Writing for Business Advice, Amanda MacKenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, considers how small companies can be a leading influence on local sustainability.
As a small business, it can be easy to be over-awed by the big movers and shakers in your sector and to underestimate the impact that you can have on customers, partners and the community around you.
Every day in my role at Business in the Community I come across organisations of all shapes and sizes that have made positive decisions about the way they operate or their priorities, which have ricocheted out to the world around them in great or small ways.
As Marc Benioff, founder of American cloud computing company, Salesforce, and noted philanthropist, said: “In business, we say that people overestimate what you can do in a year and underestimate what you can do in a decade. This is true in philanthropy as well.”
Fixing your eyes on your long-term impact and daring to dream of alternative ways of working is a key characteristic of any successful business leader. Taking a risk and trying something new may be costly, it may not work, but there is a chance it could change the world forever.
And how do you change the world forever? One step at a time.
An example of a small business that is demonstrating how you can make a real difference and be a catalyst for good in the community and industry is The Lakes Free Range Egg Company, a family-run business supplying organic and free range eggs. It won the award for Environmental Leadership at our Responsible Business Awards ceremony last year because of its impressive commitment to animal welfare, enhancing the environment and minimising its carbon impact.
Based near Penrith, it achieves this by planting trees indigenous to the area, encouraging hens to range further and wildlife to return to farms. All of its producers adopt the same sustainability model, and the company’s hen performance is industry leading – its birds produce an incredible 312 eggs per year, compared to an industry average of 295, generating £2 to £3 more income per bird. It’s a profitable and replicable model.
David Brass, the CEO of The Lakes Free Range Egg Company has always been ambitious in his approach. He has set his company’s agenda and blazed a trail, which others have then followed.
Remarkably, the Lakes has persuaded McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, to include tree planting in its supplier specification and has conducted research in conjunction with McDonald’s and Bristol University that has proved the benefits of trees to hens.
This is proof that even the smallest supplier in the biggest, global supply chain can make its presence felt and views heard.
It also demonstrates that sustainable practices can be commercially viable. With 66 per cent of consumers willing to pay more for sustainable goods, according to a study by Nielsen, in the last three years sales for The Lakes have grown 17 per cent to £30m – a clear indication that being good to the environment can also be good for the bottom line.
Another Responsible Business Awards winner, Parcelly, was launched in 2014 with the aim of disrupting the last mile logistics sector to eliminate failed deliveries and turn online shoppers back towards high streets, thereby deepening a sense of local community.
This vision is central to Parcelly’s business model, which uses app-based technology supported by a donation of five per cent of each transaction to offset its carbon footprint. As a result of its streamlined service, Parcelly has seen a 21.9 per cent reduction in delivery vans compared to a traditional delivery approach.
It’s no secret that being an ethical, responsible business can result in a positive work environment and engaged employees, as well as build customer loyalty. A survey by the consultancy Global Tolerance discovered that almost half the workforce (42 per cent) want to work for an organisation that has a positive impact on the world.
With available skills becoming increasingly scarce, need to find ways to stand out in the crowd to attract the very best talent. Adopting responsible business practices – whether it’s reducing your carbon footprint, supporting your employees or working with your local community – can do this and so much more.
There are so many companies in the UK that are worthy of the spotlight and so many ways in which businesses of all sizes can act responsibly. That’s why every year we run the Responsible Business Awards. We’ve seen The Lakes and Parcelly recognised for their pioneering work, alongside Barclays for championing apprenticeships for the older-generation, social enterprise SunnyMoney for distributing affordable solar lights in rural Africa, and Anglian Water crowned Responsible Business of the Year for its Love Every Drop vision.
Responsible business practices come in all shapes and sizes and we want to celebrate them all. If you think your company could be award-winning, why not enter the awards this year? There is no greater honour than to be championed as a leader amongst your peers.
Amanda MacKenzie is chief executive of Business in the Community
How your small business can embrace Corporate Social Responsibility in 2018 and make a difference
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