Start Green, Stay Green. Part 2
- August 18th, 2016
- 5 mins READING TIME
The 5 key elements of green business
A decade ago, Nick Ritar and Kirsten Bradley were knee deep in city life. Based in Melbourne, Nick worked a corporate job and the couple both travelled a lot, leaving little time to share their passion for food and family.
Then, they took stock.
“The lifestyle that we were living didn’t really reflect our values particularly well,” recalls Nick.
The couple had always harboured strong environmental values and were determined to reconnect with those principles. They moved to the country and explored permaculture, the method of creating socially, economically and ecologically sustainable settlements.
“(Permaculture) provided a framework for us on how to live, but we were also interested in extending the reach of permaculture and the audience and those ideas,” says Nick.
Enter Milkwood, a permaculture ‘school’ providing resources and training to help people “live and awesome organic life”.
The eco business was a fulltime prospect for both Nick and Kirsten from day one – “we jumped straight in the deep end”, but it took years before the business was profitable enough to support the family. The wait, though, was worth it.
As Nick and Kirsten discovered, starting a new business isn’t easy. Veromo itself exists for this very reason. Sure, there’s plenty of excitement, and rightfully so. But there can also be challenging roadblocks along the way.
That’s why, for many entrepreneurs, the commitment to green business practices is an after thought or, worse, never given a thought at all. But implementing eco ethics during the start-up phase is an important consideration.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) produce about one third of the national GDP. This substantial impact on the economy is mirrored by the influence of SMEs on the natural environment.
While it may seem overwhelming, there are a number of ways businesses can apply social responsibility and environmentally sustainable methodologies.
These 5 key elements of green business will help keep you on track.
An underlying respect for the environment, for society, for equality and for customers’ values is at the foundation of sustainable business practices.
Nick says acknowledging our complex daily relationship with the environment will help business owners maintain their interest in eco practices.
“It comes back to having respect for our place within the natural world,” he says.
“Any kind of business activity you take on that is detrimental to the world around you is detrimental to ourselves too.”
While Nick and Kirsten have held strong eco values from a young age, others have taken a more recent interest in environmental sustainability. Either way, staying true to your ethics, even when letting them slide seems a whole lot easier, is key to building a genuine green business.
“Anything less than complete integrity and we’re really just fooling ourselves,” says Nick.
“If you have really strong connections into other organisms, other entities, other businesses, other people then your structure becomes integral and important to that ecosystem.
“Integrity is 100 per cent required to maintain and improve those connections.”
There are numerous challenges when it comes to starting a business and committing to environmental sustainability will create additional hurdles. But while the effort might seem expensive or time-consuming up front, the rewards are handsome.
“There’s a huge amount of demand out there for businesses that are working to improve the environment, but the reality is that to do that we have to do business in a new way and that new way isn’t always the easiest path,” says Nick.
“You need to have faith and be persistent.
“It took us a while to get up to speed and get our business profitable but now it’s fantastic.”
Implementing environmentally sustainable business practices is a work in progress. A willingness to acknowledge and improve imperfections is as important as the original commitment to going green.
“People are going to make mistakes, always,” says Nick.
“When you do put your values forward, you’re more likely to have them questioned and you need to be ready to not just answer those questions but accept those questions…and be prepared to change the way that you work.”
For some, social responsibility is an exercise in public relations, which is why transparency will set you apart. Stakeholders are wise to greenwashing. Open, honest communication offering a deep insight into green business practices will help establish trust.
“We’ve exposed a lot of our family life publicly in the way we’ve done business,” says Nick.
“Our blog is key to our business success.
“It means that a lot of our followers know our values from that window into our lives and that’s been critical.”
For more information on environmental sustainability in business, click here for Part 1 of our Start Green, Stay Green series.
Photography courtesy of Phu Tang