At any one time I am lucky enough to be working with a wide range of companies helping them with their growth, planning innovation initiatives and developing their creative and financial trajectories. Over the last couple of years, there has been an additional dimension to factor into their business – conscious engagement. How they engage with their team, their suppliers and their customers is increasingly underpinned with how they engage with the environment and the world we all share. It now behoves every business, whether company or freelancer, to take a long hard look at how they are trading to ensure it is both ethical and sustainable. So what steps should you now be taking in your business?
Conduct an audit
Just as you regularly check out how your finances are performing with an annual audit, you need to do the same for your environmental and social impact. Inspect every single part of your business, encouraging your team to help identify areas where your ‘conscious health’ is not as good as it could be.
This should range across your operation from what you sell, to internal aspects such as your office space, your travel policy, the supplies you stock in your company kitchen and bathrooms – everything needs to be included and at every level. And freelancers can do this just as successfully as businesses. Set yourself some goals to build continual improvement into the months ahead.
Review your products and services
When was the last time that you considered your offer, and mapped its environmental or social impact? Can you improve this and springboard your business into a more socially aware future? Are new market areas opening, ripe for you to develop new ranges or ways of working? Can you add new products to your core offer, such as a vegan option in food, clothing or other products?
Stylish corporate gift company Pod Packaging Ltd recognised that it operated in an environmentally wasteful industry. Building on its deep knowledge of recycled aluminium which many of its products were made from, it has pivoted its business to ensure all of its products are recycled or sustainably sourced, launching a direct-to-consumer brand in the process. Their PodStore offers refillable aluminium travel kits for frequent flyers to help remove single use plastic from their luggage. This in turn has brought them business from Planet Organic.
Engage with your suppliers
Just as you are developing your own ethical policy and products to ensure a more sustainable future, you need to encourage your suppliers to do the same. Ask them the same questions you are asking yourself – perhaps hosting a workshop to see how a shared sustainable agenda could benefit you all.
Some aspects of your supply will be easy to move – look to buy power from a 100% recycled supplier such as the fast-growing energy company, Bulb – whereas others may need a longer-term plan, like rethinking how you operate and who is part of your ‘world’ going forward.
Work with your customers
Some businesses can make the shift to a more conscious way of working relatively easily, whereas for others it is much harder. Why not involve your customers too? They will be influenced by all they see, hear, experience and can become a real source of inspiration and support in your journey forward. Just as you want to build a more conscious company, many of them will want to buy from one too. Invite some of them to join an advisory team to help you ensure you build on green principles moving forward.
Approach local colleges and universities
There is a raft of sustainability initiatives throughout many further education colleges and universities across the UK looking to develop new thinking and ways of working. Why not visit open days or reach out to them to see what might be on offer, or whether there is a team that can help you out?
As we all move towards a more woke future – it is vital to think how you can ensure you use less, recycle better, buy consciously and engage more actively in this profound shift we are all experiencing. The sooner you get to grips with it the better, helping you to build an exciting, forward-looking business.
Erica’s new book ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas : Build a Bigger, Better Business’ is out now. Full of her usual easy-to-use advice, lots of case studies, quick tips, diagrams and innovative ways to think about growing your business – its 288 full colour pages will help you transform your business. Available from Amazon, Foyles and other leading booksellers.