Taking action, however small, is the key to cultivating hope and lasting positive change in ourselves and the world around us.
A personal example…
A couple of years ago, plastic shopping bags were common in all my local grocery stores. While shoppers and businesses knew they were damaging to the environment, no one did much about it at scale. Until the big supermarket chains all started to remove plastic shopping bags as an option; offering brown paper and fabric shopping bags instead. The transition happened over a few weeks, but suddenly plastic shopping bags were a rare sight. It became a habit for shoppers to take their reusable fabric bags to the shops with them.
Change can happen quickly when businesses and individuals commit to it in practical ways. And our world needs us to change.
The same for plastic straws – I hardly see them anywhere these days.
There are stories of hope and positive change across the world if we look for them.
Committing to sustainability is our responsibility as small businesses
Business sustainability is about taking a stand. It’s about saying enough is enough, we want to be part of the solution. We want a healthier world for all inhabitants.
Yet, to be part of the solution, we first must figure out what sustainability even means to us. I love this description here.
I know I’m not alone in feeling that I should be doing so much more, but knowing exactly what actions to take is where I struggle (especially when bombarded with terrifying news stories on a daily basis that leave me feeling hopeless and disempowered about climate change). The truth is: a healthier world is possible, but we must all start taking action towards it.
What does sustainability even mean to you? To form a richer understanding, start educating yourself. Prana communicates a beautiful explanation of sustainability in fashion here if you’re needing some inspiration.
Here are some more resources to get you started:
- Calculate your business’s carbon footprint using this online calculator.
- B Impact Assestment – The most credible tool a company can use to measure the impact on its workers, community, environment, and customers. Companies can use the free standardized tool to compare their performance to other businesses and to identify and track opportunities for improvement.
- Learn about the most effective ways to help the planet here.
- Be inspired by Patagonia and their approach to ethical commerce.
- The Center for Sustainable Fashion is an incredible resource for ethical fashion brands.
- Green Street – A website dedicated to helping product-based businesses implement more planet-friendly practices.
- The Green Fix – How to actually help fight the climate crisis when the world is on fire
- 14 ways to take positive action
Creating a sustainability manifesto
“Manifestos are an inspiring declaration of your values and what really matters to you – your intentions – they help you examine what you stand for, what you want to create, change or solve, and it becomes a statement of commitment that you could reference and share as you start to build out your roadmap to sustainability.”
– The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc
A sustainability manifesto is your business’s commitment to taking action towards operating ethically and sustainably. Creating one will help you understand what sustainability means to your business, and, most importantly, guides your journey forwards.
When creating your manifesto, think about the sustainability challenges that your business is facing. For example:
Energy consumption – Can our business reduce its energy consumption? Can our business start switching to renewable energy?
Packaging – What materials are we currently using for packaging? Can we switch to something eco-friendly?
Operations – Can we reduce our carbon emissions when it comes to transporting people and goods?
Supply chain – Are we sourcing raw materials from ethical businesses? They might come across as ethical, but how do we actually know they are? Can we make improvements here? Can we source from local businesses instead of international one’s?
People – Are we providing a living wage to our employees? What is the salary difference between our lowest paid and highest paid and can we make this smaller? Where are our employees struggling – can we support them better? Can we create a more diverse and inclusive workforce?
Community – Are we giving back to the communities in which we operate? How can we do more?
Your sustainability manifesto is a commitment to solving each of the sustainability problems that are important to your business
Here are some examples:
- LUSH – https://weare.lush.com/lush-life/our-ethics/
- PRANA – https://www.prana.com/sustainability.html
- FASHION REVOLUTION – https://www.fashionrevolution.org/manifesto/
- BREWDOG – https://www.brewdog.com/uk/tomorrow
- ETHICAL CONSUMER – https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/about-us/ethical-consumer-manifesto
- MISTRA FUTURE FASHION – http://mistrafuturefashion.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Future-Fashion-Manifesto-2015.pdf
Your manifesto can take many forms. It can be short and to the point or as detailed as you feel is necessary.
Always remember – the purpose of this is to drive meaningful change within your organisation. Do not allow your manifesto to stagnate into nothing.
References and further reading
Create your brand sustainability manifesto – The Council of Fashion Designers of America, https://cfda.com/news/create-your-sustainability-brand-manifesto
Sustainability Manifesto Worksheet for fashion brands – https://s3.amazonaws.com/cfda.f.mrhenry.be/2019/01/CFDA-Sustainability-Worksheets.pdf
5 steps to creating a sustainability manifesto – Common Objective, https://www.commonobjective.co/article/5-steps-to-creating-a-sustainability-manifesto
Do all businesses need a sustainability manifesto in 2020? – Pilot Fish MEdia, https://www.pilotfishmedia.com/do-all-businesses-need-a-sustainability-manifesto-in-2020/
What does ‘sustainability’ mean in business – Harvard Business School, https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/what-is-sustainability-in-business
Planet Drawdown Curb your Carbon Quiz – CNN, https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2019/04/specials/climate-change-solutions-quiz/index.html
Ethical Consumer, https://www.ethicalconsumer.org
Edie (business sustainability news) – https://www.edie.net/
Looking for small businesses to interview for my Ethical Commerce newsletter
In 2022, I’m launching a digital journal called The Ethical Seller. Aimed at the mindful business owner, the journal will explore ethical Commerce from a seller perspective.
I’m looking for small business owners to interview for the journal. Ideally, you’re an ethically-minded product-based business that’s focused on becoming sustainable. Interview questions will focus on what sustainability means to you; challenges you’re facing; changes you’re making; the results, etc. The purpose is twofold: 1. To showcase your business; 2. To inspire other product-based businesses.
If you’re interested please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.