Inuka is now B-corp certified! An interview with Robin van Dalen, co-founder & CEO


We are delighted to announce that Inuka Coaching has officially become a Certified B Corporation. B Corps meet high standards of social and environmental impact, and use the power of business to address society’s greatest challenges. Inuka joins the rapidly growing movement of more than 4000 Certified B Corporations in more than 70 countries and over 150 industries, including companies like The Body Shop, Patagonia, and Ben & Jerry’s. But what does it really mean, and why we decided to do it? Learn more in an interview with our co-founder and CEO Robin van Dalen!

Congratulations, Inuka Coaching is now B Corp certified, what does it mean to you?

It means a lot! Both on a personal and professional level. Personally I’ve always wanted Inuka to become B Corp certified because the certification gives us the opportunity to join a global community of inspiring people and businesses that are leading in driving real, measurable change. A community that really lives the mantra of ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

Professionally, it means that we we have independent certification that we meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact. It is really ‘on trend’ these days for companies to claim to be mission -or purpose driven – even oil companies advertise that they drive the energy transition – but behind the shiny marketing messages the reality can be very different. Wearing the B Corp Badge confirms that we are socially impactful without having to have explain ourselves and it shows how much we live our values.

What did it take for Inuka to become a Bcorp?

The certification process didn’t change how we do things, since the drive for impact is deeply rooted into our DNA, legal structure, metrics and practices from the start. When Inuka was founded, we put 25% of our shares in the Inuka foundation, to ensure that part of our profit or exit would always benefit  the most vulnerable people whom we cannot reach with a commercial model. The certification is in fact a confirmation that we have a positive social impact, while the real game changer for us is that with this certification, we become part of a group of like-minded organizations from whom we can learn how to become better, and to amplify our impact. Through this community we can use our collective voices to influence industries, businesses, communities to benefit people and the planet.

What has been your motivation for becoming a social enterprise when you started Inuka Coaching?

By background I’ve always done volunteer work. I studied economics and development studies and always searched for ways to have impact, not just as an individual but on a bigger scale, to change systems. When I was 18 I volunteered in Ecuador, teaching kids in slums. Yet they’d leave the school and enter a world where there were no jobs, no future, no matter what I did. So, when I founded Inuka, I knew I wanted to create system change and work beyond project-based solutions. And especially with our ambition level, I felt we would need large investments to speed up our growth and impact, so we chose a hybrid structure with a social enterprise, and a foundation owning 25% of the shares.

What is the story of Inuka? 

That is a very personal one. While participating in a Philips management traineeship, I landed in a deep depression and had to stay home for 4 months. After I came back, I was extremely lucky – and to this day grateful – that my manager Maarten van Herpen asked me to explore ways to reach people with life and mental troubles earlier to prevent it spiralling it out of hand. During my research I met the current  co-founder of Inuka, Prof. Dixon Chibanda, a cutting-edge  psychiatrist who had developed a coaching method with his foundation, ‘The Friendship Bench’. This method is highly successful for the majority of people, and especially effective for anxiety and depression complaints. He uses it to reach vulnerable communities mostly in Zimbabwe, but has also successfully rolled out the method in a number of countries, for example in New York. It works across the world because it is rooted in problem solving therapy. We immediately connected on a personal level and identified the opportunities on a professional level. We realised that we could use technology to scale up this brilliant innovation to make mental health support more accessible and effective. So, here is the story, we built the platform, tested it, and eventually spun out of Philips to become an independent social enterprise, partly owned by the foundation: Inuka Coaching.

Our purpose is ‘everyone resilient’. We do this by teaming up with partners to make top-quality coaching accessible for all. Our coaching method is scientifically validated with an RCT, which really sets us really apart from most coaching organisations who work with a range of difference methods that might or might not work. Our method works for most challenges people face, and regardless of their current mental state, or what educational background they have. We even have Corporate Executives who combine their executive coaching with our Inuka coaching method, to deal with the more practical challenges.

So what is it that Inuka brings?

We aim to be the prevention partner for large organisations who want to care better for their employees. There is a clear business case to invest in vitality, which we help construct for their decision makers. This way we also facilitate system change, enabling more traditional companies to invest in the wellbeing of their people. This is where our main revenue comes from. This is the engine for our growth, that also allows us to raise investments to grow fast and to reach those that cannot afford support via  Inuka Foundation. We aim  to make Inuka accessible for free for the most vulnerable groups. Via the foundation we offer support in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya and the Palestine Occupied Territories, amongst others, with the aim to build long term partnerships for change, research, and free access to mental health support.

How do you live out the B corp commitment in your everyday practice?

In three things: culture, metrics, and legal structure.

First, with respect to culture; it is reflected in our employees, since we hire people based on values, on their drive to make a difference. In our daily practice we set the example we want to see in the world,  meaning for example that senior leadership practice inclusive and compassionate leadership, empowering and supporting our team to succeed and have autonomy.

Second are the key metrics our teams track and report on every month. They are rooted in making evidence-based, measurable impact on the world. For example, the % of people that are at risk of dropping out that we coach back to resilience.

Third, the legal structures. Part of the company’s shares are owned by the foundation which has voting power and whose mission it is to reach the most vulnerable and hold Inuka the social enterprise accountable for it’s purpose. Our decision makers, the supervisory board and investors are very purpose driven professionals, who not only require business results, but strongly value impact results.

Inuka has been organising many successful Roundtable meetups over the past year. Read more about those here.

What are your current projects and what are your ambitions?

For the business part, we currently are the prevention partner for organisations that aim to leave a well-being legacy for their people. We are the go-to first place of contact for employees at organisations such as Tommy Hilfiger (PVH) Europe, InShared, The Amsterdam Firefighers, Flynth Accountants and others. Our ambition is to become a leading European partner for strategic well-being, using data-driven insights, and with proven impact.

For the foundation, our main partner is the Friendship Bench, and we have multiple projects:

  • Zimbabwe: we team up with our main partner Friendship bench for scientific studies and integration to be the digital arm of the friendship bench to reach >10,000 people
  • Kenya: partnerships for low-income groups in informal settlements & support 10,000 front-line health workers with J&J foundation funding.
  • Uganda: reached >500 people with StrongMinds
  • Occupied Palestine Territories: Feasibility study under way with Royal Dutch Institute for the Tropics (KIT) & Juzoor to pilot Inuka in humanitarian settings

We love to team up with local partners all around the world who would like to expand their mental health impact for vulnerable groups, or conduct collaborative research on this topic. They can use our platform and get their teams trained on the proven coaching method.

What makes it different for your customers, now that you are B Corp certified?

We hope that this certification resonates with our customers and inspires them. Through working with us they imply that they value positive social impact as well. In this era it is vital  to attract and retain younger generations who are much more value-driven and expect their employer to care. Not just by words but by data and actions. Rolling out an initiative with a B Corp like Inuka strengthens that story.

What we see as well is that companies start feeling responsible themselves and select their suppliers based on targets such as diversity and impact. Partnering with Inuka delivers on this intention since Inuka is B Corp certified, women and black owned, and almost carbon neutral, since we work as a globally distributed (predominantly remote) team.

Overall not much will change with our certification. Our customers already knew they were working with a company that goes beyond coaching. They know us very well as we work together closely, and we are very proud to hear that our customers value working with our team since everyone is so passionate about making a real difference for them.

So what is the first thing you are going to do now you are BCorp certified?

I am looking forward to partner up fellow B Corp  organisations and partners to make resilience a reality for all, and business a force for good!

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