What is Sustainable Business? And can a sustainable business find business sustainability? This is an important question, and one that every business owner should ask themselves now, and not necessarily because of our global climate whether societally or atmospherically, but because that focus is where business is headed.
A Sustainable Business is one that has as low as possible an impact on an environment, a society, a community, and the economy. Essentially it’s a business that meets the Triple Bottom Line, a framework to evaluate the outcome of your business in three parts: Social, Economic, and Environmental. Sustainable Businesses are conscious businesses that recognize the importance of meeting the needs of the present world without compromising the needs for future generations. Most people, when thinking about a Sustainable Business, automatically think of a Green Business, or a business which focuses primarily on the benefits of the planet. That is an aspect of the Triple Bottom Line, but it’s not the main focus. The Triple Bottom Line recognizes the importance of our social, economic, and environmental impact equally, which is to say that the environmental impact is only a third of the demands of a Sustainable Business.
I do believe in the importance of limiting our impact on the planet, as much as possible, and I appreciate that there are a number of very large, profitable companies that are maintaining Sustainable Businesses. Game Changers 500 is an organization, similar to Fortune 500, which releases a list of Sustainable, Triple Bottom Line practicing companies that are growing, and are massively profitable.
A good example of a great start is that most large, skyscraper-esque buildings being built in the world practice low impact building, while developing buildings that are themselves low impact. A LEED seal or plaque on display within or on the building is an indication of the more modern advanced environmentally friendly buildings. A number of these buildings are consuming CO2 from the atmosphere while actually producing O2, it’s amazing. That means these buildings are behaving like trees!
One of the impacts Sustainable Business focuses on is our social impact, and by that I mean many businesses are helping to provide better lifestyles for people living in underdeveloped countries, they are helping to bring these people up out of poverty, while helping to establish higher income families, that will, over the generations, be able to become consumers themselves. The idea is that helping to bring communities out of poverty will develop consumer friendly, and consciously spending people who may otherwise not have had the money to put back into the economy. When a business is conscious of its market, its environment, its employees, and its impact both now and in the future, it can only benefit the global economy. Our current economic system, and business development, though it is shifting dramatically to that of Sustainability, is one that either keeps people in-, or forces people further into poverty. How does that benefit a business?
There are business of all kinds making these changes: publishing companies, wineries, groceries, coffee and teahouses, banks, construction, and more.
It’s important as a business owner, and a consumer to understand the benefits of Sustainable Business.
As a consuming we must recognize that, especially in The United States, where we spend our money is the loudest, and most demanding vote that we make, and we are making it daily. Where we spend our money will help to provide the foundation of business in the future, and the types of business that will thrive. Be conscious about it.
As a business owner, even a small business, look into the benefits of using local materials, recyclable materials, and look for ways to help your community, to invest in your community, and to invest in the people of your community. Small things really do make a difference. People will go to one coffeeshop over another because of where they get their milk, or whether it’s organic or not. And this is true of every business we shop at, and develop.
There are creative ways of being a Sustainable Business. CommuniTea Books, my bookstore in Boerne, Texas, buys Fair Trade teas, and is constantly looking for ways to better the community where the tea leaves come from—all over the world. Guayakí brand Yerba Maté is giving a large percentage of their profits back to the region in South America where Maté is grown. The tea plant isn’t healthy in the area, and a lot of the forests are dying. Guayakí is helping to restore the regions forests so that the plant can once again grow naturally, and healthy so that not only the region can mature, and develop again naturally and economically, but also so that Guayakí can continue to provide a better product to the companies customers.
When you get the opportunity watch the documentary PROSPERITY. It is an amazing account of exactly what I’m talking about, and provides further insight into the benefits of Sustainable Business. Our current systems are not conscious business, and as a result they do not maintain sustainability. To have business sustainability today you have to be a sustainable business.
Get behind companies such as Collective Evolution, Rodale Inc., Thrive Market, The Container Store, Change.org, Aspiration, Reserveage, and more, and look in New Resource Bank, and demand that your community offers a banking system as conscious, and community friendly as New Resource.
There are 5 ways that you can start making a difference, you as an individual (Via Prosperity Documentary):
The Boerne Emporium was a there story multi-vendor shop in the heart of The Hill Country Mile in Boerne, Texas. The location was phenomenal, but downtown Boerne has been known, until recently, for the antique shops, and the boutiques. This has been the story for The Hill Country Mile since before I can remember, and I moved to Boerne, for the first time, in 1993. Of course being a kid or a teenager in Boerne in the mid too late 90's wasn't exceptional. In fact, it was downright boring, at the time the only thing that I could appreciate along Main Street, and especially along The Hill Country Mile, was The Bear Moon Bakery, and that was, you know, a bakery, and a coffeehouse, and I likely enjoyed going there only because I wasn't the typical small town teenage boy, and neither were my friends.
Boerne, Texas has too many boutique, and antique shops, simply because Boerne lacks an identity, as a town, and for decades made-do by following the path of slightly larger, and more well-known, German town, about an hour away, Fredricksburg. Which not only had the identity of being an antique town, but it served them too, even still.
Boerne, not so much. And now it's changing, and growing too quickly to keep up, our identity remains with our public schools, which isn't going to work anymore.
As a result, The Boerne Emporium was closed, and the building was sold. And Wardrobe Books, my beta bookstore was no more, at least physically. We (I) still maintained an online presence, but that too started changing because Abebooks was no longer working for me as a eCommerce platform.
It seemed as if everything I had built was disappearing.
And it might have, entirely, if I didn't realize that it was only because, until now, I wasn't willing to change, or rather, that I didn't realize, practically, that I needed to. I had not tweaked anything, I just opened the doors, and said "Come." And this was the same mistake that Read All About It made, and apparently, some other independently owned bookstore that I've heard rumors about, which had both opened, and closed their doors while I was living on the distant shores of elsewhere.
Unforeseen changes, and failure, if approached a certain way, lead to the best lessons, and improvements in your business, and they have for me, both in my personal life, and for CommuniTea Books.
The closing of Wardrobe Books, and the changes that I would have to make with the website, led to a conversation that I had with a handful of people, and this conversation led me into a new chapter, and through the front doors of a bank that, through their rejection, inspired avenues that I would have never imagined existed, let alone considered...
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.