Today, I am attending the launch party for a very timely and much needed book called “Your Ethical Business” by Paul Allen (Amazon UK)
I met Paul a few weeks ago at an event for Social Entrepreneurs and we immediately had a great connection.
Paul’s book is a unique new ‘how to’ handbook covering everything you need to know about starting and succeeding in an ethical enterprise.
This practical guide covers everything from clarifying what your ethical principles are, to launching your ethical product or service. From deciding on your ethical business model and raising ‘clean’ finance, to responsible marketing and ethically sound business practices.
As the book offers vital information and inspiration to everyday entrepreneurs who really want to make a difference, it’s message and content is much needed today.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview Paul recently to learn more about the book and his key messages for the world. This is the first in a series of inspirational interviews to inspire and educate the rest of us. This is what Paul Allen had to say:-
• Thank you Paul for your time. It sounds like a much needed book. To start with, what prompted you to write your book?
I wanted anyone who’s ever felt like starting a business, or already has a small business, to know there are simple steps they can take to be socially and environmentally responsible, and really make a difference. I wanted to inspire them with dynamic stories of fast-growing ethical businesses, and show them that it’s the right way to go.
• Paul, what is your definition of ethical?
In the business world, I think it’s a genuine alignment of social and environmental values. In other words, it’s about the concept of treating other people and the planet with respect being central to your purpose.
• However, in your opinion, is it even possible for a company to be “ethical” in all areas of its business and yet remain profitable?
Yes! That’s because my personal definition of ethical business is not about perfection. It’s about striving to be as good as you possibly can be. So from that, I definitely think it is possible to try to make every aspect of your business ethically sound while pursuing financial reward. Increasingly, that is what consumers want of the companies they shop with.
• What are your 3 main messages for the world from the book?
1. Profits and principles are compatible
2. Every business, no matter how small, can make a real difference
3. You can’t expect people to buy your product or service just because you’re ethical – you also have to be the best.
• There are many budding social entrepreneurs out there. What key steps do you suggest for them?
Everyone treads a different path, so there’s no one answer. I would say to spend time thinking about what you really want to achieve, and then do everything in your power to make it happen. If it’s something that you really believe in, it will be much easier to cope with the challenges along the way.
• What key actions can you suggest for consumers to start a positive campaign?
Actively support those businesses that are committed to positive social and environmental change. Refuse to buy from companies with poor human rights and environmental track records. Express your concerns for the planet through the way you consume. Spread the word.
• What is your opinion on the current high exposure in the media about ethical business? Is it just hype and people jumping on the bandwagon or is it here to stay?
It’s not just a fad. The underlying issues – principally climate, but also other issues, such as world poverty, species extinction, etc. – are not simply going to disappear overnight. If anything, they’re going to get more urgent, and the need for businesses to react will become even greater. But yes, some people are jumping on the bandwagon. We have to be very vigilant for “greenwash”, which threatens to confuse consumers, and perhaps even cause them to lose interest in these issues. It all goes back to the point about your values being aligned.
• What and how would you could change the way the media currently talk about or refer to Ethical Business?
It would be good to hear about more than twee, fair trade organic shops. I’ve nothing against that, but the diversity of ethical business in the UK is astonishing. In almost every sector, there are incredibly interesting new ethically minded companies emerging. It would be good to highlight these as the businesses of the future.
• What hope do you hold out for the future?
If governments, businesses and consumers all understand that we need to change the way we currently live – that no, we don’t have to start wearing sackcloth, but we do have to make some changes in order to protect the planet – then I’m hopeful.
• Finally Paul, what is your final message to the world in one sentence if that is possible?
Even if you’re starting with small steps, you can really make a difference.
• Thank you very much Paul for your time. And good luck with your book.
I guess the mesage is that more of us have to do our bit – and everything we do, no matter how small, does make a difference.