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Changing mindset- the need to go green

We will be looking closely at the factors, that contribute to a business' ability to go green and manage a sustainable work environment.
My name is Jackie Ruddock and I’m the CEO of The Social Outfit. We’re a fashion label with a difference. And here, from our home at 353 King Street Newtown, we produce beautiful quality clothing. The Social Outfit is an independently accredited social enterprise. We exist primarily for the purpose of employing and training people who have arrived in Australia as new migrants and refugees. So we’re actually a registered charity here in Australia. We provide on-site manufacturing. We have a retail shop at the front. And we also have a sewing school, where we help people build up skills and feel welcome as they settle here. Social enterprise is a widely used term. But it’s probably open for discussion.
How we mean social enterprise is that we exist primarily for a social purpose. But we use parts of business in order to achieve our goal. Since opening, a lot of people have come to us interested in what we do and asking how they can make their businesses more ethical. It’s a great opportunity for us all. And certainly, other small businesses can think about ethical human resourcing, like looking after people and looking after staff, or reducing our global footprint, in order to make our businesses run well, but also be as ethical as possible. The great thing is that there’s many exciting organisations to learn more about social enterprise.
For example, Social Traders down in Melbourne run programmes that help people ask good questions about how they can transition their business into social enterprises, or how you can begin to ask yourself good questions to set up ethical businesses. The future for social enterprise in Australia, I think, is quite exciting. Because it’s an open field, I think there’s many new directions for individuals and businesses to go in. Certainly for us at The Social Outfit, we’re excited and committed to our future of building an ethical small business that produces beautiful clothes and helps people.

Recognising the need to go green is one thing; but going green is a totally different matter. The ability of a business to embrace sustainability can vary significantly according to the industry sector, the organisation’s size, and business objectives. It is not unexpected that, for many entrepreneurs, the principal objective of business is to make profit. Consequently, going green can seem very costly and time-consuming. As a result, being sustainable, by playing a broader social role, can be a rather frightening concept.

Consensus on the perfect balance between self-interest and social responsibility is yet to be reached. Many companies wage an ongoing battle between what they wish to do and what they must do in order to financially survive. However, what is still underestimated is the fact that going green also brings many benefits for businesses, such as:

  • the creation of new markets
  • cutting costs (i.e. energy or waste)
  • the attraction of new employee talent, and
  • development of new relations with stakeholders.

Certainly, going green can also imply the disruption of markets and transformation of business models and related industry practices. It requires a profound change in the business mindset and a complete makeover of the business model in order to create and contribute toward a better environment and society (Hawking, 2010; Benn, Dunphy & Griffiths, 2014).

Sustainability should not be seen as a volatile trend but rather as a way to remain successful in today’s economy. Luckily, this is also reflected in changing market needs – more and more consumers are turning to green alternatives. Consequently, more businesses are becoming eco-minded and are willing to incorporate this new mindset into their policies and processes to follow sustainable development principles.

The need to go green does not necessarily imply the creation of new management systems, but rather modifications of systems, practices and procedures within a new cultural and social orientation. Accelerated sustainability has been flagged as a “future model” by the Australian Shareholders Association as it applies social technologies to develop organisational learning and change to assist organisations to become more sustainable. There are many tools available to help businesses adapt and change the way they think and how they go about implementing change in their organisation to achieve greener practices.

We’ve considered some factors that may impact a business’ ability to go green. What challenges can you think of that may be a barrier for such change?
Post your thoughts in the Comments area below.
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Business Futures: Sustainable Business Through Green HR

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