Green comes in many colours. Environmental. Eco. Ecological. Circular economy. ESG (environmental, social, governance). Carbon offset. Carbon neutral. Carbon positive. And many, many more. But sadly, by far the most common is either greenwash or only partially thought through and implemented.
But why does this matter in a ‘Back to Basics’ series? Actually. It matters very much. No matter how passionate you may or may not be personally about caring for the environment, the truth is that doing the right thing is also actually very good for business.
The vast majority of consumers are now looking at playing their part in protecting and saving our planet by reducing the damage that we do and reducing the amount of resources that are used. What is so good is that ‘people power’ and their buying decisions has a direct impact on sales and therefore businesses as it influences how and where people spend money.
Those businesses that do not recognise the seismic shift in recent years and do not act accordingly will see sales decline. And the speed of decline will only increase in the future. Thankfully, younger generations are much more passionate about the environment than many older people have been in the past, and an ever increasing number of start-ups and early-stage businesses are being established either to tackle the problems directly or at least to have such thinking as an integral part of the business.
However, a very common mistake that many founders make is to not think everything through in a logical way, and indeed all the way from beginning to end. This failure means that the business’s green ethics do not stand up to scrutiny and, as such, may well put off buyers and potential investors.
Examples of this may be by using too much packaging or the packaging not being both manufactured from recycled material and itself being recyclable. Or it may be by manufacturing or sourcing your product in China or some other remote location that then means that it has to be transported from the other side of the world. Even the way a website is constructed can consume more or less amounts of power every time it is opened, or social media posts are made.
If you claim that your business is green and ethical when in fact it has only been greenwashed or important aspects of it remain far from green, then that will undermine not only the environmental claims, but it can also undermine the entire business. This is because it can be taken that you have either not understood major aspects of your business or, even worse, you have deliberately tried to mislead buyers.
Whilst being green can come at increased production costs, often buyers are prepared to pay a premium knowing that the company matches their own ethos. In many instances it is early-stage businesses that both recognise the opportunities caused by the shift in awareness and are the first to do something about it. It is of course easier to establish a business with a green business model outlook in the first place than it can be to change procedures, procurement, supply chains, and all other aspects for a large, long-established business. And it is for that reason that start-ups are at such an advantage.
So, thinking and acting green, in whatever form that takes, can only be a good thing for both the planet and for business, but do make sure that it is fully thought through and actioned. As with everything with an early-stage business, do the right things for the right reasons, and do it well, and it will increase your chances of success and going green is definitely a very positive and very basic target to be aiming at.