KeepCup founder says companies must reduce harm in all areas of the business
Thursday, 1st August 2019 at 8:29 am
It is foolish for businesses to think that they can be a force for good if they are acting ethically in some areas but doing harm in others, the co-founder of the KeepCup says.
Abigail Forsyth – whose barista-standard reusable cups have changed the way Australians drink coffee – discussed how businesses can make the world a better place during a B Corp panel event in Melbourne on Wednesday.
She said businesses struggling to embed impact and purpose in their operations needed to seriously rethink their approach.
“Businesses on the one hand are giving back [through charity], and on the other hand, they’ve got a six week cycle in the fashion industry and throw everything in the bin at the end of it,” Forsyth said.
“That doesn’t make sense. You can’t do bad with the left hand, and good with the right. It won’t work.”
Forsyth told Pro Bono News many companies engaged in corporate social responsibility but did not properly consider what harm they were doing in other areas of the business.
She pointed to NAB – which was represented on the event panel – as an example of this, given the company’s investment in fossil fuels.
“Is that in line with their values and aligned with what they’re trying to do?” she said.
“If you want trust from your employees and from your stakeholders and your customers, you have to live those values right through the organisation or it lacks integrity.
“And when you make an error, it’s not about looking deep inside yourself, it’s about fixing the problem.”
Last year’s Edelman Trust Barometer found 80 per cent of people agreed that businesses must play a role in addressing social issues, and use their platforms for social and environmental good.
This comes amid major growth in the number of Australian B Corps – a relatively new model of business balancing profit and purpose.
Certified B Corporations in Australia and New Zealand have grown from 33 in 2014 to 269 in 2019.
Forsyth said businesses needed to adapt to meet changing community expectations, admitting this required a shift in business culture.
“You don’t need to have all the answers at the start,” she said.
“You’re going to have inconsistencies and you’re going to make mistakes, but as long as you’re committed to the journey and you’re committed to what you want to achieve, it’ll work out in the end.”