This week is ‘Responsible Business Week’ – an annual awareness week hosted by Business in the Community (BITC), which aims to “motivate businesses to be better, and to do better, for the benefit of us all”.

Hurray to that!

But there are so many confusing terms out there – Ethical Business, Social Enterprise, Not for Profit, Responsible Business… (I’ve tried to define ‘Ethical Business’ here).
What does any of it mean?
And specifically what does it mean to be a ‘Responsible Business’?
I was trying to find a definition on the BITC website and couldn’t find anything, but it got me thinking about what ‘Responsible Business’ means to me.

I guess the essence of a Responsible Business is one that takes responsibility for the choices and actions that it takes.
So as well as thinking about the impact of any particular course of action on the business finances, we also think about what it means to the people involved in our business, as well as the impact on the planet.
For many ethical businesses this means going the extra mile (and often creating more work) and really rigorously investigating where products are sourced, what raw materials are used, who has made the products, what the people along the supply chain are paid and how they are treated.
And it also means that what should be really simple jobs like sourcing business cards, or packaging, become a whole lot more complicated when we start to look for alternatives that are ethically sourced.

All this sounds like a massive headache, and indeed it can be.
So why do we do it?

For me, it’s because I don’t see any other way. I have spent the last 5 years or so on a journey of discovery around all aspects of sustainable living, and it would feel totally alien to start a business that didn’t align with my personal values.
The planet is in trouble. We are running out of resources. And all over the world there are people who are exploited and harmed, so that we here in the West can have the things we want at the price we want to pay.
I passionately believe that our individual choices, however small they might seem, really do make a difference. I believe that it is the collective momentum of hundreds of thousands of individuals taking responsibility for our choices, and the impact of the things that we buy, that will create a shift towards and fairer and more sustainable world for all.

 Business has a role to play in that too.
Massive companies like Unilever are really starting to take sustainability and ‘good’ business practices seriously, but it’s not just down to the big guys, it’s down to us too.
Just as we can make a difference with the choices we make in our home lives, we can also make a difference in the choices we make with our businesses too. Questioning ‘business as normal’, going the extra mile, doing the extra research, to ensure that our businesses and our projects have a net positive impact on people and planet should be at the core of all business. One of the things I want to do here is to encourage us all to constantly question – to think about why we are doing what we are doing, and what the impact is not only in terms of the financial bottom line, but in terms of this ‘triple bottom line’ of people, planet and profit.

Responsible/Ethical/Good Business will mean different things to different people, and we will all have different priorities.
I’m really intrigued and curious to hear what it means to other people within the Ethical Business community, so I’m going to be interviewing some ethical/repsonsible business owners this week in a mini-series for Responsible Business Week – do pop back for an interview with a different business each day this week, and to hear some other thoughts and views on what it means to be a Responsible Business.

I’d love to hear your thoughts too – what does Responsible Business mean to you?
Do share in the comments below, or hop over to our #MakingGood Facebook group to join in the conversation!