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Developing your sustainable business focus

Updated: May 7

I work with several brands that are looking to improve their sustainable impact – be this by improving their processes, giving back with sustainable CSR initiatives, or developing more sustainable products.

What is a sustainable business?

In essence, a sustainable business can be defined as a business that profits and thrives from solving the world's problems not creating them. Some businesses are started with a sustainable focus; however, many existing businesses are on a journey to being more sustainable.

People, Planet, Profit

Many of you may of hear of the phrase, “people, planet and profit”, it was coined by John Elkington in 1994 and it nicely summarises the ethos of being a sustainable business. It works to a framework called the triple bottom line.

The triple bottom line is an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental and economic.

Some organisations have adopted the TBL framework to evaluate their performance in a broader perspective to create greater business value. Image ref: Tripple Bottom Line - John Elkington:

Why we must all look at our sustainable actions and start to make a change?

The UN have set 17 sustainable development goals, with targets for 2030, sadly these goals are not on track to be met and some are even going backwards. Just this week they have launched a compelling campaign calling for all business leaders to take action. You can see there compelling manifesto and film here - .

Personally, as a small one person consultancy I have reviewed the brands I buy from and my service providers, looked at reducing travel, reviewed plastic consumption, reduced energy and focused on green energy providers, increased my level of recycling, reusing and giving back to local society and larger global initiatives. All small steps that make a small impact. If you are interested in checking if you website runs on green energy you can use the Green Web Foundation Check tool -

Making a start

Starting a sustainable brand or developing sustainable aspects in your existing business can feel like a big task – there is a huge fear of greenwashing and not getting everything perfect from day 1, and a fear of not being able to do enough.

"The truth is even small impacts and changes matter and many businesses once they start on a sustainable improvement journey find that their positive actions are so well received that they are compelled to do more and more."

A question to ask when considering the long-term sustainability focus of your business or how you can embed sustainable values into you brand portfolio is to consider if the world is a better place because of your business and if not how you can take action.

If you're looking to establish a sustainable brand or develop your sustainable goals within your existing brand, you're entering a market that aligns with the values of the vast majority of consumers.

"Over 80% of consumers prefer to spend with businesses that act ethically and sustainably."

When considering the changes, you can make or the foundation of your sustainable story a question to consider is:

"Are there are gaps you can see in your sustainable actions and is there a more sustainable or ethical action that you could take?"

To support you sustanable joureny there are lots of business books, podcasts and advice a recommendation of mine is the book

Setting out a plan:

A good place to start when setting out your sustainability plan is to review how you could be more sustainable by looking at the sustainable development goals set up by the UN. The SDG goals cover three areas of sustainability across our impact on society, our impact on the environment and our impact on the economy.

Take action:

Take time to review these 17 big goals, select 2-4 goals that matter to your business, your brand and your customers and consider how your business can deliver to these goals on a day-to-day level for your business.

"Consider hosting a senior team workshop, asking your customers and engaging your teams to get suggestions and create a plan."

By reviewing the goals against your business focus you can pin down specific actions you can take as a business to improve your brand's commitment to sustainability – for example, if you are a coffee shop how can you use less energy? Produce less food waste or use less water? support sustainable farming and education? Or if you are a business consultant such as myself, how can I reduce my travel to minimise my carbon footprint? Ensure my technology is more sustainable, maximise my recycling, and reduce my business wastage. Or if you are a fashion producer, how can you source materials sustainably across the supply chain? Can you reduce packaging waste or develop reuse aspects?

"Once you have a clear view of the goals you want to support and the actions you can take it time to build this back into your strategic brand plan."

10 steps to build your sustainable brand strategy:

1. Define Your Sustainable Brand Purpose

Every successful brand starts with a clear purpose – your purpose may not be sustainability-related – but how does sustainability dovetail with your purpose – what role does it play? How can it speak to the SDG’s be this directly via services and products or indirectly via giving back and CSR. In the case of a sustainable brand, your purpose should revolve around sustainability, eco-friendliness, and the desire to make a positive impact on the environment. This purpose will serve as the foundation for your brand's identity and messaging.

2. Research Your Target Audience

Understanding your target audience is crucial for tailoring your brand to their preferences and needs. Understanding the importance of sustainability to all customers not just those who self-identify as “sustainable-focused “consumers is important. All customers want businesses to make it easy for them to be more sustainable and value eco-friendly materials, durability, and responsible manufacturing. Conduct market research to identify their preferences, pain points, and purchasing behaviour and understand which of the SDG’s your customers value most and want to get engaged with – giving your customers a voice and a say can go far to create loyal customers.

3. Create a Sustainable Product Line or Service

The core of your brand is underpinned by the products or services you offer. Prioritise sustainable practices and materials, such as paying living wages, developing the economics of a region, improving lives, and selecting planet-friendly materials such as recycled rubber, cork, or organic cotton, to ensure that your products are environmentally friendly. Highlight features like biodegradability, low VOC emissions, and energy-efficient production processes to showcase your commitment to sustainability.

4. Develop sustainable aspects of your brand Identity

Your brand's identity is what sets you apart from competitors. Even if you are not a sustainable brand you can set out a manifesto for how your brand identity can be more sustainable - Consider elements like sustainable messaging, a sustainability manifesto, a roadmap and plan to sustainability, and a compelling brand story that resonates with your audience. Your brand identity should convey trustworthiness and a commitment to sustainability.

5. Craft an Engaging Brand Story

Storytelling is a powerful tool for building brand loyalty. Be open and honest, share your journey of establishing a sustainable business and your brands focus, and remember that every action and focus no matter how small is important, emphasising the challenges you overcame and your unwavering commitment to doing better for the environment, for people and the future economy. Consider incorporating personal anecdotes, environmental statistics, and the positive impact your products have on reducing carbon footprints or making an improvement.

6. Communicate Your Sustainable beliefs and values

Clearly communicate your sustainability values through your marketing materials, website content, and social media platforms. Create educational content that highlights the environmental benefits of your underlay products and provides tips on sustainable living. Engage with your audience by addressing their questions and concerns about sustainability.

7. Build Partnerships and Certifications

Collaborate with like-minded organisations, suppliers, and manufacturers that share your commitment to sustainability. Engaging in giving back to your local community and supporting training and employment needs to ensure your local community is sustainable. Seek certifications such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), Cradle to Cradle, or GreenGuard to validate your eco-friendly claims. Ensure your technology is sustainable by using sustainable energy to power your website and business premises and ensure workers are fairly paid and treated by joining organisations like Better Cotton or The Rainforest Alliance - These partnerships and certifications can enhance your brand's credibility.

8. Embrace Transparency

Transparency is key in building trust with your customers. Share detailed information about your supply chain, manufacturing processes, and the environmental impact of your products. Be open about any challenges you face and the steps you're taking to improve your sustainability practices.

9. Focus on Packaging and Shipping

Sustainability should extend to every aspect of your brand, including packaging and shipping. Choose recyclable or biodegradable packaging materials and minimise excess packaging. Consider carbon-neutral shipping options to further reduce your brand's environmental footprint.

10. Engage in Sustainable Practices

As your brand grows, continue to find ways to reduce your environmental impact. Invest in sustainable practices within your organisation, such as energy-efficient operations, waste reduction, responsible sourcing, and responsible web server management - review and audit this ongoing and look out for helpful blogs and advise such as that suggest green web hosting options.

Finally it is critical to share your ongoing efforts with your audience to demonstrate your dedication to sustainability and to ask for feedback and input.

Make a start today…….

Developing a sustainable brand or taking your brand on a sustainable journey needs commitment, and the ability to act without assumption. Moving to be more sustainable is not only a smart business move but also a meaningful contribution to the planet. By defining a clear purpose, creating eco-friendly products, and communicating your sustainability values effectively, you can build a brand that resonates with environmentally conscious consumers. Remember that sustainability is an ongoing journey, and your commitment to it will be a key driver of your brand's success and impact on the world.

Get Collectiv thinking on your team

"We are experts in workshop facilitation, brand development, strategy, planning and business change facilitators."

If you would like to start, review or evolve your sustainable brand journey or review sustainable aspects of your business and make a plan – be this developing a new brand or embedding action to your brand that delivers to sustainable objective please contact for a free Brand Start meeting.

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