purpose-driven work.

In a series of further meetings, we together filled in the B Impact Assessment (BIA), an open-source tool that measures the impact of the company with a series of questions covering the five impact areas of governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. The process led us to examine Mae’s policies and information, its consideration of and impact on stakeholders, and potential areas the company could change for the better.

The Mae B team worked hard to evidence responses to the BIA’s 200-odd questions, noting areas for future improvement. This process, even before submission, provides much of the value of the certification. With over 1,200 B Corps in the UK and ever-increasing levels of interest, it can take up to a year and a half to be evaluated, verified, and finally certified after the BIA is submitted.

Mae received their well-deserved B Corp certification in February 2024, and we enjoyed celebrating their incredible score of 133.4 points! It’s a pleasure to collaborate with such an enthusiastic team who work daily towards purpose-driven change in architecture from an urban, social, and environmental point of view.

“Grain have been invaluable during our B Corp journey, providing us with clarity and support throughout. They have helped us recognise our achievements to date and guided our social and environmental plans for the future. Using their knowledge and experience, Madelyn and her team have ensured that our B Corp submission is the strongest it could be. But most importantly, they have inspired us to be a better practice for our team, for our clients and for everyone who lives, works and visits our buildings and neighbourhoods.”

— Denise Heseltine, Director, Mæ

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