This is the last in the mini-series of blog posts for Responsible Business Week 2017.
I talked a little bit about what ‘Responsible Business’ means to be in the first post, and every day this week, I have been interviewing an ethical business owner, to find out what it means to them, as well as some of the challenges and rewards of running a business that looks after people and planet, as well as profit. You can read the other interviews here.
For the last post in this series, we’ve got another brilliant example of ‘Good Business’ …
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your business?
Hi, I’m Fiona and I run the Pantry Partnership, which is a CIC (Community Interest Company) limited by shares – this means that it’s kind of the social enterprise equivalent of a Limited Company!
The Pantry Partnership is all about doing good stuff with food – from sourcing it responsibly, to looking after the environment, to helping people learn about cooking and eating good food.
What does ‘responsible business’ mean to you?
To me, ‘Responsible Business’ means taking the learnings from commercial business, and applying them to social and environmental challenges. It’s about having that responsibility at the very heart of the business, rather than as an add-on, or an after-thought.
What has been/is your biggest challenge as an ethical entrepreneur?
As I would imagine it is for lots of businesses, one of my biggest challenges is around money, and the tensions that are around it.
We will ‘upcycle’ discarded food into delicious dishes as part of what we do, and charge appropriately for the wonderful meals we are serving up – I sometimes find that my volunteers are more used to a charity model, and will assume that we will give the food away as we have been given the raw ingredients at a low cost. It can hard to challenge these pre-existing notions of how this kind of model should run, and explain that we are running a business – one that has social good at it’s heart, but a business nonetheless. It almost requires a change of mindset for people, and this has been an ongoing challenge.
What is the best thing about running an ethical business?
Without doubt the sense of fulfilment and the rewarding nature of the work that we do. That’s not about ‘give backing’ so much as that I get so much from the process of turning nothing into something – be that some fabric scraps into bunting for the cafe; food that would have gone to waste into delicious meals; and also seeing the changes that occur in people when they start learning with us; or changing their eating habits to give them better lifestyle outcomes as well as simply putting smiles on people’s faces through the food that brings them together.
What advice would you give to others wanting to either start up an ethical business, or to re-design their existing one to be more ‘responsible’?
I think redesigning to become more ‘responsible’ shouldn’t ever be an afterthought as these values, and that responsibility need to be at the core of the business. I think that can only be achieved by truly caring about them and thus having them at the heart of the business. In addition, ethical entrepreneurs can find themselves up against big corporations, who can dilute what smaller enterprises are trying to do but I think it’s up to the likes of us to stay true to those values and see ourselves in our own special place and be proud of being perhaps a little difference. I see us as the trailblazers for a more responsible future. That said, for anyone wanting to start up an ethical business, I would also say that although your values are at the core of the business, and guide everything that you do, don’t sweat the small stuff. Know when to let things go, don’t equally get hung up on these, because sometimes it’s just not possible to do everything tiny single thing as ethically as you’d want all of the time. And remember that doing the best that you can really is enough.
Thanks so much to Fiona for sharing this – I’m really inspired by her tales of transformation, and how one business can be involved in the transformation of not just food, but people’s lives too.
You can find The Pantry Partnership online here, and follow on Facebook, and Twitter.
I’ve really enjoyed this mini-series of posts, hearing from inspiring and passionate entrepreneurs, who are running truly sustainable businesses – I hope you guys have too.
Which of the featured businesses has been your favourite or has inspired you the most?
Do leave a comment below, or hop over to the #MakingGood Facebook community to carry on the conversation ?