How Can Entrepreneurs Work Towards Sustainability?
People have, at times, referred to me as an 'entrepreneur'. I always have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I don't really mind the term as, by its dictionary definition, it sums me up quite well. However, there seems to be some negative connotations around the term 'entrepreneur'.
In this article, we look at an entrepreneur as "a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit," which is how it is defined in the Oxford Dictionary.
Entrepreneurship is not a new concept whatsoever. In fact, the notion can be traced back to Paleolithic times. However, entrepreneurship has developed significantly over the tens of thousands of years. Recently, entrepreneurship has seen the rise of social enterprises, or for-purpose businesses, organisations set-up to address an issue relating to the economy, society or the environment.
There are a number of ways entrepreneurs can work towards sustainability through social enterprises or otherwise. We explore a few below.
Recognising a Gap in the Marketplace
Becoming an entrepreneur means you have an idea around which you want to create a profit-earning business. The first step to entrepreneurship is recognising a certain gap in the marketplace. Many, but not all, entrepreneurs have faced some kind of hardship, either major or minor, where they realised,fom r personal circumstances, that the system could work better with a certain product or service. Businesses are then set-up to deliver said product or service, achieving some sort of economic, societal and environmental goal in many instances. By the core mission of an entrepreneur's business aimed at sustainable development of some kind, the business is already well on its journey towards sustainability.
Creating a Sustainability Plan
The next step is creating a sustainability plan. It is never too early in a business to look at a sustainability plan. These plans do not need to set out to achieve monumental goals from the outset; while it is important to have ambitious goals, it is vital to a business' own sustainability to ensure the goals are achievable and do not cause the company to run at a loss.
Analysing the Supply Chain
A great way to progress a business towards sustainability is through the supply chain. By purchasing goods and services from suppliers who have a commitment to sustainability, a business is able to impact the world through purchasing decisions, leaving some of the bigger changes to sustainable operations until the company is further established and has more capital.
Engaging in the Community
An entrepreneur's best asset is their network. Engagement in the local community is important to all businesses but especially SMEs. The local community is a great place to start in external sustainability engagement as it addresses Goal 11 of the Global Goals: Sustainable Cities and Communities and provides the most direct business opportunities.
Measuring impact is an important part of a sustainability commitment. For entrepreneurs with a social enterprise, impact is a great way to measure progress towards sustainability. This is because it looks at the number of lives affected as opposed to the amount of money spent. For many start-up entrepreneurs, this is highly beneficial as there is often not enough capital to give philanthropically at the establishment of the business.
Communicating with Customers
With more and more consumers demanding sustainable products and services, entrepreneurs can engage in sustainability by communicating with their customers about their commitment to economic, social and environmental sustainability. This leads to a win-win-win for the entrepreneur, their consumers and sustainability; the entrepreneur earns more revenue as more people choose their product or service over a less sustainable one; the consumer is able to purchase a more sustainable product; and the economy, our society and our environment all prosper.
If you are an entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur and want to know more about sustainability in your venture, contact us today!