At some stage every business owner comes to a crossroad and faces decisions about the future of their business. Business gurus talk about “pivoting” businesses but for me the decision was less about a complete change of direction and more about following my instincts. My twin interests are in helping businesses towards long term viability and protecting the future of the planet. So, it’s more a merging of two parallel paths than a crossroads really. My lifetime of business experience gives me insights into all aspects of business operations. As a director of my own company I know the many demands that business owners juggle – at work and at home.
Through my work with the Irish Charity Shops Association over the past 10 years I have witnessed at first hand the change in customer behaviour away from fast fashion to buying second hand as a first choice. I am a board member of the Community Reuse Network Ireland, whose mission is that the word ‘waste’ doesn’t exist and where our entire community benefits from the social, environmental and economic value of all reusable resources. Through this work I have learned much about the effect of Circular Economy on reducing climate change.
While some of the news about climate change and global warming can seem overwhelming it is possible for businesses, and individuals, to make small significant changes which have big impact. If you’ve read my previous blog posts you’ll know that I believe that focussing on the triple bottom line (people, planet and profit) is the key to business success. These changes can be applied to all sorts of businesses, not just retail, so I’m adding another string to my bow to reflect this change, offering My Green Business consultancy.
Why “green” and not “sustainable”?
The word “sustainability” gets bandied about a lot without much consideration of its meaning or how that meaning has changed over time. In terms of business – whether that’s retail, hospitality, consultancy or professional services – it means the ability to continue to operate at a certain rate or level[i]. More recently it’s been applied to the environment and is concerned with our species ability to continue to live and work on planet earth without depleting the available natural resources[ii]. Both definitions go hand in hand in my opinion.
If you want your business to be sustainable it should be environmentally sustainable, or green, as well. The consumers of the future are going to be more discerning about how they spend their money and sustainability is already a big factor in consumer spending. This is likely to become even more urgent and significant into the future as the effects of climate change become tangible around the world. No matter what business you are in, if you want it to be sustainable into the future you need to make your business greener and more sustainable environmentally. The sooner you start to think this way the better, for your business and our planet.
Already large businesses are committing to act more responsibly in reaction to pressure from consumers. Inditex, one of the world’s biggest fashion groups, announced that all of the cotton, linen and polyester used to manufacture their clothes will be more sustainable, organic or recycled by 2025[iii]. IKEA has made a number of commitments towards sustainability, using only recycled or renewable plastics (by 2030), using sustainable cotton since 2015 and using “Responsibly Sourced Wool.” They’ve even begun to offer veggie hot dogs in their cafés[iv]. But you don’t have to be a huge multinational to have a positive impact on the planet. With the right changes your business can be greener, more sustainable and profitable.
As reported in the Guardian, Mark Carney, Head of the Bank of England said,
companies should use their next two annual financial reports to road test how they document the impact of the climate emergency on their businesses.
How can your business be greener?
To help your business navigate towards a more sustainable, greener future I will be offering a range of information, resources and services. I believe in real changes to sustainable green business practices, rather than cynical greenwashing to placate shareholders and customers. But I understand that knowing the difference between the two can be confusing for even the most savvy business owners!
The best place to start is to recognise where your business is now, by doing a green audit. This can help you to identify quick-wins that you can put in place immediately (such as reducing the amount of paper you use). You will have a plan to implement the medium and longer term changes needed (for example making changes to your supply chain). There’s no reason why every business, no matter how big or small, can’t make changes to be greener and more sustainable. Whether your business is B2B, B2C, or you’re a sole trader, work for a multi-national, SME or anything in between – you have the ability to adapt to be greener and more sustainable. And I will help you get started.
What does this mean for you?
If you already subscribe to my newsletter and blog post updates I hope that you’ll continue to read them. My interest in retail will continue, but I will be applying the lessons learned there to a broader business perspective. I hope that you share my interest in sustainability, and if you’ve been reading my blog posts it should be no surprise to you! If you have any questions about sustainability in connection with your business or suggested topics for future blog posts, please drop me a line.