The world of business is changing.

Since the industrial revolution, business has essentially been one giant pillage; taking from the people, taking from competitors, taking from the land, with every action driving towards growth and not a single thought for giving back or the greater good.

But the tide is turning, and this take-take-take mentality is rapidly becoming outdated, even frowned upon, in even the most commercial of companies.

Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard is a poster boy for sustainable business, writing books on it, constantly striving to better his company’s footprint, and even sharing the secrets of his success with rival companies in a bid to improve the commercial impact upon the planet. Since 1986, every business decision he has made has been scrutinised for its ethicalness, often contrary to common business sense, but the multi-millionaire certainly hasn’t suffered for his altruistic approach to business.

When immersed in a well-established organisation, the bottom line swinging ever-threateningly like the sword of Damocles, it’s hard to believe that the business you are creating or investing in could ever be a ground-breakingly ethical. While we’re not suggesting you should throw profit to the wind and turn your business over to charity work, there are numerous ways you can make your company more sustainable, ethical and environmental that will have little or no effect on your bottom line, top line or any line in between!

1. Make Your Super Super:

Every employee needs superannuation, and even sole traders or freelancers should be investing in their future, but that should also extend to the future of the planet. Superannuation, just like the entire banking and finance sector, is all about playing the stock markets. The organisations take your investment, buy and sell shares, reinvest and turn over profits with collateral that you have directly financed. Potentially, this could be in international arms dealing, pharmaceutical privatisation, human trafficking and any number of non-ethical, legally ambiguous enterprises.

Now, while many of them aren’t that bad, fossil fuel, deforestation, destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and many other environmentally corrupt enterprises are high up on the investment list.

Future Super promises to invest in 100 percent-ethical corporations, avoiding fossil fuels, animal cruelty, gambling, tobacco and weapons, and supporting human rights. Every dollar you invest will build to a brighter future, for you, and the planet.

If you want to go one step further, Cruelty-Free Super also omits intensive agriculture and live animal exports from their pro-active portfolio. It’s simple to change, for you and your employees, so invest your super in a future far greater than just your own.

Mention superannuation to an American and they might think you’re describing to them the plot of the latest Marvel movie, but investment in one’s future and retirement is no less important. Finding ways to invest your money in a greener future isn’t too hard, and your accountant or broker would be able to advise. U.S. News has also compiled a slideshow of some of the key facts and certifications to look for when choosing where to place your investment dollars.

2. Bank Right:

Banking is exactly the same financial principle as superannuation, collecting your hard-earned as capital for a greater investment portfolio, the focus of which you essentially have little or no say on.

The three major banks of Australia, tried and true, reliable and commonplace names that we place our trust and wealth in, are responsible for financing some of the most major environmentally catastrophes of recent decades. Any major oil spill has, in some way, been financed by a bank, every war action has gained monetary support of financial institutions, any coal mine has ravaged the land using the reinvested dollars of the naïve public. Even the tobacco industry reaches out to banks for support in ‘research’ and reinvestment.

Bank Australia is one of the few smaller banks investing positively. A carbon-neutral corporation, it refuses any form of investment in the fossil fuel industry. More than that, it has purchased and continues to expand a customer-owned, biodiverse conservation reserve, protecting almost 1,000 hectares of revegetated, environmentally-rich land from development forever.

Bank Australia also supports human rights, indigenous reconciliation, education for all, affordable housing and support of those suffering financial hardship. Just like Future Super, your money is used exclusively for good.

First GREEN Bank is definitely one of the foremost banks leading the charge on the other side of the pond, working similarly to invest only in sustainable, ethical and forward-thinking causes and industries. While its banking practices themselves follow a strongly ethical standpoint, First GREEN Bank goes several steps further, establishing the First Green Foundation non-profit, supporting everything from sustainable agriculture to school benefit and green energy programs. The Florida-based bank also provides charging stations at many of its branches, so it truly is a proactive investment business on many levels.

The national U.S. Bank – America’s fifth largest bank – has also been named as a ‘World’s Most Ethical Company’ for the third consecutive year by the Ethisphere Institute, though the criteria for what exactly constitutes the award are a little hazy, so plenty of research is advised before withdrawing all your cash and pouring it into a U.S. Bank fund.

3. The Power of Power

You can’t run a business without electricity. It is completely unavoidable in today’s society. Many major businesses are recognising the value in solar energy, establishing their own solar fields to offset their company’s electricity usage. Patagonia’s headquarters in Ventura, California, for example, is both carbon neutral and almost entirely self-sustaining. Rooftop panels, or even banks of solar cells as roofs for car parks or in an otherwise vacant lot can drastically reduce both emissions and electricity bills. However, although this may seem like a win-win, it does take commitment, space and initial investment.

If you aren’t in the position to be covering your office building with solar cells, switch your service provider to a company who will do it for you.

Powershop holds the gold medal in Australia for green energy, alongside Diamond Energy.

By switching to these competitively-priced power companies, you are ensuring that your energy demands are met only by green resources – wind, solar and hydro-electric. Added to this, you can implement many power-saving tips within your workplace, such as using power-saving light globes, running appliances on standby mode, minimising climate control and switching everything off overnight. You can even buy flow-reducing plug sockets to lessen your overall footprint.

You can find out how green your current supplier is, and who you should be switching to here.

In the US, finding a utility service to provide your clean energy isn’t quite as easy. With each state having varying regulations, power companies and service availability, it’s necessary to do a little bit of research for your particular location and requirements.
While some of the more obviously ‘clean’ states, such as California, Washington and Oregon, are leading the charge, there is still around 50 percent of the nation locked into the smog-filled energy production methods of the industrial revolution.

Fat Company provides some insight into the matter, offering several solutions for finding the greenest energy you can.

4. Don’t be eWasteful

eWaste is an incredibly modern-day issue. We’ve only really been creating it on a large scale for around 20 years, but already we are seeing the hugely detrimental impacts of the rapid obsolescence of technology and our constant yearning for the very latest iWhatever. To some extent, this is out of our hands. Modern business is often forced to keep up to date, with new computers, new phones, and all the new accessories that go along with them, while the tech conglomerates are always driving us to want, need and demand more, and actually designing short lifespans into their products.

There isn’t really a significant solution to this, other than to use your products for as long as possible, updating their software and regularly servicing them, and to take your obsolete items to a designated recycling centre or donate them to a friend, relative or even your local school. Apple offers its own recycling service and you can even occasionally get cash back on older models when traded in*.

Lastly, you can demand more responsibility from your suppliers. The tech giants of this world should be held accountable for their own waste. They should be made to manufacture more sustainable products and to recycle in every way they can. For this, the best we can hope for is to sign as many petitions as possible, such as in this success story of Samsung breaking ties with a supplier due to the pressure of ongoing petitioning: http://www.mightyearth.org/samsunghangsuponkorindo/. So, make your voice heard.
* Always make sure you securely erase all content prior to passing appliances on.

5. Paper or Plastic?

The answer is neither. Almost every company, no matter what its field, uses some form of rapidly disposable product. From toilet roll and printer paper to those horrific coffee pods, packaging, shopping bags, stationery, cups and cutlery – even an IT-based office can be an incredibly wasteful place.

Ensure your staff are supplied with reusable crockery and cutlery, opt for plunger coffee, or if you must use pods, make sure you request a recycling bag from suppliers like Nespresso, who will send you a pre-paid plastic satchel in which to collect and return their pods. Ensure all of your paper products are from sustainable sources, your printer paper certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) or made from recycled paper, your toilet roll from Who Gives a Crap  or other ethical sources, and ditch the paper towels in bathrooms and kitchens in favour of reusable cloth or fabric alternatives. In short, think about every single thing that ends up in your waste and ask yourself: is there a sustainable alternative?

6. One Step Beyond

The five opportunities above for bettering your business all present very little, if any impact at all upon your company. Banks, investments and power companies can all ‘go green’ at very competitive rates. Properly recycling or passing on your eWaste has the potential to even make you a little money, or at least give you some feel-good vibes from what would otherwise have been destined for landfill.

But if your desire is to truly step up and create a powerfully ethical business, contributing to causes and improving lives, it can be tricky knowing where to invest.

Vegan Web Designs struck exactly this problem when searching for a means of investing a portion of profit to charities or for good. B1G1 takes the confusion out of this process, collecting a range of carefully-screened, high-impact projects together in the one place. You simply need to choose which causes best align with you, which of their convenient ways of contributing suits you best and sign up. Contributing exactly what you can afford is taken care of automatically and B1G1 ensures that 100 percent of your donation goes directly to only the causes you have chosen.

For businesses wanting to give back, unless there is a specific foundation or program with which they are closely aligned, B1G1 is one of the most effective and convenient ways to make a big impact with very little fuss.

The best thing about this is that, even if you don’t take the steps yourself, when you trust Vegan Web Design with your website creation and social media management, you can be sure that a portion of your profit will always be contributed to charities and ethical organisations.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the planet certainly can’t be saved in one, but with enough people altering their perspectives and changing the way they do business – with next to no impact whatsoever to profit or efficiency – even your company can save the world.

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