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How to Start an Ethical Business

How to Start an Ethical Business

13 February 2021|Eco & Ethics, Latest Posts, Launching a business

How to start and ethical business
How to start and ethical business

Arabel Lebrusan, founder of Lebrusan Studio.  Every successful business begins with three fundamental questions: What? Why? How? Before anything else, you must ask yourself: ‘What is my brand all about?’ ‘Why do I feel compelled to make it happen?’ ‘How do I plan to set about achieving these goals?’ Once you’ve answered these questions with confidence, your foundations are laid.

In the preliminary stages, an ethical business plan is developed in exactly the same way as any other business plan. At minimum, this means defining aspects such as key partnerships, key activities, key resources, your value proposition, customer relationships, customer segments, interaction channels and cost structure. You can learn more about writing up your business plan here.

What separates an ethical business from the others, however, is its social and environmental mission. For example, a community interest company (CIC)with a social mission exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders; it’s not the same as a company that exists simply to make money. The key to defining YOUR social and environmental mission is identifying exactly how your brand is ethical.

Of course, the term ‘ethical’ can mean a myriad of different things. It’s important to remember that you won’t be able to nail 100% of these definitions 100% of the time, particularly not in the early stages of your business. To begin with, be precise and hone your attention onto a handful of key causes. What does ‘ethical’ mean to you? What are your fundamental priorities? At Lebrusan Studio, our ultimate goal is to make jewellery an active force for good. This means sourcing materials that are environmentally sustainable, championing traditional craftsmanship and ensuring that the people in our supply chains are entitled to fair pay and a healthy, sustainable way of life. To help us do so, we work closely with third party certification schemes like Fairtrade Gold and Fairmined.

At this stage, you might find it helpful to consider your aims within a particular economic framework. For example, a Circular Economy is one in which products and materials are continually recovered and regenerated at the end of their service lives. Meanwhile, Doughnut Economics is a framework based on planetary and social boundaries, ensuring fair and sustainable living for all. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of interlinked and tangible global goals that serve as a blueprint for a more sustainable future. Frameworks can overlap and complement one another simultaneously – we considered all three of these systems when we developed our ethical policy.

It’s not just your ethical goals that constitute your mission, but your concrete plans to act upon them. How will you address your priorities via your brand’s operations? If you’re selling a product, who are you employing to create it and what are the means of production? Which materials are being used, and how will you source them? How do you plan to sell the end product to your customer?

Permeating even deeper than your product or service, ethics must also come into consideration when you coordinate behind-the-scenes operations. In business terms, it’s really important that your mission is incorporated into your articles of association. Articles of association specify your company’s regulations and define its ultimate purpose. As part of a larger document, they lay out how tasks are to be accomplished; from appointing directors to handling financial records. Purposely is a handy tool designed to guide you through the steps necessary to create these articles.

This stage might feel overwhelming at first but try to see it as a challenge to be embraced; an opportunity to become inspired and explore the many ways in which things can be done better. 

Start with ethical banking. We hold a business account with Triodos, a bank whose sole mission is to enable its customers to use their money in environmentally and socioeconomically beneficial ways. Research alternative ways of marketing your brand that don’t necessarily mean lining the pockets of big industry players. Ecosia is a search engine that donates 80% of its profits to non-profit organizations that focus on reforestation and planting trees. Take time to choose stockholders and employees whose values align with yours. Managing an ethical business is chiefly about putting your money where your mouth is!

All in all, our paramount piece of advice is this: Keep your mind open but your feet firmly rooted.

The world is an ever-evolving landscape. Hold your ear to the ground, keep abreast of issues that are important to you and get ready to adapt on a constant basis.

Be prepared to compromise at points, especially in the early stages. Not all industries are ready to embrace a revolution with open arms, and the field you choose to enter will determine, at first, exactly how ethical your brand can be. Don’t let this deter you; make it your mission to expand these margins. 

Find others within your field who share your core values. Team up, collaborate loudly, and take comfort from your safety in numbers. The Fair Luxury group is an opportunity for myself and my jewellery industry peers to exchange ideas, inspire one another, and drive movement as a team.

On the flip side, converse openly with those who don’t agree with everything you’re about; wear your heart on your sleeve and remain true to your cause whilst you do so.

Don’t let anyone tell you that a lifestyle business isn’t a ‘proper’ business. Throughout Lebrusan Studio’s journey into fruition, I noticed time and time again how lifestyle businesses like mine were disregarded; seen as old-fashioned and limited in scope. Meanwhile, companies characterised by quick, drastic growth and fancy exit plans for stakeholders to maximise their earnings, are hailed as the epitome of success. There is simply not enough pie for everybody to take a slice if we all run businesses in this way. 

The business sphere might not be one that falls within your comfort zone, and it’s feasible that you’ll encounter things along the way that don’t sit right with you. Take them, bank them, and allow them to fuel your fire.

And above all, remember: if you want to change the world from the inside out, a sustainable and ethical business with a strong mission is the best possible way to do so.

Author:

Arabel Lebrusan
Arabel Lebrusan

Arabel Lebrusan, founder of Lebrusan Studio 

W: www.lebrusanstudio.com
Social media: @lebrusanstudio

About Lebrusan Studio:
Lebrusan Studio is a jewellery brand that prides itself on beautiful design, beautiful craftsmanship and beautiful ethics. We commission only the best craftsmen in the UK and Spain and work solely with precious metals and gemstones that have been sustainably and ethically sourced – because we don’t support exploitation of any sort. The UK’s first ever Fairtrade Gold licensees, we also offer Fairmined Ecological Gold and 100% recycled materials across our collections.