Top Five Tips for Building a Sustainable Business

“We have to build that infrastructure ourselves. Hopefully we can pave the way for many other businesses.” – Murvah

We were delighted to be joined on Wednesday 26 January by experts across the sector for a panel discussion on embedding sustainability within your business.

This was the first webinar in a series launched for 2022 where we bring together founders, consultants, and more to share their expertise on a range of topics covered across our programmes. 

We were joined for this event by an expert panel including three founders, Samantha Kidjo, Murvah Iqbal, and Abb-d Choudhurry, who put sustainability into everything they do, as well as Business and Sustainability Consultant Kelly Darcy, and B Corp Leader Laura Matz, who both have experience guiding others in their sustainability journey.

In their discussion, led by Hatch Community Manager Cecília Veríssimo, our panelists covered how to decide on the ethics and values of an organisation, growing your business in a scalable fashion, and how to turn impact into a powerful narrative. 

It’s becoming increasingly popular for businesses to be guided by sustainability, with pressures coming from the consumer, new talent, and a growing awareness of environmental impact. Many founders want to make their business more sustainable, but can face challenges and some tough decisions.

Our expert panel offered this advice to founders facing these challenges:

1. Embed sustainability good practice early on

This is especially key for smaller businesses. It can take a lot of work early on to embed these good practices, whether that be carbon offset, use of renewable energy, or sustainable packaging, but once this work has been put in it becomes much easier to maintain these practices and they slot in alongside normal workflow. An important note that was raised by our panelists is the element of compromise and balance that is crucial to these early decisions. Often sustainable business must prioritise these core values that they have committed to over faster growth and a more competitive edge. As put by Abb-d, “We’re collectively sacrificing this idea of short term gains for a long term impact.” Business owners must decide what is more important to them, and balance their values against their profits.

2. Set manageable goals

Again on the theme of values it’s important to identify the sustainability focus of the business to avoid stretching resources too thinly, or over-promising and under-delivering. It’s a good thing that so many businesses want to make more sustainable choices, but it can be easy to become overwhelmed because there is always more we could be doing. Laura raised the challenge that there are currently a lot of resources available, but not any clear regulations or benchmarking. It is up to businesses to choose how they focus their efforts and measure their impact, and more can be achieved through choosing a narrow focus and performing well, rather than attempting to do too much.

3. Be authentic

Another risk with over-promising and under-delivering is losing the trust of the consumer. In a sector with no current industry standard it is not helpful to try and compete with those who are targeting a completely different area. Laura recommends: “Be authentic in the way you explain what you’ve done.” Do not be tempted to spin the figures that you have to sound more impressive, and instead focus on telling a compelling story to accompany any statistics that you do have. A small and focused impact in your local community or supply chain can be worth more than empty figures, and it’s crucial to avoid greenwashing.

4. Promote intersectionality

The sustainability sector still has a problem with lack of diversity which results in missing out on so much of the story. Particularly with the Global South feeling the more immediate impacts of climate change it is crucial to include more diverse communities in conversations around sustainability. Different communities will bring different perspectives and may already have solutions to common challenges. As a Black founder Samantha said, “It’s almost that I’m asked to pick a battle which I think is unfair.”

5. Be kind

The reason that most business founders are having these conversations around sustainability is out of a desire to do good, and have a positive impact on the planet and their communities. It can be overwhelming seeing all of the things we should be doing to be more sustainable, especially when there doesn’t seem to be any clear guidance, which can lead to feelings of ‘eco-guilt’. All founders should take pride in the fact that they have committed to this journey and remember to be kind to themselves and to others, knowing that each step they do take towards sustainability is putting more good into the world. Having a network of other founders to bounce ideas off can be a great resource and partnerships like this will only make the sector stronger.

There are many challenges to contend with when putting sustainability at the heart of your business but as Kelly tells us: “It’s pivotal to have it, it’s non-negotiable”.

Don’t miss out on our next event on Tuesday 22 February where we will be joined by Emilie Bellet (Vestpod) and Timi Merriman-Johnson (Mr Money Jar) to discuss matching our money habits to our values and business strategy. 

You can browse all of our upcoming events here.

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