Expressed opinions Entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
I have always believed that if you want to change the world, you must do it through business. Businesses can thrive, creating products and services that actually do well, and most importantly, they are financially sustainable (ideally, however). You can’t say the same about government or nonprofits. The former is often overlooked by lobbyists and voters, and nonprofits rely on donations, so the great work they can do is limited by funding constraints.
Unfortunately, most businesses don’t think about making a difference for humans and the planet. Profit is still the number one measure of success. But whether they like it or not, consumers are now demanding a business that does better. 73% of consumers are either in the process or have already changed their eating habits to become more sustainable.
While businesses are already doing great things, they need to stand up to those who don’t – who still shout about their limited sustainable enterprise. If you want to use your platform to make the world a better place, you need to cut through greenwashing and let customers see that your product or service is actually doing well. So, how do you talk about your business.
At Ethique, we are changing the way we present our business. (Full disclosure: I am the founder and CEO of Ethics). Ethique was once known as the “most durable cosmetics company in the world”. Now, we’re more specific, because “most sustainable” doesn’t say enough. We are focused on reviving our planet through ethical business practices.
Why switch? Sustainability, by definition, is the assurance that what we are doing is something we can carry on forever and that the state of our environment will not improve or deteriorate because of that activity. Sustainability is not about improving things.
Related: Top 3 Sustainable Business Practices for Entrepreneurs
Sustainability vs. rebirth
Sustainability only works when what is currently there is in great shape. But the reality is that we need to do more than just maintain what we have. Many parts of our planet need to be revived, rehabilitated and rehabilitated. The onus is on the business to do more to address this, not the consumers. Why? Because businesses have a lot more impact (and to be honest, it has created a lot of the problems we face today).
That brings us back to the green wash. Green washing is ubiquitous in business. Every business has a “sustainability” page on their website where they talk about their initiatives which shows that they care. Planting a tree does not make up for the fact that their clothing is 90% plastic and will fill our waterways with microplastics as they pass through the washing machine.
Donating 1% to charities does not offset the minimum wage they pay 50% of their team, which means they have to rely on the food bank to feed their families. Not only will carbon-neutral be too slow by 2040, but it will not undo the damage caused by materials directly linked to deforestation.
Sustainability has now been greenwashed into something that is almost meaningless. Businesses are classified as “sustainable” if they have only one or two initiatives like the above; Unfortunately, this is not true.
On the contrary, the resurgence is giving us far more than we can afford, and it should be a new standard to which all businesses work if we want to be part of the solution. If we want to motivate businesses to do better, it is important to be clear about what we are trying to achieve. Where our message switch comes from.
Look at the whole picture of the revived business. Every business in a journey – no company is perfect – what we do affects our planet But a business whose responsibility is to put people and the planet at its core will stop making decisions that are harmful to our environment. It will not run the business as usual, only implement initiatives that look good on a website banner or in a brightly colored TV ad. Instead of planting just one tree for each order, regenerating businesses first stop using materials that they know are deforested.
If we are going to improve the world through business, we need to do more than just maintain stability. We need regenerative business.
Related: How Sustainable Brands Conquer the Conscious Consumer
Examples of regenerative business practices
Rebirth is a relatively new concept in the business world. It is usually associated with farming and agriculture, but there are already some amazing examples that work for revival. Patagonia is one of my favorites; Every decision of Patagonia puts man and planet first and profit second. Is it perfect? No. It’s impossible. But it’s making huge strides, and it’s a business that’s really doing well.
For ethics, its foundation is built on reincarnation. Starting from the supply chain, fair trade enterprises, products and packaging (always vegetarian, cruelty-free, palm oil-free, plastic-free, and compostable), business activities work to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible. Possible and double offsetting is inevitable. Is it perfect? No. It can always do more.
How to implement regenerative initiatives in your business
Implementing regenerative initiatives may be irresistible, but as business leaders, we need to show the way with bold initiatives. Business has a big hand in creating many of the social and environmental problems we face, so there is an obligation on businesses to work to remedy them.
So, how can your company implement regenerative initiatives? From my point of view, there are three main categories: products, people and processes (operations).
Products are usually the focus of the business; How the materials they are made of are originally and processed, whether they are produced sustainably and what happens towards the end of their lives.
Plenty of materials like cotton, flax and algae can be regenerated but are often cultivated in harmful ways. So, the source is important, but so is the process they go through. Many are not innately reproducible – things like plastics and other petrochemical derivatives. But these materials are easy for many and mission-critical for others. Therefore, it is impossible to eradicate them. Still, you can keep things in places that minimize their impact, such as making them from recycled materials instead of virgin plastic.
If you really want a reproducible product, you need to consider the entire life cycle of your materials from growth, processing, production and finally disposal. If something grows in a huge monoculture devoid of biodiversity, can you turn these production practices into regenerative agriculture?
If the processing of raw materials into usable materials is water-intensive, can you start recycling and treating the water so that you can return to the primitive environment to extract it? Can you use non-drinking water in your process, then treat it, so that it becomes drinkable, so you are making some improvements through your business processes?
Historically, as a business, we have avoided much concern about what will happen to the product once the customer has settled it. This should be considered a big part of the material decisions you make. It is very difficult to make products from fully compostable materials. So, if you have no choice but to use plastic or metal, can you implement a return recycling program, or make sure the product is incredibly durable, reducing the “content” that ends up as waste?
Related: These start-ups are coming up with smart initiatives for waste recycling
The second category, “people,” is the last factor to be considered – apparently – and unfortunately -. For a business to revive, all its stakeholders need to be treated fairly and paid fairly throughout the supply chain. And that’s especially rare. This is where fair trade and labor practices need to be addressed so that everyone benefits. Or at the very least, no one is losing business.
I talk a lot about the supply chain and how I believe that giving suppliers a fair price for their products or paying workers a living wage is the single biggest thing that a business can have a positive impact on people and the planet. So, this is a great regenerative initiative to get started. Why? Fair value is the key to economic empowerment, and economic empowerment is freedom (along with education). Encouraging team ownership in companies is, again, a way to encourage economic empowerment.
After all, businesses greatly exploit people who make products or materials. Just by being fair, it is regenerative. Supply chain decisions should also consider which choices are best for the environment. For example, palm oil is not sustainable due to the way it is currently produced. Isn’t it instinctively sustainable? Absolutely not. This is the most efficient oil plant we have. But we have made its production sustainable due to our exclusive cultivation and human rights violations. When considering sourcing options, for example, think about whether you can work directly with a community to create elements that revitalize previously degraded landscapes.
We are trying to do this with palm oil. Although we do not currently use it in any form, it is so efficient that an industry-wide, global boycott could cause a lot of damage, because we all need to find a new, less efficient source of oil (such as coconut). So, in the future, we We want to work with local palm oil producers and ensure that they are paid fairly and their environment is regenerated.
Processes, or business activities, where regeneration options are easier to implement.
Initiatives such as tree planting – usually part of a business’s carbon offset plan – are effective if done in a way that encourages indigenous planting, especially in areas where re-building is needed. We started our Ethical Forest on Earth Day two years ago (April 22, 2020) and so far we have planted about 400,000 trees. In a country like Madagascar where deforestation is taking place, not only are native trees planted, but those trees set aside carbon for their next 20 years of growth. Well done, rewilding is something that can contribute to all businesses.
An easy option: Run your factory and / or office with renewable energy. Depending on where you are, it’s as easy as changing your power company. Or, you can invest in a solar panel or a wind turbine. One more simple: just turn off your air-con and lights at night. You will not be surprised how much business.
Businesses have the potential to be very destructive, as we have seen over the last few decades. It has the potential to be extremely positive, to take care of our environment, to empower people and to empower communities. But we need to move beyond one-sided, short-term “sustainable” practice and think big. For the benefit of a few people we have to start fixing what we have broken and fix it, for the benefit of everyone.
The best part? Businesses with a strong purpose and regenerative initiative are proving to be more profitable, inspire more loyalty and grow faster than their peers. Creating a reproducible business may seem like a long order, but by dealing with less hanging fruit at first, you are already making a difference. Big things can happen when you take those first, simple steps, such as tracing your entire supply chain, actually creating home compostable packaging (no bioplastics!) Or digging up the elements associated with deforestation. These things can take years, so like the proverb, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Related: What is a sustainable entrepreneur and why is it important?