How Do You Balance Profits With Sustainability?
When you’re an entrepreneur concerned with sustainability, this can be difficult to answer. I’ve been talking to designers lately who have been bringing up some version of this question. Some talk about how hard it is to move forward when you don’t know the right answer.
I struggled with this myself for a few years. I wondered how I could continue to work in marketing and retailing. In my personal life I disliked consumer culture and worked to reduce my buying and waste.
How could I reconcile my work with my values?
Whether you’re a designer, retailer or marketer, we all have to answer questions such as:
- How do you add products and increase sales to become profitable, when you’re concerned with generating too much waste?
- How do you avoid creating products that may be discarded in 6 months or less?
- How do you use sustainable packaging when it increases costs, and slows down production?
- Is it ethical to want to make more profit, and continue to increase sales year over year?
Because these questions can be so challenging, it often takes longer to launch new projects and build them to profitability. It takes more research to find sustainable options. It takes more time to do product development. It takes more effort to educate consumers. And of course, this all costs more. And we wonder if it’s right to even put more product out there, when we believe in buying less and wasting less.
Here’s why you need to build a profitable business:
- Consumers need options that are sustainable. There are not enough options out there. It’s hard work for customers to find products that align with sustainable values and meet their needs. We need to make it easy for people to choose sustainability. Consumers need our expertise to help them make choices. It’s up to you to offer more options that meet their needs.
- Retailers and designers help educate consumers. Your voice is needed to help consumers learn to ‘buy less, and buy better.’
- The apparel industry needs to change, and all businesses need to become more sustainable in the future. The only way that will happen is for some of us to lead the way. We need to do the research and development to build the world we want to live in.
- Local businesses build relationships. You get to know the needs of your customers one-on-one. Your customers are not just data in an AI algorithm. Your customers and employees become friends you hang out with day-to-day.
- Local businesses build communities. Independent businesses spend more money in the local economy, and sponsor local community groups. When your business grows, your community benefits.
- Jobs in small-scale, local production and retail can build employee skill and offer more meaningful work. You need to grow your business to offer jobs that treat employees well, and offer fair wages in your community.
- You need to build a profitable business to be able to build up yourself, and those around you. A profitable business builds your own independence and ability to provide for yourself and your family. Entrepreneurship models self-reliance, personal growth and community for family, friends and others.
These are my reasons for why I work to support independent retailers and designers.
What are your reasons why you do what you do?