Reflections on growing a sustainable business

A guest expressed to me today that what really sets Eco Retreats apart from other places is that the greater purpose of the wilderness experience is at the centre of the offering, and that the company’s principles come first. I felt so happy that our commitment to being a sustainable business is resonating with our guests. Of course, we always love it when guests have a great time relaxing and enjoying the forest. Our aim is also to inspire – and you can read more about our conscious living vision here.

Over the winter, I did some work for a large consumer goods company on its sustainable agriculture policy and programs. Part of the work was to demonstrate the importance of sustainable business to the leaders of the organisation. For many of us, the importance of actions such as ensuring that workers are treated fairly, that soil and water is not polluted, that illegal deforestation is not supported and that produce grown is healthy and free of harmful levels of chemicals is self-evident. I believe leaders of corporations are custodians of these basic human and environmental rights and need to be guided by their own moral compass and ethical framework to make good decisions. If you want to learn more about this triple bottom-line approach, have a look at the work that B Lab is doing to certify companies worldwide as B Corporations

Given the complexities of corporations’ incentives and the cost associated even with understanding, let alone mitigating, the negative impact distant suppliers may be having on society and the environment, we also presented a “business case” for sustainable business. The business case hinges on the growing importance of brand values. There is a lot of research that shows that consumers – especially younger consumers – increasingly identify more with the brand values than the product itself. They want to buy brands they trust, brands that take a stand for something that they themselves believe in. They want to buy brands that inspire them and that they are proud to be associated with. When leaders are ready to move beyond simply mitigating negative impacts, the next step in their journeys is looking at making a positive impact on society and the environment, beyond financial return. The B Analytics platform and GIIRS rating system are some industry-leading tools that can support leaders and companies in achieving their positive impact goals. 

As trust in Governments, media, NGOs and big business remains low, ethical, values-based and sustainable business becomes even more important. Regulation is often absent or not enforced, and information may be hard to come by. As consumers, we need to have faith in companies themselves, and have access to third-party assurances that those companies are operating within a code that we are comfortable with, and that they are being truthful with regarding the realities of their operations and sourcing policies. For companies committed to sustainable business, now is the time to build trust with consumers, and personal relationships where possible. Now is the time to invest in supply chain transparency. Now is the time to be honest and share your values and principles, the time to be vulnerable and risk losing customers if need be to act with integrity. Not only is it the right thing to do, but I truly believe your business has the greatest chance of flourishing when its broader mission is placed at the centre. This will increasingly be the case as consumer consciousness increases.

The rise of SMEs (small-medium enterprises) and the role they play in developing inclusive economies has been recognised for a long time. Now they are at the forefront of the move towards values-based and sustainable business, while larger corporations sometimes struggle to keep up.

We have so many options today to support vibrant, innovative, ethical, and sustainable business. And where we find a gap – a product we want to see, or a principle not yet fully embodied by the existing companies – with modern technology and the advent of crowd-funding, it has also never been easier to start up a new company.

I’m so passionate about the potential of sustainable business, and am working behind the scenes on the early stages of an Eco Retreats community to connect with more like-hearted guests, teachers, influencers, eco retreats and entrepreneurs so we can better support each other to be this change in the world. Our community platform will feature many of the resources mentioned in this article and we’ll all be there to provide support to one another on our journeys. Sign up for our mailing list to be among the first to find out about our new community initiative. 

We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts. – Pema Chodron

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Margaret Rose

Margaret Rose

Margaret is a mother, entrepreneur, traveller and writer. Her love affair with wild places began many years ago as she lived and worked in some of the most remote areas of Africa. She and her family lived off-grid for 7 years and experienced first-hand the joys and frustrations of “voluntary simplicity.” Today, she is passionately committed to creating beautiful spaces which allow people to slow down and reconnect. She is a firm believer in the power of the thousand tiny choices we all make every day to change the world.
Margaret Rose

Margaret Rose

Margaret is a mother, entrepreneur, traveller and writer. Her love affair with wild places began many years ago as she lived and worked in some of the most remote areas of Africa. She and her family lived off-grid for 7 years and experienced first-hand the joys and frustrations of “voluntary simplicity.” Today, she is passionately committed to creating beautiful spaces which allow people to slow down and reconnect. She is a firm believer in the power of the thousand tiny choices we all make every day to change the world.
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