When I started my healthy foods startup, Tapas Foods under the brand Nummy, I knew I needed to make money. I needed to be profitable.
That still remains the end goal. No questions about that. I didn’t start an NGO or a charitable trust.
So the destination was and is very clear – PROFITS!
But how I reach that destination was a very conscious choice I made. The journey of reaching that goal means a lot more to me.
That’s when I decided that Nummy will be a socially conscious brand and organization.
What is a Socially and Environmentally Conscious Business?
When you are aware of the impact your actions have on the society and the environment, you are a socially conscious business. It’s not a mandatory duty or responsibility you shoulder. No one is coercing you to operate this way. It is just a reflection of your values that are translating into some concrete actions. It’s beyond the mandate of law.
Let me give you some examples:
You start your organization in a rural area to provide employment opportunities there.
You source your raw materials from organic farms, and you pay fair prices to the growers.
You hire people (who otherwise find it challenging to find jobs) who need a platform, like transgender people, rural women, unskilled locals, physically challenged youth, retirees in need of income and the list can go on and on.
You choose to use biodegradable material than plastic.
You find ways to recycle, upcycle waste.
You design a marketing message that questions the outdated ways, that is progressive in content and delivery.
You associate with brand ambassadors who reflect your values.
You set sales targets that are not unrealistic and exaggerated but organic and achievable.
Choice in the type of rewards you give your employees which have actual use and meaning and not merely a tool for employer branding.
You have marketing strategies that can show that competitors can co-exist and not kill each other.
Basically, anything that can have a positive impact on the society and environment.
These are just a few examples, and you can get creative with your own list.
There is no high priest to tell you what should or should not go in your socially conscious list. These are not mandated by law either.
How much social and environmental consciousness you bring into your business is your choice. Don’t let anyone dictate this to you.
If you are up for it, let me help you with few pointers to start thinking in this direction.
How to be a Socially and Environmentally Conscious Business?
The best way to do this is to share my experience with you. I’m no goody-two-shoes and believe me, being socially conscious doesn’t give me any right to criticize or judge others. It’s a self-proclaimed title and a journey I chose.
Every business comes with its own set of challenges – financial, geographic, competition, resources, and so on.
Start thinking of few steps that I mention below only when you feel ready, when you actually want to do it, and not because it’s a fancy marketing fad.
Because if you are doing it to gain few followers on social media, it is only for a short time. You will lose more trying to put an image because it will drain you and your team. It is tough!
The first thing I did was make up my mind. This was easy for me because the steps I took to make my business socially conscious came from my experiences. So, I was and am prepared for slow business growth. You need to make peace with the fact that all this comes with a cost. Most often it is the time taken to reach profitability.
Questioning is the biggest step in the journey of being a socially conscious business and the easiest too! Question the traditional ways of doing business. No, not all ways are bad. But questioning will help you pause and think about every aspect of your business. Where do you want your business, what kind of people you want on your team, are there alternative processes, are there other suppliers….
Choose your battles. You cannot be conscious of every aspect of your business. You can’t lose focus from your goal of profitability. Some things can drain money and energy, something can stall your growth and bottom line, some actions may not be feasible at that point, you may not have the resources or technology. Make your choices.
Track progress and impact on the sustainable growth of your business. You can’t start and forget. Track and measure the impact of your actions. Are these actions making sense? Are these processes sustainable? Are these actions required after a certain period of time? Is society benefitting from it?
A lot of the founder or leadership team’s personality reflects in the way a business operates. You can see it in the Company’s products, offerings, processes, policies, strategies. If the leader is socially conscious, it will show in the business. That’s why there is so much importance placed on the Founders, leaders of organizations.
What We did at Nummy
Our processing facility is in a rural area to provide employment opportunities to rural locals. Our production is completely managed by women.