Supporter's Column: Holly Lewis

A reflection on We Made That's transition to a B Corporation®.

Making a Real Impact

Didn’t we all get into this game to make things better? Believing that making better buildings, better places, better cities would improve things for people? I know I did. As our practice has evolved, our understanding of what ‘better’ constitutes has become more sophisticated: responding to the climate crisis, considering the social impact of our work and trying to treat our team fairly and with respect. It’s an ethos that underpins our practice at We Made That, and one of the reasons that, in 2021, we became a certified B Corporation®.

B Corps™ are businesses that meet the highest independently-verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. The assessment process considers the projects we work on as well as the way in which the practice operates. Having now made it through our first full calendar year, we’ve published our first Impact Report – something we are required to do annually as part of our certified status.

It's an imperfect assessment process, largely by virtue of being a system that has to fit all kinds of businesses, from bakers [OG1] to placemakers. It would be fantastic to have a broader conversation with built environment practices about what ‘better’ looks like to us all. Looking back at 2022, we’re proud to see that our commitment to socially-engaged processes has continued, with over 5,400 people having engaged with our projects across the year through events, workshops and surveys.

We’re delighted to have supported our local authority clients in securing £78.3m to deliver impactful projects in their places through strategic thinking and feasibility work. The ‘little things’ are no less important – this report spotlights projects through which impacts or innovation has been delivered in 2022 – including the conclusion of the pilot year of our RE—SET—GO initiative supporting diversity in architectural practices, the people-friendly transformation of an industrial estate in Waltham Forest and delivering lively night-markets and youth programming with partners in Bexleyheath.

Our first impact report looks across 2022 and 61 projects, which include:

- 16 urban research studies

- 25 strategies and masterplans

- 20 public spaces and buildings

Across these places we:

- Audited 478 hectares of industrial land supporting 226,000 jobs

- Mapped 2,227 spaces that host and support cultural and creative activities including artists’ studios, music venues, workspaces, manufacturing facilities

- Led positive change in 48 high streets and town centres

- Held 124 events and workshops

- Delivered the majority of our projects in low- or moderate-income neighbourhoods

We’ve always known we want to be impactful in our actions. We’ve known we want to be a force for good. We now have sharpened clarity on how we best take decisions that quantify and evidence what ‘good’ means. Looking to the future, we’re interested to understand how inclusive our engagement processes have been, how we can implement systems which improve the environmental performance of our built work, and to continue to make progress on internal governance and fair employment practices.

Understanding and evidencing impact is at the core of being better, including the economic and social well-being of the communities in which we operate and the role we take in creating high-quality, inclusive project outcomes.

We’ll now be reporting on our impacts annually. Imagine what we’d learn if more architecture practices did the same?


Holly Lewis is Co-Founding Partner of We Made That