7 tips for building an ethical business

Are you passionate about building an ethical business? 

Ethical businesses are those that try to minimise any negative impact they make on society or the environment. 

Every decision you make as an ethical business owner will be about considering the impact of your actions, products and services on humans, non-human animals and the environment.

In today’s blog, we’ve put together seven tips for building an ethical business that’s in line with your values and makes a positive contribution to the planet:

  1. Research your suppliers

If you’re building a product-based business, then it’s important to research the ethical credentials of everyone involved in the supply chain, from start to finish.

As much as you may be doing to run an ethical business, your reputation could be damaged beyond repair if it turns out that one of your suppliers is involved in unethical practices.

These are just a few of the questions you might want to ask:

– Are any of the products you plan to sell made in areas vulnerable to exploitation?

– What are the reporting, regulatory and licensing obligations of a product’s country of origin?

– Are those standards high enough or do you require more? Remember that manufacturing regulations vary from one country to another. It’s crucial to sell products that reflect your ethical and sustainable values.

– What are your suppliers’ environmental management practices?

– What is the environmental impact of a product and how does this tie into your own environmental aims?

– What is a supplier’s buying practice? For example, how do they incorporate their social responsibility?

By researching the provenance of all of your products and learning as much as possible about the ethical credentials of every supplier, you can reassure your customers that they’re using their buying power to invest in ethical consumption.

Even if your business doesn’t sell products, you’ll still need to look for ethical, eco-friendly suppliers. This includes everything from your web host to energy provider, printer or virtual assistant.

2. Choose an ethical bank

Where we store our money as business owners and individuals has consequences beyond our savings or growth potential.

Ultimately, banks are businesses. One of the ways they operate is to invest customer money in industries that are likely to deliver a profit. But these industries aren’t always ethical.

Some of the most well-known high street banks have a long history of investing in harmful commodities such as tobacco, oil and arms. They may also avoid paying taxes or contribute to services that might be harmful to society, such as gambling.

Fortunately, there is a growing number of ethical banks that offer business bank accounts. These banks refuse to invest in environmentally or ethically harmful industries. They also have ethical lending practices.

Choosing an ethical bank for your business is a proactive way to use your money for good.

3. Support local independent businesses

There are many powerful reasons to support local independent businesses. It strengthens the local economy and creates jobs within your community for starters!

In addition, local businesses tend to have a smaller carbon footprint than large, multi-national corporations. 

Like you, many independent business owners are passionate about creating products and services that champion local suppliers and are ethical and sustainable at all stages of the supply chain.

4. Use digital tools

Running a business requires a lot of administration. Thankfully, it’s possible to go pretty much paper-free these days, thanks to all of the digital tools and systems now available.

Here are just a few ideas to help make your business as environmentally-friendly as possible:

– Ask in-person customers if they want a printed receipt

– Send receipts by email for online orders

– Send out contracts in a PDF format and use a digital signing service like Hello Sign

– Conduct customer surveys using Google Forms or a service like Survey Monkey

– Store your files in the cloud using Google Drive or Dropbox

– Make sure that any printed marketing materials are made from sustainable paper sources and print limited runs with a PDF version available

Use a digital business card

Nowadays, you can even do all of your billing and accounting digitally. Leading accounting software systems integrate with the systems most qualified accountants use, meaning they can connect to your books without any printouts.

5. Save energy

The business sector is currently estimated to produce around 17% of the UK’s greenhouse emissions so it’s important that you do as much as possible to save energy.

You might want to try the following tips:

– Activate power management systems on your computers during the day and shut down all tech at night

– Maximise natural light in your business premises and use light, bright colour schemes

– Use motion-sensitive, environmentally-friendly lights when natural lighting isn’t enough

– Choose suppliers who generate energy from sustainable, renewable sources

– Explore ways to save water such as dual flush toilets or push taps in your staff or customer rest rooms   

6. Reduce unnecessary travel

One thing the Coronavirus pandemic has shown us is that many businesses can be run virtually. If you can run meetings, presentations or events from a home-based office then this can help to reduce the environmental impact of your business.

If you do need your staff to travel to work, look at ways you can enable and encourage them to use environmentally-friendly means of transport, such as travelling by foot, bike or scooter.

7. Reduce, recycle and reuse

At each stage of building your ethical business, it’s important to think about how you can help your customers and employers to reduce, recycle and reuse as much as possible.

This could include giving your employees reusable lunch boxes to bring to work or reducing food waste from your canteen by donating to a local food scheme or selling produce to staff at a discounted price at the end of the day.

You might have relevant recycling bins or even sign up to community initiatives to recycle things like crisp packets or Tetra Paks. You could even offer to act as a drop-off and collection point.

Is your ethical and vegan business listed on Ethical Globe yet? We’d love to hear from you and include your business in the Ethical Globe directory.

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