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Founding an Eco-friendly Company: 3 Important Takeaways

Beth Owens May 15, 2019

Just a decade ago, eco-friendly brands and products had a pretty niche following. Today, they have the potential to become mainstream powerhouses without compromising on their values. In fact, it’s exactly because of these values that they are finding success. Companies such as Lush Cosmetics and TOMS have built their global presence from sustainable foundations, and consumers trust them because of these commitments. But what does setting up an eco-friendly company really mean in 2019? We got some input from our founder Josh Bowden on the three biggest things he has learned from founding the eco-packaging company noissue:

Takeaway 1:

“If you are an eco-friendly company from the start, you don’t face the same pressures or indecision that comes with changes in this area. ”

Being eco-friendly from the get-go as a start-up may seem intimidating. But you are far better prepared for the expectations surrounding corporate social responsibility. At noissue, we’ve always pitched ourselves as the eco-friendly custom packaging solution. Everything from our FSC-certified paper to our tree-planting program revolves around this mission. But in the past few years, an eco-friendly outlook has become important for businesses in any industry. Consumers now expect a business to demonstrate social and environmental responsibility, even if ‘sustainability’ isn’t a core part of their brand image,

Today, more than 90 percent of CEOs say that sustainable practices are central to their company’s success. This is a trend that is being driven from the bottom-up. BBMG’s Conscious Consumer report highlights just how dramatically consumer priorities have changed. Traditional metrics such as price and convenience are being edged out in favor of criteria like energy efficiency and fair labor practices. The takeaway here is obvious: eco-friendliness isn’t just a fad — it’s an approach to business which is here to stay.

But terms like sustainability and eco-friendly are deliberately broad. They describe a mindset rather than a specific set of practices. If a business doesn’t have the internal expertise to help guide changes in this direction, it can be hard to know where to start. Searching ‘top tips for sustainability in the workplace’ is only going to get you so far!

It’s often hardest for businesses who are well-established. Although they may have the resources to implement more sustainable practices, this means a big shift in company culture. You need to take the time and resources to educate your customer base, your employees, and your shareholders. It also means building an alternative vision for your company. None of this can happen overnight.

So, for those businesses starting out now, pay attention. Implementing a clear framework from the start, as opposed to years down the line, is far easier and more cost-effective for your business!

Takeaway 2:

“Attracting like-minded staff who are on board with your values and vision is key.”

Building a successful eco-friendly business is all about shared values. The people you work with need to be on board with what you are aiming to achieve, or this can have a knock-on effect on your brand direction. Would PETA hire someone to work for them who didn’t care about animal rights? Obviously, the answer is no — they just wouldn’t be the right fit. It’s no different for brands!

Your staff behind the scenes are integral to running a sustainable operation, and an eco-friendly outlook is also very attractive to potential employees. Multiple studies have shown that companies with strong sustainable commitments are considered more desirable to work at. Why? Because setting new norms in environmental responsibility gives people a sense of pride in what they are contributing to. By wearing your heart on your sleeve, you are far more likely to attract talent which will help you build a strong brand culture.

Takeaway 3:

“Timing is everything!”

At noissue, we were very fortunate with the timing of when we launched (back in 2017). If a packaging company had tried launching eco-friendly packaging solutions in the post-2008 recession, it would have been a lot more difficult to gain traction. Sustainability wasn’t on the radar the way it is now, and there were more immediate issues at play.

When the economy takes a nose-dive, it’s pretty safe to say that the environment isn’t really a key concern for most businesses or consumers. It’s easy to argue it should be, with shrinking biodiversity and plastic pollution being some of the biggest issues in the world today. But in practice, it rarely works that way. ‘The environment’ feels hard to pin down, and most businesses get preoccupied with what is right in front of them. This is one of the most challenging parts of a being an eco-friendly business. You need to convince people to look long-term, instead of thinking about short-term profits and bottom lines.

But this is definitely changing. It’s mostly down to consumers being more vocal about what they want in the brands they support. More and more businesses are taking on board that they need to adapt or face damaging their brand’s credibility. This is the case even in something as specific as packaging. A study by Mckinsey & Company found that packaging is the biggest “green premium” that consumers are willing to pay to ensure a lower environmental impact. It’s just one example of how consumers are ready and willing to make changes to their purchasing habits.

It isn’t easy trying to break the mold and find different ways of doing business, but we are in a time where consumers and shareholders are more receptive to this than ever before. The concept of the triple bottom line, where the people, the planet, and profit have equal importance, is no longer radical; it’s common sense. In sum, there has never been a better time to be a business providing sustainable solutions.

Stakeholder Capitalism
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