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Ecostore's Jemma Whiten on we can create more sustainable businesses: collaboration, action and innovation

The world is on the cusp of big change in business, with awareness of the climate and environmental challenges the world is facing at an all-time high. Ecostore director of marketing, digital and sustainability projects Jemma Whiten shares her top tips for creating more sustainable businesses and brands. 

We are reaching a tipping point. Business, government, economies have for too long put growth and profit ahead of all else. It has come at a cost – and that cost is to the health of our planet. We now have the responsibility and the imperative to take a different approach and address the issues we have created, but in doing so there is opportunity.

Businesses are in a position to take action and implement change with speed. To put sustainable business practices into play and drive growth from these, and in doing so there is significant opportunity. To engage consumers at a time when they are looking to business to step up and take action. To attract the best and brightest talent because of the overwhelming desire for people to work in a business that has a clear and driving purpose to do good. And to realise significant business and profit opportunities through implementing circular economy thinking and systems.

If we are to embrace change, and the opportunities that come with it, then we must take action, collaborate for scale, and use design and innovation to embrace circular thinking.

Action – enough talk.

Our kids and grandchildren will not forgive our current wasteful and damaging behaviour because we as businesses are making commitments and promising to be more environmentally friendly towards 2030. Everyone must take action – now. The effects that we are having on the environment will become irreversible if we simply continue to talk and make commitments of change. John Cage, a creative thinker, tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere. Begin we must. Enough talk. More action.

Collaboration for scale.

A collaborative effort to drive change is not a “nice to have” business philosophy, it is an essential ingredient in driving change with scale. Everyone must take responsibility because no one company or group alone can solve the problems we face. Businesses must develop ideas that address consumers’ needs and create a step-change in sustainable practices. And to really fly, businesses need support from investors and government; and consumers must put their buying power and their increasing desire for conscious consumerism into full force.

Circular innovation and design.

We have the opportunity and the imperative to design our way out of the problems we have created. Design and innovation are essential because they not only solve the challenges we face, but they also make opportunities of them. A circular approach in business ensures a focus on keeping resources in use for as long as possible; conserve precious natural resources through recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of their life –- recognising that our waste has value. Implementing circular principles ultimately creates significant business opportunities.

Research undertaken by the economic consultancy Sapere, on behalf of the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) highlighted that; “Auckland could liberate up to $8.8 billion in additional economic activity and reduce carbon emissions by 2,700 ktCO2e in 2030 by shifting from the current linear take, make and waste model to a circular economy.”

The journey out of the current make, use, dispose linear model won’t be an easy one. But it is essential.

If we have designed our way into the problems we face with linear thinking then we can certainly design our way out of them with circular thinking.

At Ecostore, we are implementing the above principles to drive a sustainable business. We are taking action by already having over 60 refill stations around New Zealand (and export markets). We are collaborating with partners from various industries to create closed-loop packaging systems. And we are implementing circular innovation and design thinking in our latest launch. We are flipping an issue into an opportunity having recently removed over half a tonne of plastic waste from the ocean and turning it into a reusable hand wash bottle made entirely of this recycled ocean waste plastic.

Creating more sustainable business and brands will require changes. But in change comes opportunity. Let’s embrace that opportunity, with speed.

Jemma Whiten is the Ecostore director of marketing, digital and sustainability projects.

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