Celebrate Earth day with an ethical business roundtable discussion with special guests:
Mandy Chowdhary - Goodness Goodies.
Named for my passion in providing goods that taste delicious and 'free from' whilst positively impacting health and the planet. I believe that small decisions made daily by us, help the world we live in to thrive.
Kate Stansfield - Kate Stansfield Translations.
Kate Stansfield has been a freelance French/Spanish to English translator, copy-editor and proof-reader for over 11 years. She has dipped her toes in the corporate world, in the world of international organisations as an intern at the UN in Vienna, and in the not-for-profit sector as a charity administrator and later volunteer translator.
Katherine Byam - Where Ideas Launch.
The Wing Woman to your Genius: Katherine is a business resilience and brand stewardship strategist, partnering with leaders committed to a sustainable future.
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/womeninsustainablebusiness
Virginia Cinquemani - Green Gorilla Consultants Ltd.
Empowering sustainability professionals to make an impact | Author of SustainABLE | One of top 100 f:entrepreneur female entrepreneurs 2022.
Katie Skelton - Little Green Duck.
Katie is a visibility mentor, helping small business owners that care about more than just profit to be seen by the right people, attract the right opportunities and make a positive impact in the world.
Voice over by Hawke Wood: https://www.spotlight.com/3490-9081-8844
Okay we are live! Hello, hello. Welcome to this live episode of the Social Media for Humans podcast especially for Earth Day. I am Alexis Bushnell, my pronouns are she her, I run Social Media for Humans, as you may expect, which is basically a membership, a community, a podcast, a blog for humans who want to use social media ethically and effectively for their business. So will you please introduce yourselves, Mandy. Mandy: Hi I'm Mandy Chowdry, I'm the founder of Goodness Goodies which is an online retailer and wholesaler which specialises in free from products and vegan treats, basically products that make your life sweeter and greener. Delicious! Kate. Kate: Hello, I'm Kate Stansfield my pronouns are she her, and I am a freelance translator, copy editor, proofreader, project manager. Basically I provide language services and specialise in sustainability and international development, ethical brands, not for profits mainly. Yeah. Very good, Katherine. Katherine: Hi everyone, I'm Katherine I'm she her, I am a LinkedIn coach as well as a business mentor and I run a community of women in sustainable business on Facebook. I also have a podcast called Where Ideas Launch for sustainable innovation. That's good. Virginia. Virginia: Hello, I'm Virginia Cinquemani the owner of The Green Gorilla consultants Ltd, she her as well, and the Green Gorilla effectively specialises in training and coaching for sustainability professionals to enhance their impact, so communication, selling and all of this good stuff. I'm also a professional coach for sustainability people. Very good. And Katie. Katie: Hello, my name's Katie Skelton and I own and run Little Green Duck. I'm a visibility mentor for purpose-led and sustainable brands and businesses so basically I help people to be more visible reach more people, attract more opportunities and make more of an impact in the world. My pronouns are also she her. Very good. We are going to be chatting today about the the great things about running an ethical business, some of the the hard things about running an ethical business, and then towards the end we will offer some ideas for consumers who want to support ethical businesses and see more ethical businesses in the world. So let's start with the good stuff, the wins, the this is why I really love being an ethical, sustainable business. Mandy, why do you love it?Mandy:
Okay so there are many reasons. I think ultimately it's about control over the products that I sell and wholesale so that the end user has choice that's available to them that is outside of what the supermarket can offer. And it's about making those small changes sort of daily in the things that you would use, the way that you live your life. Making the world a sort of better place for my children, for their children and full circle. And it's just, for me the key thing is just small changes and I think that's how I've sort of grown, and it enables me to work with brands and my supply chain also to have that control over who I'm choosing. So it's yeah, it's around that control part, making the right choices myself so that in turn people have choice.Alexis:
yeah and it does create that ripple effect doesn't it if you're providing that choice, you're out there living in that way, it does it allows other people to go, oh yeah this is a thing I can do, this is an option I have which is really powerful. Mandy: Yeah and you know I kind of do a local market in the area and that's just to showcase the products, you know, just so that there are other things. And for me the key thing as well is affordability, in an environment at the moment where they're increasing with fuel and energy and food, that by not having a shop I can keep overheads down and that then in turn means that my prices are hopefully affordable or comparable to non-plastic versions of cleaning products and things like that, so keeping things really small and simple it enables me to be that little bit more sustainable in my business. Yeah. Kate what do you love about it? Kate: When I was thinking about this at first I thought I was gonna struggle to articulate it and then I ended up having a lot of thoughts! I think it boils down to, for me the first thing is that a couple of years ago because I've been doing what I do for 11 plus years and but it was about two or three years ago I had a bit of an epiphany where I realized I wasn't loving what I was doing every day even though I love translating, and I love languages and so it's the realisation that I can actually do what I love and what I'm good at but also embrace this passion and drive I have to help drive positive change, and that was a complete revelation and it's opened so many, that second part of it is opening up my eyes to this whole world of like hearted, that's a phrase I heard the other day that I really love, other business owners and not just business owners, individuals as well. But I always felt slightly like I didn't fit in in terms of what I was trying to do in my personal life and then I did feel that something was missing and to be able to address the issues that are really important in the world today and the challenges we have in my business as well and to meet and converse and collaborate and connect with other people doing the same thing and see this kind of movement growing that, to me, is is amazing. So kind of community and collaboration as well, and within the translation industry often it's all about competition and rates and blah blah blah, so this has just enabled me to connect with other linguists as well as other people outside of the industry on this level of like working together for that common goal, if that makes sense. A lot of thoughts like I said! Yeah yeah. Has anybody else had that feeling of like when you first started maybe you felt like outside and like everybody else in the business, the industry that you were in was like this specific way and you were like this is not really my vibe?Katherine:
Interesting. Katie: Yeah me too, 100 percent.Katherine:
Yeah some spaces feel so icky sometimes and you're just like oh I don't want to be there.Katie:
I think particularly those of us who are involved with like coaching and mentoring as well. The coaching industry has got quite a bad reputation for not being particularly ethical at times and so it's just really nice to be in spaces with people who actually get it and know that you don't have to do all those things to run a successful business, an impactful business. It's so refreshing and so like, I did think for a while that I was never going to find that and so it's nice to have finally felt like I, like Kate said, fit in somewhere and it's this is my, this is my place.Virginia:
Yeah I think also there is an element of I don't know, contrast them between being a business owner and having ethical purposes sometimes, it's a bit of a battle internally to say do I prioritise profit or do I prioritize my values and I think that's never gonna go to sleep for me but I know that what I do can help others to be successful at pushing sustainability, so for me that is what drives, but sometimes that there is that, I don't fit within the business world exactly but I do because without me possibly other people will suffer or will go with to somebody that is more unethical than I can be so yeah.Mandy:
I had to deal with that dichotomy, that issue as well with some of the products that I buy, whilst they may have a good story and their values align with mine not all of their packaging may be compostable or plastic free, and I've been particularly one brand I've been importing them for many, many years and I have conversations with them around their packaging, when are they going to move to a plastic free? They're vegan, their products are vegan, but yet their packaging is in plastic and so, you know, there is that sort of balance and do I stop supplying them to my customers? Or do I just carry on? Which is what I'm doing at the moment. And know that other brands their packaging is better and compostable packaging, so yeah I do have that quite a lot. There's 180 brands that I have, that I stock, so not always everyone's gonna completely align with your values and on a day-to-day level, whilst I may kind of try and live as green as I can, I don't always. I do drive a car for instance and so I think there's a balance, there's only so much you can do, and sometimes you could kind of overwhelm yourself if you're doing something. I will go to the supermarket and I will buy a cucumber that might be wrapped in plastic, I try not to but sometimes you can't always do what you want to do, but if you try a little bit, just small changes where you can make a difference, make that difference I guess. That's how I resonate it anyway.Alexis:
Part of the community, the power of community is meeting other people who are really invested in this and have that same battle and that same worry and hearing other people go oh you know it really bothered me to have to. Somebody was buying a pillow the other day and they could not find one that was like ethically sourced and wasn't you know plasticky and all this and they looked everywhere and they just couldn't find one, and seeing other people have that discussion like with themselves and other people is so helpful and validating to be able to go, okay nobody else is doing it perfectly either, we're all just doing our best.Katie:
Well also it's a really good opportunity to learn from other people too isn't it. Like I've seen people who have similar values to me but their focus at a given time is slightly different, and so someone will be really heavily focusing on the digital carbon footprint of their website and everybody else in the community, I'm thinking of someone specific here, everyone else in the community then goes oh my goodness yeah I could look at this too and being able to bounce those ideas off each other and learn from each other because we are all at different stages of our journeys, it's actually a big win if we're talking about wins, that's a really good thing.Kate:
Yeah definitely. I have learned incredible amounts over the past year or two. I mean, I didn't know what the digital carbon footprint was a year, 18 months ago, definitely didn't really think about the impact of my website etc, and everything I've learned has been from other people I'm connected with online and other people running similar businesses, and so many different service based businesses just sharing resources and knowledge. It's that again, it's that sense of community once again. All right may have to just go and see to a delivery!Katherine:
I wanted to touch on what Virginia was saying about about the sort of conflict that she lives with between profit and purpose in some way. And it's interesting, I mean when I look at some of the more successful sustainable businesses, it's really driven from this community place, so the same conversation that we're having but it's really driven from this collective in this community. And with that understanding, there's an understanding that we all need to live right. So I think it's really about finding your niche, finding your community, and finding that space where it becomes easy, it's an easier transaction, it's not a hard sell, it's an easy transaction because you're providing a service that's of value to someone else, right. And I think you're right, it takes a bit to find that, it takes a bit to create that and to make a welcoming space that people can engage with, but it's so worth it when you have it, right, and then it feels easy.Alexis:
Virginia do you have thoughts? Virginia: In terms of why I enjoy what I do? Yeah, yes so I started many many years ago, I won't say how many, by studying and working in architecture and at that point I realised that actually what I wanted to do was the common sense thing And the common sense was to build at that time, buildings that were "green" as they were called, when I'm talking about. So over the years I shifted, I don't do design anymore but that core idea of I need to do the right thing, I need to do the thing that makes more sense, waste doesn't make any sense, mistreating the world that we live in doesn't make any sense, so for me this has been the really the thread throughout my career and what really makes me wake up in the morning and really put all my effort into this and I love it. Since I started working in line with my values, and it sounds a bit cliché, but actually it makes the world of difference when you've got long days and maybe the money is not what you would like it to be or whatever, it is that you, or you have a horrible client that sort of puts you in trouble whatever it is, if you have that connection with the values that you believe in, although imperfectly like Mandy was saying, I still drive a car. One day. I try and avoid car journeys but as much as I can, I live in line with my values imperfectly and I think that is what makes me enjoy every day and what I do, and I do a bunch of different things but that's the thread is that value driven idea of supporting others and try and leave a light footprint, or no footprint when possible. Yeah, I think coming back to what Katherine was saying as well, I think the the balance of profit, purpose, how sustainable can I realistically be, for me a lot of it is as well about being honest with your audience and saying like this is what I am doing and these are the things that I would like to do but they're not feasible right now for me, for various reasons I cannot do these certain things but they are on my long-term plan, I am aware of them and I think one of the sort of, obviously at the minute everybody is terrified about cancel culture and for me that is one of the ways to counteract it, is to not pretend that you are the peak of sustainable or ethical business and to just go look, I'm doing my best, this is what I know about, if you know something else I would love to hear about it, let's chat, let's share those ideas. And to not essentially put yourself on that pedestal as like look at me, I am super, do everything like I do, because nobody is.Kate:
It's about communicating these actions isn't it, and what is possible but in a really realistic way and inspiring others. They're not going to be inspired if they just literally look at that and go well that's just not achievable or attainable, switch off to it. Katie: Yeah and also probably not true either it's like, even if you're saying I am the most sustainable person in the world, as Mandy says sometimes you just really need a cucumber. [Laughter] It is that transparency and, again back to ethics, it's you know the two are.Virginia:
I don't know about you guys but I think also the pandemic helped in that sense. So with the horrible, horrible couple of years that we had that more relaxed attitude towards ourselves and sort of I got a delivery and I'm gonna pick it up, you know what I mean? It's like it doesn't, I don't know how to say that but it doesn't really like standards as such, but actually it shows the true face of human beings and I like the idea of doing my best and not trying to live up to a standard that is just unattainable, and I think having done an enormous amount of Zoom calls in my pyjamas and my crocs, which I'm not going to show you but I do wear them right now, feeling a little more relaxed about not having stilettos on and it doesn't matter, nobody cares so long as you're doing the best for your business and for your clients.Kate:
Yeah, I do feel like a lot less pretence in general. Katherine: Yeah. I had a situation recently, in fact this week, where I collaborated with a big tech company that doesn't have the best reputation and we have a discussion going on about them sponsoring an awards that I'm bringing out and the team that's helping me kind of challenged whether or not we should allow this big tech firm to support us, and it's an interesting debate because yes, it can be perceived as greenwashing for sure but at the same time, do you leave them with their money and let them go into space with it?! Like you know, should we try to use that money to do something that that actually makes a difference. And I find this kind of conflict, it comes up a lot right, like trying to make that right ethical decision, it's it's not so simple. I don't know how you guys feel about that, what would you do?Alexis:
I think for me I would be having the discussion of, I will happily take your money but also then try to use it as a way to push them on certain issues. Maybe pick like one or two issues that are their biggest sort of problem areas and go in with like, you know I would love to work with you on this but what are you prepared to commit to? You know, what are you prepared to actually do so that this isn't just a PR stunt because I don't want it to just be a PR stunt for you, I don't want to be used in that way to make you look impressive. yeah, so that's what I would do, anybody else? Virginia: I agree and you know sometimes you criticise, I mean I've been boycotting McDonald's for 20 plus years but what do you do when McDonald's are saying that they sell vegan, whatever it is, food? Do they have to close completely their shops or can they transition towards a better, ethical business effectively? I don't know, it's a difficult one. I agree with you Alexis that probably that's the way, you know, let's have a chat, what will you do because if this is just to look good in front of people then no thanks. And I know lots of business owners doing sustainable business don't want to deal with the baddies, but the same time, they are the ones who need the doctor, right? They are the ill people that need the doctor, not necessarily people. Because I know that this community can be quite so close in that sense and we talk to each other a lot, we know each other quite a bit, and it's difficult to come out of that bubble, so I think welcoming people that are supposedly not as good might be a way to break it into mainstream. Yeah, Kathryn actually has just left a comment saying "do we think that a company starting as a PR stunt can subsequently learn to be more ethical?" That's a good question.Katherine:
I think that no company really entirely does it as a PR stunt because there are humans working in these spaces right? So for example in this firm, the person that I collaborate with there, I know she's committed to real change. Whether or not the whole organisation is another conversation, but the people who are doing these things usually are, so it's quite a difficult one to answer. I think ultimately businesses, as big as they are, they're still humans and there's still different opinions inside there, just as there are different opinions outside here, so tough one.Katie:
Yeah I agree Katherine but I also think I've lost my train of thought so you may need to come back to me! What do I think? Who knows! I've remembered! When you mentioned there's somebody that you're dealing with, that's your contact in the business that's committed, I think people like us who are kind of helping people to see that sustainability and ethical practices are the way to go, having someone like that as a bit of an ally for you if you're within a business that you think oh they don't align with my values is massively valuable because you could be going in and going right, okay, these are the things that you could be doing, these are the things that you could be communicating to your management or the owners of the business to try and make some small changes to try and drive that big business towards a more ethical or sustainable model. So yeah, I think that if you get the opportunity, well it sounds like you do have the opportunity, and you've got someone who's already aligned with you then, as a partnership you could actually change the world. Katherine: Yeah I do think the internal change management is tough. Like I, before coming to the sustainability space, I worked for seven years in a controversial industry in change management, so it's tough it's not an easy gig, but at the same time it has to be done, someone has to do it, right? So you need these, in any organisation, the people who choose these type of roles it's usually purpose-driven, and I think one of the conflicts is when you're committed to social impact and change and you work in that space, you work in the NGO space the funding isn't always there, so you go to the big corporate to get the funding to put it where it needs to be and that's the challenge that I think, you know, perception wise from the outside it's like oh my god why are you working there? Why are you collaborating with this firm? But something has to be done and the resource is needed, so for any of these missions that we have, the sustainable missions that we have, we need to take care of ourselves but we also need to take care of our communities and part of the way to do that is to get this support. So it's an education thing I guess as well, so it's like when you decide to commit to going with a company like that has a sort of prominent face, probably in not the right direction, it's really about how you communicate it. I guess I'm gonna find out because if i start doing this and it doesn't quite work out I might have learned the lesson but I think that's the case, like you have to be courageous enough to take that journey.Kate:
Like you say somebody's got to do these really hard things otherwise nothing's going to change so.Alexis:
Yeah, I think from a PR point of view as well, I think if they do it as a PR stunt and then the reaction that they get is like this is amazing, we want to support this company, and sales increase they see a difference, they see that it was beneficial to their business, I do think that that can push them further down that road because they see, because especially like big corporates, that's what they care about is their bottom line, you know, they care about seeing an increase in sales and an increase in this and an increase in that and so if you can demonstrate through that PR greenwashing stuff like, actually this is going to be good for your business, I do think it can push for actual change in the business itself.Virginia:
The other element there is that if they approach you Katherine, it means that they already see partly why associating with an ethical business has a value. So big businesses got their own insight and their own intelligence so they know that, it's just it takes time to change a big business from their core ideas and values into an ethical business, especially big businesses got so many shareholder interests and stakeholder interest et cetera, they come in between, but this I think is commendable in a way when they want to associate with a smaller business but actually an ethical one, it means they're starting to wake up to that, so I don't think it's all bad but I'm an optimistic by nature so probably that's just me looking at the you know bright side of life!Mandy:
Yeah we do see more businesses reporting not just on their bottom line but there is a bit more about people, planet, profit, you know, there is that sort of triple reporting going on. More impact assessments as well, you see more and more of those coming out where people are saying well we've done this but we've offset against this and, you know, just to demonstrate that they are doing a little bit more. Alexis: think that's a good point to switch to the difficult stuff and I'm gonna read a comment from Tracy because I think this kind of can start us off and Tracy's put "as a traditional graphic designer I've had many discussions about the carbon footprint of web and social media over the years. Sometimes print and other materials need to be considered and the life expectancy and innovation of the product" and I think this is, for me, one of the the woes of, the difficulties, the hard things about running is that decision-making process of like where do I focus my efforts and where do I say no I can't do that right now, I want to make that change but it's not feasible. So for me definitely that is one of the big difficulties and the things that I hate about ethical business is there are so many areas that I am aware of and without even thinking about the things I don't even know about yet and there's all these areas that I want to make changes in and it's just not possible to do it all at once.Kate:
No so it's where to start. Yeah exactly the same and especially when it is just you, in terms of money and time and effort you literally can't attack everything at once and I think it's a mistake to do so. That's the main thing I've learned over the past year, I was really lucky to be involved in a project with the University of York last year and with community sustainability champions and that enabled me to work with a team of students, of undergrads at York from all different disciplines who asked me to really look at the areas of my business, at the main areas that I felt I could make the biggest impact and they went away and did a lot of research for me, so that was a great kind of springboard. I think if you can sit down and, because every business is different, try to establish where you might be having that social environmental impact. Again it's still difficult but it's something to start with. I also really love the idea of the Venn diagram, this is an idea that I've heard on the "How to save a planet" podcast and starting with joy, so what you love, and what you can do, so your skill, and then need, so what you feel is like the most critical thing at the moment, and kind of identify one thing, and then being a Venn diagram in the middle is like just your starting point, and it gives you a bit of direction and you can apply that to your business. That's just one idea but yeah it's usually something I struggle with. I did a post really early this morning about Ecologi, the tree planting and reforestation, and how I agonised, I was inactive in that element of my business impact for so long because I couldn't make the decision about what the best impact would be and so I just stalled on it and that's so often the case as well I think, it's hard to know what might just again be green washing or just makes you look like you're putting on a show of of being environmentally minded and not actually, and that thing isn't actually making the big impact you think it is. So I went with a lot of recommendations but I'm getting messages even now while we're on this about "but I was worried about this because so-and-so said this about tree planting" and yeah, it's really hard. So I've rambled on a lot!Katie:
No, I agree with you Kate. I think that the whole overwhelm thing is massive because I feel like overwhelm leads to procrastination, procrastination leads to inaction, and if you're not taking any action at all because you're worried about what you should be focusing on, then obviously that's not a great thing, so I'm trying really really hard to just focus myself on like one thing at a time. Like okay, there are loads of things that I want to do but if I try and think about all of them at the same time then I'll shut down and then nothing will get done, so trying to kind of temper myself, like my need to just act on everything and do all the things is a bad habit I'm trying to get out of. And just to address Tracy's point as well, I used to work in the broadcast industry and lots of the conversations I've had with people more recently since moving into running my own business, I've spoken to business owners back in my old industry and it's really hard to get everybody involved to actually care enough about like the end of life of product, like the products that we're talking about like the big broadcast TV cameras or big pieces of equipment that take loads of resources to create but the manufacturers are not, or weren't until recently, thinking about end of life or what happens when you need to trade it in for the newer model. It's the same with iPhones isn't it, like how many iPhones just get binned or stuck in a draw for five years because you want the latest one, and I think making people care or trying to encourage people to care in the first place is hard and also just the time-consuming element of doing the research you need to do in order to align with your own values. It's harder to go right, okay, where can I buy something that is completely plastic free, compostable, vegan blah blah blah that ticks all of my ethical boxes. It's easier just to go down to your local supermarket and I'm not going to keep mentioning cucumbers! But it's, I think that it's difficult to for every single area of your life do that depth of research that satisfies everything and ticks every box so I think just starting with the thing that's most important to you, as Kate was saying, starting with the thing that's most important to you and then building from there and doing more research as you go along, rather than feeling like you have to do all the research in one go is probably a better approach and again, something I'm not great at but working on.Virginia:
I'm gonna quote the owner of Patagonia who famously said "to lead the examined life is a pain in the ass" because it is, because you made the choice to have an ethical business, to try and live your life in line with your values, blah de blah, but you find that at the moment the world doesn't transition completely into ethical, and in fact it probably was still a minority although it's better than what it was when I started 16 years ago. But it is, all the research, all that for me that's the one of the main difficulties, although of course when you find a product or something then you tend to keep subscribing so Kate you mentioned Ecologi, so also I pay for Ecologi et cetera but it's tree planting, we know already this is not the solution and I think the main difficulty in sustainability and ethical business is there is not a solution, or one solution that fits all and so you have to keep keep updating and keep informed and look around and it is exhausting because at the end of the day you also have a business to run, and you have to get money to feed your children or whatever it is, so it is an extra layer of difficulty I would say, and also you have a reputation now that you have to keep up. So yes, we're human but at the same time we do need to provide an example to other people and our clients and on social media, so it's a lot of pressure I think.Kate:
Yeah I feel like a double pressure both, as you say, to be keeping up with things so the more I've learned about digital footprint etcetera and the actions that you can take to minimise that and then as you say, you get busy, you're running your business and you realise that you're not really kind of impacting what you preach there. There's that pressure to constantly keep at it, but also the pressure I feel is to keep, because I really strongly believe it's crucial to communicate those changes you're making, the action you're taking, so it's like double whammy of pressure. Mandy: Because with being a shop it's quite easy for me as I've said to find the products fit with my values, but what it's not so good at is to show what you are doing aside from showcasing your products, so that comes back down to what I'm saying about the impact assessment for instance. I've signed up with too good to go which is about eliminating or reducing food waste, so any stock that's a little bit out of date or soon to be out of date, I create magic bags, somebody comes around they pay a third of the value, and that's a nationwide scheme for anybody, so many businesses have joined up but I don't necessarily tell people how much food I've saved in doing so, nor indeed planting trees or whatever else I might be doing it's all offsetting. That side of it falls down because it is just me doing everything and so some things just drop and that is the frustrating time of it, irrespective of the sustainability element or the ethical side running the business, there's just time to do everything so you make choices, you just do. In my case I make the choices to get the orders out, you know, do those kind of operational things, the things that hit you first you just get on with. Yeah and I find that frustrating too because I'm concentrating on getting projects out when really I would like to be spending more time as well on finding those clients who are making the positive change. Not all of the clients I work with are my ideal client in that sense so it's hard that balance. I would like to be spending more time to in turn increase my positive impact by working with more worthwhile, perhaps, clients but there isn't there always enough hours in the day. Alexis: Yeah Katherine, what sort of struggles do you have?Katherine:
I was just going to go back to that same point that I talked about with Virginia as well and on the money and the work of of ethics, and I think it's really difficult. Like how can we stand up and fight for the income generation that we need to support this and still feel ethical. Like that's a constant constant battle that people have. And for me it's like, I don't do well on that right, so I don't do well on that balance, I don't make enough at times and I'm always having to compensate with savings or past income and stuff when I don't push hard enough and then the question is like where do you stop? Where do you go? And this is one of the reasons I'm thinking about incorporating this sort of getting resourcing or getting funding side of things, to see how those projects can can build more. So that's really yeah, ultimately the struggle is like what compromises do I have to make on taking in that sort of money versus going out and trying to build it on my own. So it's like, it's always this, just balance.Virginia:
Katherine, this is something that I get a lot of clients who come with me with as a problem because, as I said before, I support sustainability professionals, so to sell sustainability ethically and that doesn't mean that I don't go through the same problem in a way, but then you have to give yourself a little pep talk in terms of what you're doing is actually pushing something that the world will benefit from. So when we sell our services or products and they are better products and services than others because they have that extra layer of ethical or sustainable etc, we are actually, well first of all serving our client better because we are addressing the issues, so that's the thing which is the same that another company could do without the extra layer of ethical and sustainable, is a double whammy like we said before. So when I think about my business in that sense, if I don't push my services out there that means that the potential clients will go to somebody that has not the same values as I have and they might not gain that momentum in pushing sustainability you know, support for example sustainability consultants to sell their services better, if they're not able to do that then their clients will miss out and it's like ripple effect. So I think for everyone in this room would be the same, unless we push our services out there the world will suffer. We don't know how much of a ripple effect we actually cause by even signing up one more client, and that's the thing that really motivates me to keep in business really because even if it's a small business we can have a massive massive impact that we don't even imagine.Katherine:
Yeah it's interesting and I'm going to say something controversial but I often wonder, because you know I've worked in big corporate and and now I work for myself I often wonder if I wouldn't make a bigger impact in a bigger space that had more resourcing than in my small space, I often wonder that, I often have that debate with myself, would I be able to create more change if I led social impact in one of these spaces and did more, and that's also a constant debate right and it's not that I don't think small businesses have impacts, I do, we are the most of the businesses around the world, right? We generate something like 70% of all the employed revenue that comes in but at the same time it's fundamentally the big companies have the biggest impact and the the biggest change needs to happen there.Virginia:
I'm gonna argue on one point only because it is true, some big company might have a bigger impact but think about Greta, which we seem to have forgotten about, a 16 year old at that time sitting with a hand-painted sign she made. She on her own, just her she moved the world and I think lots of things have changed as a consequence. It was just one little girl and I think a lot of the big thinkers that we might, I won't mention here, were single, one person with a big vision and I think we shouldn't forget that big vision but saying that, of course if you are in a bigger pond, you're big fish then you might have a bigger impact but not necessarily. Katie: Yeah, I feel the same Katherine. I feel exactly the same but the way I kind of rationalise it is I know that I work better in a space where I feel safe and supported and connected with the people I'm connected with. In a big corporation where I don't feel like I'm in my element, I don't feel like I'm, it's harder work and maybe you're better cut out to do it than I am and this is why you're struggling.Katherine:
I don't think that I am!Katie:
But I think the way I rationalise it to me is A) I'm trying to create a business here that actually supports the life that I want to lead as well as changing the world, not a big ask obviously! But I know that if I was working say in a big bank trying to change them from the inside I wouldn't be happy. I'm happy doing what I'm doing and if that means that I make slightly less impact as a result, at least I'm making an impact in a way that's actually making me feel a bit more whole and a bit less soulless and unsupported and like I'm fighting against a machine that just cannot be fought against. I kind of stay in my safe space with, my friendly space because I like all of you, I don't like working for a big company. Kate: So that comes back again to joy and skills so you're playing to your strengths there and I think that's crucial because everyone will have different strengths and operate better and be more comfortable in different environments yeah and some people really Yeah and some people really. I know someone who runs a pigeon sanctuary, bear with me here, a pigeon sanctuary, she's called Little Green Pigeon if you want to go and look her up on Instagram and she absolutely thrives on conflict, like it's her thing that she loves changing people's perceptions through conflict and it's like she genuinely loves it. That would just fill me with dread every day if I came onto my Instagram page and see comments, like anti-me comments, it would destroy me.Kate:
But we need people like that. Katie: Yeah and as you say different people thrive in different environments and in different ways of working and different ways of communicating and if it's working and it's helping you make an impact then great, but that kind of conflict is not for me!Alexis:
I think that's something that we we do tend to forget as well I think when we're talking about like sustainability and ethics, we tend to forget that like it needs to be sustainable for us as well, like we have to factor into it. It's not, to me anyway, like it's not ethical for me to prioritise all of the causes that I want to help above like me, that's not an ethical choice, I have to be looked after as well, I matter as well, and I think that that can cause some of that conflict is when we're having that debate of like but all of these things are so important and like I'll be fine if I don't make enough money for the next three months or whatever, I'll be fine if I don't speak to another human being for the next week, like these things. We're always prepared to make sacrifices for ourselves where we go without and that's actually, in my mind, not really that sustainable as a choice and not really that ethical, and it's also something that is kind of expected and there can often be push back when you don't make that sacrifice and you stand up and say "I am making this sustainable for me." Kate: Yeah but it doesn't serve that purpose either because, oh I hope I articulate this reasonably well. So absolutely Katie and Alexis, you've mentioned how the way you work et cetera it's got to be sustainable and ethical for you, it's got to allow you to live that life that you want to lead. And often with us it's so, for example in my case I need to earn more because I actually want to work less because I want to spend more of my time not sitting at my desk and down the allotment growing my own food, or in the community doing the local climate action that I desperately want to do and don't have time and resources to do because I need to be working all the time. And we are humans so why can't we think of ourselves as you know, whole people not just our work but you know, it's one element of our lives and and as humans the effect, the impact we can have as a whole holistically, if that makes sense.Katie:
Yes totally, and I think I'd much rather have a smaller impact on a long-term basis than go and have a big but very short-lived impact that results in me burning out or feeling awful about myself, so yeah, that sustainability from a personal point of view is huge for me as well.Mandy:
So going back to Katherine's point about the big businesses and the change needs to come from there and that is very true. If we want bigger change in our climate change if you like, it needs to come from those larger corporations but that's not to say that small businesses, and lots of small businesses collectively can make a bigger change and I've been reading loads about that. So since Covid there have been lots of small businesses that have set up, little entrepreneurs doing, they're selling this, to doing things as a result of it and that will have an impact to the bigger change. It doesn't need to come from the bigger corporation, corporate corporations but we have to be mindful of the fact that the big corporations are probably causing a lot of the damage, so if you can get in there and make that impact absolutely but, collectively, small businesses can also make change.Kate:
And also lead the way and I think that comes back to, or leads on to, thinking about consumers and the pressure they can put on the bigger corporations to change their ways because I think there is a growing tide of people choosing these smaller businesses, smaller more ethical sustainable businesses, that the evidence is there, that's what more and more people want and that's where pressure and system change will come from so sort of leading nicely onto the impact consumer choice can have. Mandy: I thought about this a lot and I really struggled with with how to sort of answer it, or how to, and it was like yes consumers, going on to your question Alexis, consumers can influence businesses by choice, by being careful about what they choose, but aside from that I did struggle with with what else really. Lobbying, yes but all of this then comes as what Katie was saying that, you know, sometimes time money, those constraints that we have as individuals influence how we buy and how we how we shop and whether you feel you actually make a difference. There are lots of people, if one was to look at studies, if they were to answer what stopped you, it would be "do I actually make a difference?" So if collectively lots of people think like that then I don't know how they, yeah, I struggled with this question. do you know um i also oneVirginia:
Do you know, I also one of my various things that I do is that I teach at Coventry university and this semester we looked at the behaviour, the science behind the behaviour of people adopting sustainability or not and it's really interesting because science is not conclusive in that sense and will driven by different things, price which I think could be a big element, sometimes it's not and it's just a justification, it's just you tell yourself oh it is costly when actually it might be social pressure, maybe the people you live with disagree with your choices. It can be as well availability or the fact that something is not as easy to use because it's sustainable, or it's not that accessible, so accessibility is another element. There's so many things that come into play when you think about the choice people make. For example here where I live in St Albans there's a lovely little shop that just sells zero waste products, produce, so you go there, you fill your bags and you come back with pasta and like that. Unfortunately it is more pricey because they try and source the best products etc etc. At the beginning I was like "oh my god, I'm gonna go there every week," and then I came with the reality of actually I need to stop and park or go on foot and because it's actually an awkward place with no parking so I need to go on foot and carry all this stuff with me, it's actually the practicality of things. I need to remember my bags, I need to remember my Tupperware or whatever it is. It is the practicality as well as the price for me that stopped me from going and now, bless them, they're closing because they don't have enough footfall. So it's not just one thing and it's very very hard for companies to actually understand what drives people but I think we are witnessing a momentum in which actually these things are going to become more obvious and they're going to become more accessible and I think for those of us that have been in this space for a few years you will see the difference, you know, between 10 years ago and now. We are already in a different world from what it was in terms of sustainability and accessibility of sustainable products or ethical services so it's just things are changing, it just takes time, and a lot of it is actually the society we're living in I believe.Katherine:
And I think as well, I was just going to say about habits, right, because the same way we're talking about we're implementing or integrating different aspects at different times, I think it's the same thing for the consumer base right, and it's it's not easy to adopt wholesale a whole bunch of new habits at once, you know. So people will make some incremental changes in their lives, there will be things that are harder to sacrifice than others because it will feel like a sacrifice until you socialise yourself around, you know, this is actually better than this option when I look at everything, you know. It just takes time, it just fundamentally takes time. And yes it's important for consumers, I think consumers make the biggest impacts on what businesses actually do, I think it's the only reason big businesses are changing today because of that relationship but it's also just on fundamental economics, right? I don't know if any of you've read Kate Raworth's book Doughnut Economics, I love that book, it's such a good, insightful book about how we manage economics today, and when you look at that it's like ultimately, if we continue to let the big get bigger they won't have customers, they won't have communities to buy from them, they won't be able to sustain what they're doing, and I think that that's becoming more and more evident to people, that fact that impact that we have as well as the companies. So I think it's really about habit forming and creating an environment to include that new habit incrementally, and it is going to be a journey but it will happen I think in the next three four years we will see, as Virginia says, a huge change.Katie:
Yeah, I think starting small is the way, isn't it. And another thing that has become really apparent to me from, it's not necessarily how you're approaching businesses and how to get businesses to change, but from a consumer point of view, from an individual point of view, communication is everything. Like I used to run a vegan food blog and the number of my friends who still come to me and go "oh, have you still got that recipe for that?" And like that is just, it's not even leading by example it's more just showing how these habits, these changes, these products can be quite easy once you get into the swing of it, and if 10 people say to me "can I have your vegan noodles recipe," then that's a win in my eyes and I'm not going and like standing up in front of all my friends going "this is why you should do this," but if they see a piece of clothing I'm wearing that just happens to be from a small sustainable brand then I'll share that with them and I'll let them know like this is where I got it from, this is why I've bought it, this is the difference I'm hoping to make, and just communicating your own journey and how some changes can be really easy and also communicating how some changes are not as easy and it can be a struggle, and like yes I was addicted to cheese once but I'm not anymore, like that kind of thing, and that kind of conversation just on a day-to-day basis with friends and family or sharing on your social media can be hugely powerful, even if you don't feel like you've got any influence people are watching and listening and taking notes.Kate:
100% and for me I think the biggest example in my life has been with cloth nappies. So out of my particularly close circle of friends I was the first one to have kids and use cloth nappies, not all the time not, not full-time, not from the start, various ups and downs with it because it's a bit of a journey! And I never once lectured anyone on that, I never went on, banged on about it, it was there, it was in their faces, they saw it in real life, and when they came to have kids so many of them messaged me when they were pregnant and asked for advice, "where do I start? What do I do? It's really confusing." So I gave them that advice and some kept with it, some didn't, but like you say, one person using reusable nappies, one reusable nappy a week is a win in my eyes! But there are so many instances of that yeah, it is just sharing your journey, 100%.Alexis:
Yeah, I think it's that normalising it as well, and normalising it but with honesty because I do think, like when I first went vegan there were so many things that I bought and tried because all the comments and the reviews were like "this is amazing! This is incredible!" And I swear to you people were just saying that because they wanted people to eat vegan, and I tried stuff and I was like "this is absolutely disgusting! I do not know why you think this is nice!" And I think it's okay to say like "this is a vegan product but it tastes vile," you know? It's okay to have that opinion and it's, so I think because we're so eager to make the change and to see everything shift, it can be really really tempting to make out that everything is amazing and everything is easy and why can't you just do this because I did it and it's fabulous! Kate: I had to force myself! Yeah, I had to force to say the truth and to be honest, like you say, and say you know actually cloth nappies could be really annoying when this happens and that happens but there might be a way around it, and it doesn't matter if you don't do it all the time and it doesn't suit you to do it this way or that way. Yeah, a really really important part of it. Yeah and I think that as well it's about dropping the judgment of yourself and of other people and allowing people to try things, allowing people to do like meat-free Monday, or use a cloth nappy once a week, or whatever it is, you know because it is like Katherine says it's habit forming and they're not gonna magically, overnight form a habit that they do this thing all the time, you know, people need to ease into it and learn how to do it because it is often a very different way of living, it's not as simple as oh you just replaced this for that, it's all the other things that go into it, and so it can be baby steps, it can be you know, well try this. And I think that's, I'm obviously going to be like this is where social media comes in, because I do think social media is a really powerful place to cheer people on who are trying and to, instead of responding with like Kate saying when planting planting the trees, instead of responding with like "that's not good enough, why are you, why did you choose that company? Why are you doing that and not this?" To respond more with like "that's amazing that you're doing that, here's what I learned, I was going to do that," and share your own experience, rather than coming at it from a place of like "you're not doing enough! You're not, how come you don't understand that this is wrong?" and that level of judgment. So I do think it is really helpful through social media to be able to put out, as well your own journey because you're then able to influence people without like Katie says, like having to stand up and go "hey I'm vegan and I eat these things and you should too," you just get to share your own like what you're eating, how you're living, what you're doing, and if people are interested they can say "well okay can you send me that recipe? Where did you buy that thing? How do you find doing this?" Virginia: Do you know what that does, Alexis, is a fundamental thing that human beings have in their mind otherwise we wouldn't be here now, it's to conserve, so to preserve the status quo as it is obviously because that's our instinct so we are generally speaking afraid of change, but the way forward in that sense and what you're saying about you know trying this or the social media element, is to lower the barriers. When you manage to lower the barriers to something which is completely unfamiliar for lots of people still, sustainability, ethical, etc, then you give them an opportunity to dip their toes into the water without falling into the water and sort of overcoming that fear of change, that fear of the difference which unfortunately is what create division in the world anyway. So I think the key for every ethical business is really to try and reduce that difficulty, that barrier, understand your customers so that you can help them along the way to say okay, it's not that scary, you can try it, if you don't like it no problem, you know, move on, it's okay, and I think that will make a huge difference from preaching like some people really like doing, especially in the vegan community, somehow you know preaching is the way forward but actually don't convince anyone with preaching, nobody wants to be preached at, so I think is that helpful, hopefully being helpful and lowering barriers that will make a difference.Katie:
Yeah definitely, and just being kind to people who are on a journey. I think like a lot of, I keep going on about the vegan thing because it's the the single biggest change, habits shift that I've made in my life but something that I always say to people is it took me 35 years to get to the point I'm at so I don't expect you overnight to go through this whole journey and go through all the thought processes that I went through because it took me until five years ago to get to that point. And different people have different priorities. That person might have been using solid shampoo for 20 years before I even knew it existed, like everybody, and I think you have to also be kind of understanding of other people's priorities, like someone else might care a lot more about not using plastic and about ocean plastic than they do about animal welfare and you have to understand and be compassionate about the fact that not everybody is going to have exactly the same set of priorities and in the same order as you are and the kinder we all are to each other about just making the small changes the better, because we like a bit of kindness don't we!Alexis:
Yeah and I will add as well for consumers who are looking to support, because obviously everybody knows you can buy from ethical businesses, like that's a no-brainer, but also engaging with ethical businesses on social media and reviewing their products and services, like please, if you have bought something, or somebody's bought you something as a gift, find out where it was from and go and leave a review, that makes such a huge difference, especially to small businesses and it's something that we often forget to do, especially if we really enjoyed a product. If we hated it we're much more inclined to come and leave a review! So a little challenge for everybody listening, go and leave a review. Find a product from an ethical business or a sustainable business that you have lurking around somewhere, go and leave a review for it so that you can support that business. Thank you so much for being here, this has been fabulous, I have very much enjoyed this chat. I will whiz round now and ask you to promote your most favourite social media profile, if anybody wants to find any of these wonderful people, all the links will be in the description so please go click around, but shout out your favourite social media profiles at the moment. Mandy.Mandy:
Goodness Goodies at Instagram. Oh do you mean my profile? I'm confused. Alexis: Yes your profile, yeah your profile.Alexis:
Kate.Stansfield.Translations Yeah Instagram probably, also over on LinkedIn.Katherine:
LinkedIn for me, so Katherine Byam on LinkedIn and Where Ideas Launch on Instagram, so that's my podcast. Virginia: For me is LinkedIn as well Virginia Cinquemani. I don't know whether but if you type, I suppose Virginia the Green Gorilla you will find me.Katie:
So I mainly hang out on Instagram and I'm Little Green Duck over there but you can also find me under my own name, Katie Skelton, on LinkedIn. Alexis: Very good, and I am Alexis Bushnell on Instagram and also LinkedIn. Thank you so much for being here, thank you for the the lovely comments we have had as well, this has been fabulous. Like I say, all of the links to everybody who has been here will be in the show notes, in the description, so you can go and follow them and support these fabulous businesses. Thank you for being here.Katherine:
And happy Earth Day to everyone!