Size and type of business is not important; the many benefits are relevant for all.
Open a newspaper or turn on the news and it is not long before we see environmental and social issues.
Business plays an important role in these issues by the way that it acts. If it acts in a positive way towards the places and people that it touches, there are loads of business benefits! It really is win, win, win!
Being part of the solution has never been easier!
Before we look at how and why there is some need to know info:
The Jargon Buster
Responsible business is an approach to business that values people and places along with profit.
To make life easier we divide the jargon into two groups – business labels and common initiatives.
1. The Business Labels
A range of common business labels exist such as: Ethical Business, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Green Business or Sustainable Business.
These labels are broadly talking about the same thing:
Responsible Business = A business that has minimal negative and some positive impact on the people and places it touches, locally and globally.
Put another way:
Responsible Business is about valuing the people and places that your business touches with behaviour that in turn also benefits the business.
People generally see a Responsible Business, if one or more of the following applies:
- Environmentally friendly or ethical products and services for sale;
- Responsible values involved in all decisions and operations;
- Stand out as more responsible than the competition.
2. Common Initiatives
Some of the more common responsible business initiatives:
Resource and waste (the inputs and by-products of a business) are often areas where environmental and money saving go hand in hand. Doing more whilst using and disposing of less makes good business sense!
The Circular Economy approach is of most benefit to businesses that make things. It aims to replace the linear ‘take, make, dispose’ model of products and replace with a model that sees us design in ways to re-use, update and refurbish everyday items.
Carbon footprint is the amount of Greenhouse Gas emissions (carbon dioxide and methane) released as a result of an activity. For example; making, transporting, using and disposing of a product or service.
Greenhouse Gases help the Earth to maintain heat. The more Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the hotter the Earth will become. Greenhouse gases have been increasing in our atmosphere for many years and the effects are commonly known as Climate Change.
An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a structured approach to managing and improving environmental performance. An EMS is a common solution to effectively managing multiple environmental initiatives and satisfying customer and regulatory/industry requirements. The most common approach to an EMS is ISO14001. This standard can be certified.
No business is an island and many risks and opportunities surrounding people and places lie with what we buy and how we buy it. This is where Sustainable or Responsible Purchasing can help. BS8903 is the British Standard that provides a common approach.
Responsible purchasing looks at the people and communities (as well as environmental issues) in a supply chain. The majority of products and raw materials come from the developing world where exploitation is common. Addressing the people issues of global supply is sometimes labelled ethical or fair trade.
What are the benefits for my business?
Responsible business sells!
- Customers spend their money with responsible businesses and products.
- Many investors will seek out responsible business because the investment risks are generally smaller and the potential for long-term prosperity is higher.
- Be able to talk more effectively with your customers about responsible business initiatives.
- Reduce costs – usually overhead reductions through resource efficiency, process efficiency and reduced waste.
- Increased profits – due to any of the following:
- Differentiate service/product – steal a march on your competitors, stand out from the crowd.
- New markets and customer groups often open with a change of product or service.
- Generate a positive public and customer image, even a following!
- Improve staff morale and feel good factor.
Be better prepared for future business
TIP – customers need to know two things in combination for the ultimate win:
- The product or service is doing good in some way, and
- It does not cost them any extra!
Taking your first steps in Responsible Business
What’s in and What’s out? Making a Strategy
Don’t try to do everything at once – be strategic!
A good strategy is difficult for rivals to copy and will give you an advantage!
This is where it is worth taking a little time to consider what is relevant, and achievable for your business.
The best way to do this is make a list of the people and places that you touch as a business. Then decide which people and places carry the greatest risk or opportunity to you!
For example, is there a type of customer you wish to attract or retain or are there places exploited in some way because of your buying choices?
Ask yourself the essential question: What is the outcome you are looking for?
Hint – refer to the benefits to help you to decide upon outcome(s).
As an example, you may decide that a key outcome is to sell more of a particular product based upon its green credentials. You will need to focus on two key initiatives to achieve this:
- Review and improve the product’s environmental and ethical impacts; and,
- Market and promote it based upon those improvements.
Understanding what you want to achieve will drive activity in all the right places.
If you are unsure which outcomes to target and the initiatives to help reach them, try to reflect on what it is that your business exists to achieve… Then, just make it more responsible!
For example, a small restaurant that’s mission is to provide a great dining experience in the heart of the New Forest could adapt to become one that also provides great New Forest produce on its menus. This will enhance not only its mission (and customer experience) but also provide a more responsible approach by reducing food miles and boosting the local economy. It is important to do this well and fly the flag high! Responsible business matters and is a very powerful message to your customers, staff, competitors…
It is vital to set a strategy for responsible business. It allows you to set a clear and straight course.
We have used simple examples here but the world of responsible business can be wide and deep and not all will be relevant or proportional to you. Choose wisely, stay focused and get a ‘win’ under your belt before becoming more ambitious.
Remember, you cannot achieve everything at once. You will find that what matters to you will not matter to your neighbour and vice versa. The trick is to understand where your biggest risks and opportunities are.
Some of the key things to look at are:
- Environmental issues – energy, water, carbon, waste, resources, pollution, transport…
- Health and well being – customers, staff, neighbours…
- Human rights – charities, non-discrimination, fair trade, labour rights…
- Community – volunteering, local ‘green business clubs’, local suppliers/economy…
First steps – Summary
Be strategic, focus on outcome(s).
The outcome(s) you choose will help you decide the initiative(s) you need concentrating your activity.
Fly the flag! Engage with your people – customers, staff and competitors! Responsible business matters and is a very powerful message…
Caution! – do not ‘Green wash’. Green washing’ is the term used when a business either lies or exaggerates its responsible performance.
It will be enjoyable, you and your people will feel great about responsible business and the business will grow stronger as a result!
Give the benefit!
You will be surprised just how many people and places your business has the potential to better.
Spread the word!
You’ll be doing great things – tell everyone! There are very few messages that are as strong and positive responsible business.
Get the benefit!
Responsible business sells! Consumers, business customers and investors are all attracted to positive responsible business!
Get in contact!
Cala Sustain believes that responsible business and all of the benefits should be in the reach of all. We provide this guide freely to enable all business to take the first step!
All that we ask in return is that you:
• Pass this on and help us to spread the word
• Tell us what you think and how you’re getting on – we’d be delighted to hear about your successes and help with any challenges. We’d also be happy to tell your story to our growing network
• Become part of our growing community – ‘like’, ‘follow’ and ‘share’ at our social media places:
Check out my professional profile and connect with me on LinkedIn. http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mark-hedges/25/54/733