Perspectives. Sustainability – what can small businesses do?

Flora Davidson, co-founder of Supplycompass shares her tips and insights on sustainability for small businesses.

Flora Davidson on sustainability

Welcome to the sustainability debate, which is no longer simply about “going green”. People are increasingly talking about managing your carbon footprint, ensuring an ethical supply chain, producing a social return on investment, reducing your emissions and so on, and their effects on people and the planet. But as a smaller business owner, at the same time, you have a business to run and profits to make. How can you afford the time and money to stay up to date? And how best can you create meaningful change?

Check out below some key tips and insights from Flora Davidson – co-founder of Supplycompass as she tells us some of the valuable lessons she has learned along the way from running a sustainable business:

1. Customers care – and that’s why you should too.

More and more people want to know where the products they are buying come from – where they are sourced, how the suppliers are treated, how goods are transported, and what impact there is on local economies. If you have a positive story to tell, people will like your brand more (and often be prepared to pay more for it) – which is ultimately good for your business.

Flora: “We are seeing a huge increase in brands who are coming to us asking more questions, wanting specific certifications, seeking out more sustainable fabrics and packaging options and to lower their carbon footprint. I truly believe brands with honesty, transparency and sustainability in their DNA will do better with customers in the long run. Look at the rapid rise of Everlane & Reformation”

2. Be authentic - people can spot genuine integrity.

Smaller businesses are at an advantage because it is probably easier to integrate into your business sustainable values that you genuinely believe in. Small brands can deliver a single difference with such passion that you can’t help but be convinced of their integrity. A great example is American company United by Blue, who decided the one thing they would and could focus on was removing rubbish from the world’s waterways. They committed to removing one pound of rubbish for every product sold. To date they’ve removed over 1,000,000 pounds of rubbish – and become a famous & well-loved company in the process.

Flora: “I’m a huge fan of brands committing to one thing, and doing it well. It’s easier for consumers to understand too. Even just looking on a brand’s website you can tell the different between some whose doing it for marketing purposes v. those who do it because they really care”

3. Wellbeing affects a business’s performance.

Having a genuine desire to improve something for the planet’s good, no matter how big or small, feeds into the fact that you are doing business for the right reasons. And that not only energises you – it motivates your staff and suppliers too. Motivation creates better wellbeing, and better wellbeing creates better performance. It truly is a virtuous circle.

Flora: “Our mission is not just to provide a good service but also to accelerate the world’s transition to more responsible supply chains. From the very start of our company, we have cared about our factory owners, suppliers and supply chain workers. We are in the business of strong, trusted relationships and looking after them. The knock on effect of this means that we have attracted great talent, employees who care too. “

4. Begin with the basics

As a first step, you can check that your business is minimising its emissions. Ensure your premises are well-insulated, that you turn off power at night, you use energy efficient-lighting, recycle properly and even consider flexible working (or Cycle to Work schemes) to reduce travel emissions. Sustainability is here to stay, and could have a real positive effect on your business.

Flora: “We send parcels out every day to factories and brands, for these we use recycled card boxes, biodegradable plastic poly bags if necessary. Every employee at Supplycompass cycles to work too! This isn’t compulsory of course, but is indicative of the mindset of the people we work with!”

Useful?