October 6, 2021
For entrepreneurs, scaling and sustainability can sometimes be made to feel like opposites. Your business may have started with the best intentions and a clear set of values, yet as plans for growth take shape, it certainly becomes harder to ensure these are met when faced with pressure to keep costs low.
Greenness and growth certainly do not have to be so opposed. As the realities of a changing climate intensify it is becoming increasingly demanded that businesses of every size and sector play their part.
Returning to those first sustainability goals does not just help the planet, the brand built on ethical and sustainable practices is certainly to your customers and stakeholders. Never underestimate the intelligence of consumers while overestimating their loyalty. This was certainly the case for Oatly, an alternative milk brand that has recently faced criticism and backlash from its consumers last year after the private equity firm Blackstone bought a large stake in the business. The calls for boycott followed, as customers perceived betrayal of Oatly’s values due to the alliance with the equity firm whose wider portfolio is linked with Amazon deforestation. All this proves that keeping your greenness during periods of growth is not purely concerned with the environment, it’s also linked with your profit margin too.
Nevertheless, the right path is not always the easiest. When opportunities present themselves, it can be tempting to compromise and cut corners, but it is key to remain purpose-driven. This is because, for start-up brands, a well-crafted brand identity is an asset and one that can bring excellent value to your business. A remember this identity is continually being shaped by the series of decisions you make on a day-to-day basis.
So, what proactive steps can business leaders take to ensure that sustainability is not compromised for quick growth?
1) Frameworks & Accreditation Schemes.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals currently act as the backbone to many businesses, including the likes of Unilever. A guideline for many, this is a good place to start for businesses yet to define their own sustainability story. For those looking to go one further, B Corp accreditation could be a serious option - although be ready for a long wait to become a member, B Corp is rigorous in its criteria and can smell greenwash from a mile off.
2) Supply Chain Decisions.
When meeting new manufacturers or suppliers, or even enlisting new team members, don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo – innovation comes from rethinking processes that have always been done a certain way. Be sure to learn from competitors, although remember that sustainability is not a competition, but an opportunity to share knowledge for a positive impact on the planet.
3) Continue to meet customer needs.
Remember that doing so does not have to be opposed to the best environmental practice. As has been proven by the success of reusable drinks bottles and coffee cups, consumers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious. This is particularly the case in instances where sustainable alternatives are available and are financially practical.
As you look to take your business from strength to strength and naturally aim to increase profits, stay true to your brand identity, and use your growth opportunities to evolve it in line with your sustainability goals and values. Here at Netherside, we are here to support you and your business as you look to scale up, whether with strategic consultancy or for valuation. To get in touch, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org