Everyone’s path to launching a sustainable business is different and the path to a successful launch is paved with unique barriers and opportunities. You are most likely reading this article because you have a very personal motivation to create a business that will solve an issue that is important to you. In a climate where innovation and design are increasingly focused on delivering against sustainable development goals, there has never been a better time to make the leap. Let your ambition to make a positive impact take the wheel and strap in for a fun ride.
I have always been passionate about the natural environment and the world we live in but with the birth of our children, my awareness of the increasing cost of overconsumption grew to a level that I couldn’t ignore any longer. Fuelled by equal amounts of frustration and dedication, I started searching for brands that offered better alternatives. However, the process of researching and vetting products and brands is time-consuming. When I couldn’t find one platform that offered me what I needed, I decided to create one myself. Curated online marketplace Nash + Banks was officially launched in 2018.
We offer conscious consumers an easy way to discover and shop for brands and products that are committed to having a positive impact on people and the planet. Along the way, I have had the privilege of connecting with an inspiring community of change-makers, innovators, and artisans all dedicated to rewriting our future. I have spoken with many of them about their trials and missteps on the journey of launching a sustainable business. However, out of those mistakes have come some key pieces of advice that will put anyone looking to start a sustainable business on the right path.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Before launching your business, it’s critical to identify what sustainability means to your business and your team. Ask yourself: “What core values do I want my business aligned with? What beliefs are most important to us?” Sustainability is a complex concept that covers a large number of areas from climate action and waste reduction to ethical production practices and reduced inequalities, so streamlining your focus is essential. Doing this and having a clearly defined outline of the core values you adhere to will lay the foundation for many of the business decisions that you will be faced with.
Continuing on my point above, I believe it’s also important to recognise that some sustainable objectives will be achievable from the outset whilst others may be goals that you work towards achieving. For instance, on the one hand, implementing minimal waste and avoiding plastic in packaging can be achieved (at cost) given the exciting amount of new packaging companies that offer compostable and eco-friendly options.
That said, from a cost and skills perspective, some of your goals might not be immediately achievable. But don’t get discouraged! It’s completely normal (and understandable) that you can’t tackle everything at once, especially if you’re just getting started. However, it’s important that from the outset, you establish the sustainable practices that you can and that you commit to achieving and improving towards your more ambitious goals as the finances and opportunities become available. Build this into your roadmap for future business practices and remember that any change for the better, no matter how small, shows a consistent commitment to bettering every aspect of your business.
Hold strong to your beliefs
Making the conscious decision to hold firm to your beliefs every day is worthwhile, but it isn’t easy. I’ve spoken to many businesses who have admitted that the choices they make aren’t always the easiest or the most cost-effective options. So why do they do it then? Because, as so many of them have stated, “It’s the right thing to do.” The fact is that we won’t know how much we truly value something until we’re willing to give up something else in order to get it. Or, as Bill Bernbach says, “principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money”. Stick to your values and let them guide you as you build your business with everything from the bank you align with to the producers you bring on board.
With sustainability being such a huge focus these days, you’ll see a lot of companies laying claim to being “sustainable”. Unfortunately, because of this, consumers have become wary of greenwashing. If you’re planning on launching a sustainable business, you need to cut through all the noise with clearly defined and articulated values. I can’t stress this enough. Be transparent about your processes and your product, and demonstrate a continued commitment to improving the aspects of your offering that might take longer to hit the desired standard. Doing this will do wonders when it comes to establishing trust with your customers and delivering products with purpose.
Do your homework
Remember when I said that holding fast to your values isn’t always easy? Part of being transparent also means knowing the ins and outs of your business operations. This means you need to do your homework on the processes, materials, manufacturing for your business and apply for all the necessary certifications. In short – know your stuff. Whether you’re looking at applying for BCorp status (something that we at Nash+Banks are in the process of doing), earning accreditation for cruelty-free status or specific ethical or manufacturing certifications, make sure you have double dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s.
Connect with like-minded communities
Last (but certainly not least), take the time to connect with the awesome sustainable and value-driven brands that are already doing great things for the community. At Nash+Banks, for example, we have a dedicated online group where brands can collaborate, network and support each other. There’s an enormous wealth of information amongst this innovative community so take advantage of it. These are people who have had to reshape and redefine traditional methods of operating, manufacturing, packaging… you name it! The more that we, as a community, work together, the more we strengthen the offering, choice and opportunity for sustainable brands to become the easiest choice.
Many of the brands I work with are often presented with more problems than solutions – it comes with the territory of changing the world. But what drives each and every one of them is the burning passion to use these problems as fuel to create alternative ways of working, producing or designing. Launching a sustainable business isn’t easy but it’s one of the most worthwhile things that you can do. If you’re someone who is always searching and pushing for ways to make things better, then this is the right time for you.
Niccii Kugler is the founder of NASH + BANKS, a curated online marketplace for sustainable businesses officially launched in 2018.