Suranga Herath of the English Tea Shop looks at how businesses can find opportunities for growth in sustainable development.
Many in the business world believe sustainability and profit are like oil and water: they just don’t mix. So while businesses know they should be more socially, environmentally and financially sustainable, they often can’t quite find the motivation to make it a priority.
Which is completely understandable. But I’d like to put forward an alternative view which says that growth can be achieved because of sustainability, not despite it. At English Tea Shop, we do this by applying the principle of Creating Shared Value (CSV). This is a revolutionary approach developed by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter that businesses such as my own are putting into practice with exciting results in terms of growth
CSV is about finding opportunities for growth in sustainable development. It’s about creating value for the business while creating value for the world at large. In short, it’s about win-win situations. Whereas CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is only about giving back, CSV is a two-way street making business much more sustainable and meaningful in the long-run.
The practice of unlocking growth by focussing on sustainable initiatives that simultaneously improve businesses can seem counter-intuitive. However, there is plenty of evidence emerging that is challenging this narrative.
According to a recent report in the Financial Times, collective renewable energy and energy efficient initiatives by 190 of the Fortune 500 companies together “saved close to $3.7bn” in 2016 .These corporations have realised that cleaner, more efficient energy is not only good for the environment but has also impacted positively on the bottom line.
Furthermore, the potential of CSV as a viable business model has been highlighted in a 2017 report by the Business Commission entitled Better Business, Better World. The report suggested that “Greater sustainability can help businesses overcome global burdens to growth and deliver trillions in new market value”, while helping to tackle the most pressing social, economic and environmental issues.
While the larger corporations may be generating the headlines, it is increasingly the smaller, independent businesses who are at the vanguard of the movement. This is because they can be nimbler and more responsive to the world around them.
Using smaller food and drink manufactures as an example, we have seen this manifest itself through the development of transparent supply chains, such as ‘direct trade’, which connects suppliers and buyers together without the use of intermediaries, simplifying the route to market for farmers.
In the case of English Tea Shop, we have put CSV in to practice through our 'Love, Care, Change' philosophy that manifests in a wide variety of environmental, social, financial initiatives that have a huge effect on the environment, farmers and their communities and factory workers.
For example, by pioneering new ways of working together, we can help farmers plan for the future, minimise over-cultivation and grow a better product, which in turn gives us access to better tea for our customers. These close relationships mean that as a business we are well placed to drive and meet the growing consumer demand for organic produce. This is not only better for the environment but also enables farmers to command higher premiums and stimulates the incredible growth of our business.
The impact and results of CSV are undeniable. On the back of embedding sustainable practices at the very core of our business operations we’ve achieved some incredible growth. Since inception in 2010, we’ve become the fastest growing tea brand in the UK with compound annual growth rate of 63% and global turnover of £20m and have taken our business to over 50 global markets, with a view of expanding to 80 by 2021.
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