Doing business better

At People Puzzles we believe that as a company, we have the opportunity to drive positive change through the way we do business. For this reason, we have been looking for ways to incorporate more ESG – Environment, Social and Governance – principles into our working practices. And we’d like to help our clients go on that journey too.

What is ESG?

ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance, assessing a business’s impact in these areas.
Environmental – the impact that your business has on the environment such as the amount of waste it produces, its carbon footprint and whether these can be reduced
Social – the impact of your company’s relationship with suppliers, customers, employees and the local community
Governance – your company’s approach to governance, such as accounting transparency, risk management and shareholder rights (if applicable)

But what does this mean for small but fast-growing businesses and where do you start? We decided to ask an expert. At our recent company conference, we invited the entrepreneur Jo Fairley to speak about her experiences founding the ethical global chocolate brand Green & Black’s.

Jo is passionate about ensuring that every business enterprise has a conscience, especially when it comes to the environmental and social impact of its activities. And her talk was inspiring – a tale of how it is possible, in the case of Green and Black’s, to change the world one square of chocolate at a time. For those who don’t know her story, here’s a summary.

The story of Green & Black’s

In 1991 Jo found two squares of chocolate on the desk of her husband Craig Sams, the CEO of organic brand Whole Earth Foods. The chocolate was organic, and so delicious that Jo decided to use all of her savings to buy two tonnes of the stuff.

Inspired by Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick, Jo went on to show that strong values and business can go hand in hand – by creating the brand that brought organic and fairtrade chocolate to the masses. The business was bought by Cadbury in 2005 and now makes around £100m per year.

Shaping the concept of ethical business

As well as its meteoric success, Green & Black’s is also synonymous with organic and fairtrade goods. But Jo insists it was not deliberate. ‘We didn’t consciously decide to position ourselves as a sustainable brand, one with what we now label “purpose”,’ she said. ‘To be honest, it was just naturally the way we did business. It wasn’t until we looked back that we realised that we had helped to shape the concept of ethical business as we know it today.’

The moral case

As with so many things in business, clear leadership on this issue is vital. ‘It’s much more likely to work if it trickles down from the top,’ Jo says. ‘And it has to be authentic – if you’re cynical about it all, it will become a tick-box exercise and won’t work.’ If you’re looking for motivation, Jo recommends that everyone watches Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth – ‘or any David Attenborough’ – which lays bare the choices we face.

The business case

But as well as the moral imperative, there is also a strong business case. According to Forbes, 83% of millennials will be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues. In the current jobs market, where talent is highly sought after, businesses with strong ethical values will attract the best talent.

‘It’s time to be bold and not just wait for a consumer or business case to come along,’ Jo says. ‘I honestly believe that we’ve got to work hard and fast, for the future of the planet and for the future of mankind.’

Find out in our next blog how a good people strategy can help drive your values and bring them to life.

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