In 1970, Milton Friedman declared the purpose of business was to maximize shareholder value (i.e. profit at all costs.) This is the dominant economic model still today, yet the growing popularity of the triple bottom line is growing (otherwise known as people, planet, profit.)
We get large amounts of press because we actively seek to minimise the impact we have on the environment (#giveupthebottle); we develop partnerships with producers around the world to ensure we are paying a fair price for a great product (and that they in turn are practicing good environmental stewardship); and because we pay a living wage rather than the minimum. To me it’s a no-brainer.
But shouldn’t all business think bigger than just their bottom line?
It should be written into every business’ core values that there are things they just won’t compromise on. Staff need to be paid fairly and treated well; the products or services the company produces need to be critically evaluated to ensure they have a minimal impact on the environment, the people who produce them and the end user.
Not only that but consumers need to be able to believe that a company is telling the truth, and the only way to do this is to be transparent and authentic about the dedication the company has to their purpose. Michele Embling from PWC put it well when she said, ‘if you’re not living and breathing your purpose, you will be found out very quickly.’ Consumers are demanding more and more of brands and voting with their wallet, and the businesses that don’t step up will simply not be around in the future.
A couple of months ago I flew up to Samoa to see how our coconut oil is made and to explore the possibility of expanding our partnership with the women in business development team based in Apia. WiBDi, as it’s affectionately known, is an NGO that is transitioning to a social enterprise headed by the inspirational Adi Tafunai. WiBDi is dedicated to strengthening village economies in Samoa and promoting fair trade using traditional and modern technology whilst ensuring indigenous traditions are honoured every step of the way.
We go through pallets and pallets of coconut oil, and it’s a real source of pride to all of us at HQ that our oil is produced by hand, in small communities, and that the price we pay for it is fair and the money delivered where it is needed.
I am hoping the products we buy from the pacific islands can be expanded to include cocoa butter and creamed coconut (coconut butter.) currently these both come from cooperatives, but from much further afield, and, of course, I am mindful of the carbon footprint of our ingredients.
I am also keen to increase the value the villagers receive, and the best way of doing this is getting them involved in the manufacture of products. To this end, we are looking at having our body wash bars made over there, using their local ingredients such as cocoa butter, coconut oil, flower petals, teas and scented oils. Watch this space…
I am excited to see this partnership develop further and see if we can involve other countries closer to home, too. Who knows what incredible ingredients are out there waiting to be put into bars!
Posted: Tue 06 Jun 2017