Why Sustainable Business?

Listed Under: Blog, Circular Economy, Sustainable Business

Why Sustainable Business?


Why do sustainable business? Sustainability isn't just about saving the planet, it's a business opportunity. Eoin McQuone explains how helping to create the circular economy can help your business innovate and grow. He gives examples of sustainable business and the circular economy in action.

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There are three key messages I'd like you to take out of my talk today.
1. The first one is that sustainability isn't a cost or a burden to be shouldered, it's a business opportunity.
2. It's an opportunity to leave a positive legacy for the next generation, and the world.
3. It's a journey, not a destination, which means that you and your business can do it and you can take the first step today. You don't have to do it on your own. There are people around like me who can lend you a hand.

So let me introduce myself properly before we go on. I'm the Owner and Managing Director of Sustainable Business Design.I've worked for over 30 years in industry started in engineering, spent much of my career in marketing, and ended up as a director at a local business in Cheltenham, Kohler Mira, you may know it as Mira Showers. And I've also had a couple of stints running my own business, of which this is one.

These are the two people most important in my life. My wife is deputy head of a school in Worcestershire. We've been married for 25 years. My daughter is 16, she's doing her A levels. She loves everything about the theatre. So you can imagine every day is High School Musical at our house.Outside of work, I'm passionate about running. It's great for physical and mental fitness. I'm a member of the CLC Striders Running Club in Cheltenham. You might also find me at the weekend,strutting my stuff with, the UK's leading tribute to Dire Straits, "Dire Streets". 

But most importantly, I'm an optimist! And I believe the business with its capacity for innovation and reinventing itself really can help solve some of our most pressing issues.
Before I talk about what some of those issues might be,
I'd like to ask you a question:
What if you could sell every product that you make 20 times over?
What would that do for your business?
Well, here's a business that does just that.

Repack make reusable packaging for online businesses. The businesses that use Repack,when they send the product to their customer, it goes in this instead of single use packaging. It's got a return address on, so if the consumer wants to return it, it goes back to the store. But the difference is,
if they want to keep the product, they post the package back to Repack. And this package is designed to be used 20 times. Just one sale gives them more margin than a single use package would. And they're selling it at least 20 times making 20 times the profit. That sounds like a good business model to me.

Another question.
What if you could guarantee a regular monthly or annual income from every product sale, forever?
What would that do for your business?
Well, here's a business that does just that.

Mud Jeans, they're a Dutch jeans company. In fact, I'm wearing a pair. Instead of selling their jeans,
they lease them. So, once I've paid my membership fee, I pay €7.50 a month to lease these jeans. Why the Mud do that?Because cotton is a very expensive commodity, and by leasing it, when I've finished with it, it goes back to them.
And they can either resell it as vintage or they can ensure it's recycled. It helps them control their input costs, prevents the cotton going to landfill, and as a consumer, it's
much easier to purchase because I've not a single big payment,
and I can get the good feeling of having guilt free fashion. So it works all ways around.

One final question,
What if you got your materials for free?
It sounds, curious, is that really possible?
Well, here's a business that's doing just that.A small business based in London called Block London,they employ 24 people making foam furniture for corporate environments. The foam that they get is waste material,because it's actually very difficult to throw away foam. It costs to throw it away.
So instead, people throwing away foam send it to Block London
and they make this furniture out of it. Again, they then lease it to corporates,and then when they finished with it,they get it back and recycle it into more furniture. So it's never ending. Again, it's preventing foam from going to landfill but it's free material that's used again and again, and again. That sounds like a business I want to be in.

So what's my story? Who am I to be talking to you about sustainable business? Well, I mentioned I used to be a director at Mira Showers. I had two hats there; firstly, I ran the commercial business. So, I was selling to hospitals, schools, universities, leisure centres, that kind of thing. But I also looked after sustainability which was dealt with as a corporate social responsibility issue at Mira. 

Quite soon after becoming a director,these two roles came together in a rather unique way when I visited the office of Kier Construction in Manchester. Kier, are one of the big building contractors in the country. I was asked to sign in as you always are but, curiously, I was asked to write the mileage that I'd driven. I had not come across this before so I was curious about it,and I asked the engineer we were meeting with, what's this about the mileage? He told me that Kier have set a corporate carbon emissions target to reduce their carbon emissions. And they include every visitor on their site in that target. What's more, every single employee has a target to reduce emissions. So,my marketing brain is firing away at this point, and I said, "So if we were able to produce products that help you build buildings that produce fewer emissions, would that make you more likely to specify my products?" "Absolutely!" he said. 

That took me on a journey to realise that green buildings are a massive trend in construction, and we put green buildings at the heart of our business strategy. That gave us a whole new way of looking at product development, service development, and even the way in which we sold things. Having done that once, business strategy and innovation like that is really what floats my boat, so I wanted to do that some more. That's why I've ended up starting up Sustainable Business Design, and that's why I'm here for you today.

So that's enough about me, what about you? We're all in business for different reasons, I'm sure, but at the end of the day, what will your legacy be? For your business, for the next generation of your business or your family? Or for the world? Do we often think about this?

Well, I'd like to share with you, what I hope my legacy will be,because our current economic model is really based 99% on this. We take resources out of the earth, we make them into things, sell them to consumers and businesses, and when we've finished with them, we chuck them away. 

What a waste!

All those precious materials, we're in a finite world and yet the population ofthe world is growing exponentially. That is an equation which at some point isn't going to work very well and we've already seen that starting to bite. It's clearly not sustainable, literally! If we keep on doing it, we are going to run out of resources at some point. Now I want to make the world a place that's fit for people to live in with a really high quality of life like we enjoy in this country today. So if we're going to do that, we have to change our economic model. Into something more like this.

We make things, we use them, and when we've used them, the materials get returned back into the system to be reused again instead of chucking them away and wasting them. I think that business is the fastest and most effective way to make it happen. I hope that through sustainable business design, my little contribution, my little legacy, will be helping to make that happen.