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Going green: Why backing sustainability is the smart move for businesses

PUBLISHED: 15:04 09 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:14 09 October 2019

Is it time for businesses to back the green agenda which has dominated headlines recently? Pictures: PA

Is it time for businesses to back the green agenda which has dominated headlines recently? Pictures: PA

PA

Front pages across the United Kingdom and beyond have been taken over by climate change stories - from Greta Thunberg's emotional speeches to Extinction Rebellion protests.

Taylor Gathercole of Kindwood. Picture: KindwoodTaylor Gathercole of Kindwood. Picture: Kindwood

But is it a smart idea for businesses to align themselves with the eco-friendly movement?

More importantly - does it give the businesses that are environmentally conscious an edge over their competitors?

Cata Parrish, founder of the Wellhouse Foundation and owner of Norwich's zero-waste shop Re. Source, certainly believes so.

She said: "Short term being a sustainable business is dependent on who your customers are. But strategically and in the long term, without a doubt.

Penny Arbuthnot. Picture: Genesis PRPenny Arbuthnot. Picture: Genesis PR

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"People are changing, rapidly. We have customers who last year wouldn't have set foot in a shop or cafe like ours."

Ms Parrish set up Re. Source in Norwich's Timberhill in March this year.

She said: "We set up Re. Source in response to our own struggles in making ethical consumer purchases. We couldn't find anywhere in Norfolk where we could buy ethical foods that were unwrapped at a decent price. It wasn't even about providing an edge, it was about creating a whole space to respond to the clear need."

For Leon Davies it was difficult to break into the sustainable market because of high barriers to entry.

Cata Parrish from Re-Source,  a zero waste general store and cafe on Timberhill in central Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyCata Parrish from Re-Source, a zero waste general store and cafe on Timberhill in central Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Mr Davies is the managing director of Zero Taxis, a Norfolk taxi firm with an entirely electric fleet.

He said: "Being a greener taxi company has highlighted us positively in many respects, but set up costs are very high and we have to compete with a very saturated market."

He added that once in the market, beating competitors came second to contributing positively to society.

He said: "If we can save hundreds of tonnes of C02 and get all our energy for the cars from 100% renewable sources, we are doing our part and I can, in many years time, tell my children and society that we are trying to make a difference."

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Despite being on the forefront of the green revolution, Mr Davies and his company have chosen not to align themselves directly with any particular campaigns.

He said: "I like that people can and are protesting in what they believe in and it's such a eye opener to what is happening to the planet. For a company though I think it is important not to directly support anyone for fears of conflicts of interest."

But another Norfolk business director is actively seeking to back specific climate change campaigns.

"We absolutely directly align our brand with campaigns," said Taylor Gathercole.

Mr Gathercole is the director of Kindwood, a sustainable firewood manufacturer.

He said: Recently with both of my companies we made sure to get involved with the Climate Strike in London.

"Peaceful protests such as that Extinction Rebellion do are integral to making sure we keep the momentum rushing and help spread the real emergency for change we need."

Mr Gathercole added that it was not only of benefit to businesses, put that it was their responsibility to be sustainable.

He said: "With the disturbance of issues going on around us every single second, businesses have a huge responsibility in a capitalistic society to make sure we consume sustainably and in alignment with our environment.

"Simply put, brands have a role to play in making easier for consumers to adopt sustainable behaviours, making it more accessible, affordable, convenient 
and easy to use."

And PR and marketing brands are also suggesting businesses should get on board the eco bandwagon.

Penny Arbuthnot, director at PR and digital marketing agency Genesis, based in Ipswich, said: "Sustainability has become a high priority for organisations, not just because it's the right thing to do but because customers, employees and other stakeholders are demanding strong performance in this 
area.

"There is increasing evidence to suggest that acting responsibly is critical to growth, long term profitability and maintaining a competitive advantage. It is also vital to reputation - no organisation can afford to be publicly called out on less than responsible activity, especially in today's high speed media and digital environment where news travels fast."

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