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Ethical business tips; how to run a business that gives back

To round up our Small Business Good Samaritans series, we’ve collected some of the best tips on making your ethical business work. Here are the best:

Work with other businesses

“Many busy small businesses find it easy to fall into the trap of working solo, constricted by their own parameters,” says Victoria Arnold, founder of Desk Union, a company which provides desk space to Scottish small businesses who can’t afford their own premises. “The biggest tip I could offer any small businesses looking to give back would be to work with and learn from other businesses, through as many introductions with like minded individuals as possible. Stay connected and involved through networking events and collaborative working.

Victoria continues, “I have always found the benefits taken from becoming involved with entrepreneurial groups to be invaluable. Since Desk Union was founded, I have always been strongly involved with the Power of Youth, a growing international community of young entrepreneurs, dedicated to improving the world through business.

“I am now a mentor within this community, offering support, advice and inspiration to other entrepreneurs and small businesses, which not only do I thoroughly enjoy, but I also learn a great deal from.”

Support a charity

Funi work with a charity that supports victims of the Chernobyl disaster – they donate to the charity directly, and also provide them with work. This two-pronged support is also important, as it means there is always help being given to the charity.

To partner up with a charity, the best way is to contact them directly and discuss how you can work together. This might be through a partnership, through sponsorship, or by promoting them – there are many different ways for your organisations to team up.

Be a part of the community

“Our success has come about because we are perceived as an integral part of the local community, helping to attract upmarket gastro tourists to the town and helping to revive the area’s fortunes,” says Dev Biswal of The Ambrette restaurant, which has supported over 100 local charities in the last twelve months – amazing. “We’ve won numerous awards because customers and locals vote for us in their droves – they want us to do well.” As a local business, you’re ideally placed to help bring your community together.

Suppliers

As with any business, you need to ensure that there is a steady supply chain – especially important for more niche ethical products or services – and it’s important not to do too much at once.

“Start your business with basic products and services and build from there. We launched Third Door with a strong vision and two basic products. Over the past three years we have tried and tested to see what works and doesn’t work and are ready to open our next Third Door location with confidence in our product and still very much with the same vision we had at the beginning,” says Shazia Mustafa of Third Door.

Be strategic

Think about a way your business is inefficient or wasting a resource, and think of a way you could turn this into an advantage. For example, if you’re throwing away too many meals from your restaurant, try giving them to a local homeless shelter.

In addition, think about how your services can help others in the most efficient way. Bokani Tshidzu of Vertigo Ventures suggests “Where can your business’s contribution make the most difference? Sending accountants to paint a park is helpful but they could have more long-lasting impact by providing financial services to under-staffed local charities.”

It’s also important to think long-term. By creating a long-term scheme, such as teaching workers how to make a product, Funi is investing in its future. Establishing long-term skills and support is much more valuable than a quick aid fix.

Long-term thinking and sustainability

Do your bit for sustainability by sourcing local materials and labour where possible – such as jewellery brand Believer, who use recycled and local materials and local labour. It’s an easy and effective way to give back to the community.

Do it for the love of it

“There is a commercial side in attending local food festivals to promote the restaurants in Margate and Rye, but a lot of our charity work is never publicised by ourselves – we do it because it’s fun and the right thing to do,” continues Dev Biswal of The Ambrette restaurant.

Bokani of Vertigo Ventures believes there are other benefits too. “Support causes that align with your values and those of your employees. This will help raise staff morale because they will be proud to support an organisation that they believe in too.”

 

Read the rest of our series on Small Business Good Samaritans to find out more about giving back to charity or the community!