Jemma Collins speaks with Jill Poet, whose network encourages small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to act more responsibly and ethically – simply because it is a “good way to do business”.
Jill Poet is the managing director of the Organisation for Responsible Businesses (ORB), which she set up in 2009. She wants to leave a legacy as evidenced by the company’s mission statement, “Changing the world – one small business at a time.”
At a basic level, ORB is a business membership for ethical small businesses. It aims to support and promote members and provides them with information and advice around the areas of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. At a higher level there is an auditable certification, the Responsible Business Standard, designed specifically for small businesses.
SMEs are defined as any business with less than 250 employees and they play a huge part in the business sector, with recent government statistics showing they make up 99% of businesses in the UK. SMEs employ more than 14 million people and are estimated to make up nearly 50% of the UK economy, so the potential for growth and change in this sector is huge.
Research in January this year found that for a quarter of SMEs sustainability is among their top three priorities.
However, as shown by the research, small businesses often don’t include the wider concepts of CSR within their approach to sustainability. Poet believes there are millions of SMEs that could be encouraged to do more, which in turn would create positive change both for business and society.
“Considering people and the environment is just a good way to do business. Our research showed there was a huge gap in the marketplace. That’s why we decided to launch ORB; to drive that agenda forward for the small business marketplace,” Poet explains.
Poet’s background as a management accountant, working on a very hands-on basis with SMEs, was more involved with the financials of the business world. But various projects of her own created a greater awareness of sustainability on a broad, holistic level and seeing the gap in the market place, she was determined to show small businesses how important it is to embrace the wider sustainability agenda.
She adds, “If you want a profitable, sustainable business your reputation is key. Adopting an ethical approach to how you run your business is absolutely essential.”
Membership of ORB is for businesses with the right mindset – they don’t have to be perfect, but Poet says they just need to want to make a difference and be keen to make a positive step in the right direction.
“If a small business owner does care about people and the environment, as a lot of them do, but doesn’t know where to start, or feels they haven’t got the money or the time, we welcome them to come on board,” she says.
“If they’ve got the right mindset then we can nurture them and give them a bit of information and encourage them to improve.”
Potential members need to apply for membership by completing an online questionnaire. They receive an immediate detailed response and if they have attained the appropriate score they will be invited to join the organisation, use the Responsible Business Member logo and have an entry in the Responsible Business Directory.
Poet urges businesses to “be part of the movement”. She adds, “It shows that being a responsible business is important to you but actually you’ll get commercial benefits from membership as well because a lot of our members are on page one of Google.”
If businesses want something more substantial, they can take the separate auditable certification, the Responsible Business Standard. Businesses need to stay ahead of the curve and ensure they can demonstrate their ethical and responsible actions. Whoever their customer is, this can provide competitive advantage and could even help them win tenders for public or private sector contracts.
So what does the future hold for ORB?
“We’ll continue to show small businesses that considering people and considering the environment is just good business. There’s nothing soft and fluffy about it; it’s the only way forward. Sustainability starts with sustaining families, communities, sustaining businesses and this world for the future.”
Poet thinks the sustainability market will continue to grow, with a gradual move away from the old way of doing things. Customers are more aware than ever of environmental and ethical issues and this influences their decision making process.
She concludes, “You can’t just think about the bottom line without considering people, without considering the environment. People want to buy from ethical companies that support the local community.
“It’s often not that SMEs are not interested it’s just that it’s not their top priority. So we need to show them that by prioritising those things more it will actually help their business be more profitable, reduce overheads, increase their competitive advantage. All those things that will help their business.
“It is exciting, there’s a long, long way to go, but yes we’ll get there. We’re determined to leave a legacy.”
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.