Five ways to introduce a social or environmental mission into your business

Looking to introduce a social or environmental mission into your existing business? Here are five ways that may kick-start your purpose-led business.

1. ESTABLISH YOUR VALUES

Start with Why! “Values are the foundation of any company’s culture,” says Patagonia’s Rick Ridgeway. “What are your beliefs? What are the attitudes that you bring to your business? How do you treat people, how do you treat the planet in a wider context?”

2. FORMALISE YOUR PURPOSE AND SET GOALS

A company’s purpose should live longer than the original founder that established it. Write a binding document establishing what you want to achieve and by when. “We have 50-plus, time-bound targets in [our] plan we are committed to,” says Unilever’s Karen Hamilton.

3. DITCH YOUR CSR DEPARTMENT

“Purpose can’t possibly sit within a corporate social responsibility team. It’s about your HR department, your supply chain, your product, your local community,” says B-Lab UK’s Kate Sandle. Make your purpose central to the company culture and everything you do.

4. LISTEN TO DIVERSE VOICES

When communicating, “try and use different people, faces, voices and abilities,” says 4Creative’s Alice Tonge. Involve as many people as you can in the creative process and listen to their reactions. “If it scares you it’s a good thing because it means you’re pushing the boundaries.”

5. STRIVE FOR MEASURABLE OUTCOMES

While changing the conversation is a worthy goal, aim for impact you can measure. “It’s about having something tangible,” says Hamilton. “At the same time, a lot of big issues like climate change are systemic, so there we try and work with others.”

If this has started a conversation with your company, then let’s continue it today. Contact us today to see how we can help you become a purpose-led business that puts people and planet ahead of profit.

Building a better future – people, planet and profit

The way we do business needs to change and we need leaders who are equipped with the right knowledge and tools to make a positive change. By being purpose-driven and behaving ‘ethically’ you will be able to help your business build customer loyalty, avoid legal problems and attract and retain talented employees.

Having a greater understanding of sustainable business models and the regenerative economy also opens up opportunities for diversification and uniqueness where new products and services, with a purpose for good, can be developed and consumed, thereby future proofing your business.

Our individual support packages, tailored specifically for business owners and those working at a senior level within a company, will critically examine (through a mixture of presentations, exercises and discussion) business models and economies and how we can seek opportunities to provide a healthy natural environment for the benefit of current and future generations for all.

We will cover reasons for change and why we can’t go on with ‘business as usual’; why companies are increasingly looking to make a demonstrable difference by changing their own legal governance documents; explore ethics in business, the circular economy, regenerative development and appropriate business models; and critically examine opportunities for business growth.

Contact us now to find out more.

Individual support

Circular Economy and Ecologists

The Circular Economy is a growing trend for ecologists and environmental businesses. But how much thought have you given it within your business? Have you ever thought about leasing a car? What about a pair of jeans?

There is a shift away from ownership of products to addressing the realisation of what you need an item for. Do you want a drill, or do you just need a hole in the wall? Do you want a washing machine or do you need to wash your clothes? Do you want the latest fashionable clothes, then leasing them may be the right option for you.

Check out these useful ideas and websites:

Would you like to sell every product you make 20 times over? Surely that’s impossible? Well not so. RePack is a reusable and returnable packaging service.

Their reusable and returnable delivery packaging is designed with reuse in mind. It’s durable and will last a minimum of 20 cycles and is suitable for goods that don’t need protection during transport.

The reusable packaging is made from recycled materials and protects the goods better than any other single-use packaging out there. Packaging is adjustable and does not ship any air, saving money and nature. 

All reusable packages are designed to fold into letter size when empty and are simply returned to a postbox, anywhere in the world, free of charge.


What if you could guarantee a regular income from every sale? For ever! Well that’s what Mud Jeans have just gone and done.

Fashion is a dirty business. And jeans are one of the dirtiest garments out there. Due to its volume the denim industry has a big impact. On average people buy two billion pairs of jeans each year. Less than 1% of materials used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing. They want you to do things differently. What a great idea!

The notion of circularity has deep historical and philosophical origins. The idea of feedback, of cycles in real-world systems, is ancient and has echoes in various schools of philosophy. It enjoyed a revival in industrialised countries after World War II when the advent of computer-based studies of non-linear systems unambiguously revealed the complex, interrelated, and therefore unpredictable nature of the world we live in – more akin to a metabolism than a machine. With current advances, digital technology has the power to support the transition to a circular economy by radically increasing virtualisation, de-materialisation, transparency, and feedback-driven intelligence.

Interested in finding out more? Sign up to our group and let’s start the conversation.

The Circular Economy – a greater understanding

The Circular Economy is an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design.

In a circular economy, activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. The concept recognises the importance of the economy needing to work effectively at all scales – for big and small businesses, for organisations and individuals, globally and locally.

It is based on three principles:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

A circular economy reveals and designs out the negative impacts of economic activity that cause damage to human health and natural systems. This includes the release of greenhouse gases and hazardous substances, the pollution of air, land, and water, as well as structural waste such as traffic congestion.

It favours activity that preserve value in the form of energy, labour, and materials. This means designing for durability, reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling to keep products, components, and materials circulating in the economy. Circular systems make effective use of bio-based materials by encouraging many different uses for them as they cycle between the economy and natural systems.

A circular economy avoids the use of non-renewable resources and preserves or enhances renewable ones, for instance by returning valuable nutrients to the soil to support regeneration or using renewable energy as opposed to relying on fossil fuels.

The circular economy has been gaining traction with business and government leaders alike. Their imagination is captured by the opportunity to gradually decouple economic growth from virgin resource inputs, encourage innovation, increase growth, and create more robust employment. If we transition to a circular economy, the impact will be felt across society.

The potential benefits of shifting to a circular economy extend beyond the economy and into the natural environment. By designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating, rather than degrading, natural systems, the circular economy can be the mechanism by which we achieve global climate targets.

Businesses would benefit significantly by shifting their operations in line with the principles of the circular economy. These benefits include the creation of new profit opportunities, reduced costs due to lower virgin-material requirements, and stronger relationships with customers.

The circular economy will not only benefit businesses, the environment, and the economy at large, but also the individual. Ranging from increased disposable income to improved living conditions and associated health impacts, the benefits for individuals of a system based on the principles of circularity are significant.

There is no simple fix and no stones can be left un-turned in the pursuit of system change. Business models, product and service design, legislation, accounting practices, urban planning, farming practices, materials extraction, manufacturing, and more, all currently have undesirable qualities from a circular perspective. Yet, we cannot change just one element of the existing system and expect the change we need. Systems change is difficult to achieve, and great ideas often don’t come to fruition because of failures in managing the complexities involved. What we should do is learn to understand how complex systems – like an economy – operate, because understanding is the first step towards creating better solutions.

Our economy is currently locked into a system which favours the linear model of production and consumption. However, this lock-in is weakening under the pressure of several powerful disruptive trends. We must take advantage of this favourable alignment of economic, technological, and social factors in order to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Circularity is making inroads into the linear economy and has moved beyond the proof of concept; the challenge we face now is to mainstream the circular economy and bring it to scale.

Why reading makes you a better (business) person

For business owners and managers, a continual pursuit of education and professional development is the key to sustainable growth. And one of the best ways to improve your skills and knowledge is to learn from the experiences of other successful individuals who have been in your shoes before. So, why does reading make you a better business person?

There are many excellent and informative books on business strategy, marketing, leadership and management, financial planning, etc. There are also some book that have been written just for the ego of the author. With so many on the market it can be difficult to know which ones are worth your time and money. If you’re after a reading list, then start with our Resources page (i’m not going to repeat it here). But why does reading make business sense?

Let me put this right out there at the start. I’m not exactly a fast reader. In fact, some books I’m currently ‘reading’ I started over two years ago! I pick them up now and again, read a couple of lines and then either get distracted by ideas that come into my head – either by something I’ve read, or because I’ve diverted my attention away from daily life – or, more than likely, tired! Should I just give up on the book and literally put it down as a lost cause? Or should I persevere in case I miss something inspiring or insightful? Why is reading so problematic to me?

The truth is I’m probably reading the right books, but at the wrong time. Either too late at night or just before I’m going to have to leave the house, peg out the washing or dance with my daughter. But distractions aside, what about understanding what I’ve read? There have been times when that sentence will just not sink in. I also get moments after reading for half an hour where I just cannot remember, with any degree of comprehension, what I’ve just read. Is it just me? I don’t think I’m alone here and that led me to ‘read-up’ on improving my reading skills and habits. The reasons for doing so were, funnily, to ideally reduce my reading time, to enable me to read in a more focused and selective manner. I also hoped to be able to increase my levels of understanding and concentration. So what did I find out.

Firstly, I need to know what type of book I’m reading and ‘adopt’ my technique. My normal reading style for reading a novel is to read in detail, focusing on every word in sequence from start to finish. If it’s a magazine I might flick through the pages to see which articles are of interest (I usually do this in the newsagent and then decide whether or not to buy it). When you search on-line for a particular topic, I will purposefully ignore all other entries and focus my attention on spotting the article or web-page I want or think will lead me to the right answer. These everyday reading skills, apparently, can be applied to reading for business purposes or self-improvement.

To improve your reading skills I’ve learnt that you need to:

  • have clear reading goals;
  • choose the right texts;
  • use the right reading style;
  • use note taking techniques.

Reading goals

Clear reading goals can significantly increase your reading efficiency. Not every book will be of use to you. Use reading goals to select and prioritise information according to the task in hand.

Reading goals can be:

  • to acquire a greater level of knowledge and understanding of a subject area for business development
  • to acquire a greater level of knowledge and understanding of a subject area for personal development
  • to research a selected subject area (e.g. bat ecology);
  • to answer a series of questions about a specific topic.
  • for enjoyment/escapism/fun

Use your reading goals to help you identify the information that is relevant to your current task. Ask yourself ‘why am I reading this’?

Choosing the right book/text

You will need to assess the book/text to see if it contains information that is relevant to your reading goals.

  • Check the date of publication. Is the information up-to-date? Is it the latest edition?
  • Read the publisher’s blurb at the back or inside sleeve for an overview of the content.
  • Check the contents page for relevant chapters.
  • Look up references for your topic in the index.
  • Read the reviews or ask for or seek out recommendations

If the book/text does not seem relevant, discard it.

Once you’ve selected a text you can use the following techniques of scanning and skimming to help you identify areas for detailed reading.

Scanning and Skimming

Scanning is the technique you might use when looking for a specific web-page on-line. You pass your vision speedily over a section of text in order to find particular words or phrases that are relevant to your current task. You can scan:

  • the introduction or preface of a text;
  • the first or last paragraphs of chapters;
  • the concluding or summarising chapter of a text;
  • the book index.

Skimming is the process of speedy reading for general meaning. Let your eyes skip over sentences or phrases which contain detail. Concentrate on identifying the central or main points. Use this technique to:

  • pre-view a selection of text prior to detailed reading (see below);
  • refresh your understanding of a selection of text following detailed reading.

Detailed reading and note taking

Once you have selected useful information, you can begin to read in detail. Note taking techniques provide a useful aid to reading. Use:

  • underlining and highlighting to pick out what seem to you the most central or important words and phrases. Do this in your own copy of books/texts or on photocopies – never on borrowed texts;
  • keywords to record the main headings as you read. Use one or two keywords for each main point. Keywords can be used when you don’t want to mark the text;
  • questions to encourage you to take an active approach to your reading. Record your questions as you read. They can also be used as prompts for follow up work;
  • summaries to check you have understood what you have read. Pause after a section of text and put what you have read in your own words. Skim over the text to check the accuracy of your summary, filling in any significant gaps.

These techniques encourage an active engagement with the text as well as providing you with a useful record of your reading. Avoid passively reading large amounts of text, it does not make effective use of your time. Always use a note taking technique to increase your levels of concentration and understanding.

Increasing your reading speed

It is more important to improve your reading skills than your reading speed. Being focused and selective in your reading habits will reduce the time you spend reading. If, in addition to using a range of reading skills you want to increase your reading speed, then the following technique will be of use.

The average reading speed is about 240-300 words per minute. I’m well below that currently. For the average reader, the eye fixes on each word individually.

It is easy for your eye to recognise 4 or 5 words in a single fixation without a loss of understanding.

The key to increasing your reading speed is not to increase the speed at which your eyes move across the page, but to increase the word span for a single fixation. A simple way of developing the habit of taking in more than one word per fixation is to take a page of text and divide it length ways into three with two lines drawn down the page. Using a pen or pencil as a pointer, read each line of text by allowing your eye to fall only in the middle of each of the three sections, as indicated by your pointer.

Developing your reading speed

  • Don’t worry about how quickly you are reading but instead, concentrate on reading the line in only three fixations.
  • As this becomes more natural, practise without drawing lines.
  • Later, reduce the number of fixations to two per line.
  • Once this increased word span becomes a comfortable habit, an increase in your reading speed will occur.

Summary

  • Have a clear focus for your reading. Set your reading goals.
  • Survey the text before you spend the time and effort involved in detailed reading.
  • Scan and skim to select the text for detailed reading.
  • Scan and skim after detailed reading to reinforce your understanding.
  • Use a form of note taking whilst reading in detail, to keep you concentrating, aid understanding and provide you with a record of your reading.
  • Using clear reading goals and a variety of reading skills is more important than increasing your reading speed.
  • To improve your reading speed, don’t increase the speed of the eye across the page, but increase the number of words the eye recognises in a single fixation.

I’ve given the above a go and I’ve still a way to go for speed reading. Thankfully, there are audio-books for the really slow readers amongst us. Even there, you can crank the speed up x1.5 or x2.0 or even higher.

Let me know what you think or indeed pass on your good reads.

Work smarter. Not harder. Improving business efficiency using “Parkinson’s Law”

Work smarter. Not harder.

Cyril Northcote Parkinson was a British naval historian who wrote a satirical article in The Economist (1955), sharing his experience within the British Civil Service, and criticising the inefficient nature of bureaucracies. The first sentence he wrote in the article became the tagline for his famous law.

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

To describe his observations, he used an example of an elderly lady, who has a lot of ‘leisure time’. She spends an entire day to send a postcard to her niece in Bognor Regis. She could spend an hour just to find the perfect postcard, another to find her glasses, another to find the address, one hour to compose and dispatch it. On the other hand, a busy man or woman would take only 3 minutes to achieve such a task, making rapid decisions and utilizing their time effectively.

Parkinson’s Law states that the amount of time that you have to perform a task is the amount of time it will take you to complete the task.

In other words:

  • If something should be done in a day, it’ll be done in 24 hours.
  • If something should be done in a week, it’ll be done in 168 hours.
  • If something should be done in a year, it’ll be done in 8760 hours.

Employees adjust their pace to the work available. If there is less work, they will work more slowly – either because they don’t have the pressure to perform, or because they are putting too much emphasis on the details in the initial phase of performing a task.
 
If your daily schedule is from 9 to 5, and you have this time to complete your work-related tasks, it will take you 8 hours to complete them. It is common to postpone tasks to the very last minute when you have such a long time. Sounds familiar?

Example

Let us consider that you have a report to write. You’ve finished your surveys and site visits and now have to write up your results, assessment and recommendations. Your client, you assume, is not in a hurry and so you add bits to the report over the course of a couple of weeks. Tweak the formatting. Write up the easy bits first (usually recommendations) and then work back from there. After all, that’s the only page they will read, right? At 2pm on a Friday you receive a phone call from the client asking where their report is as a colleague ‘promised’ you would get this out to her by 5pm end of play today! Panic sets in and you work methodically away at the report for the next two hours, straight! You know what needs to be done and you knock it out of the park. Bang! You even have an hour spare, so you get a colleague to QA the report for you. Off it goes. The client thanks you for a job well done. You feel great.

So why did you wait until you were chased? Obviously, putting less physical and mental effort and working at a slower rate is easier. It’s time to work smarter, not harder!

Work Smarter. Not harder.

A solution could be to reduce the time available to complete a task. When you have less time to complete the same task, pressure increases. Last minute report writing, or tight deadlines seem to increase efficiency and creativity. As your deadline looms closer you prioritise speed and there is less emphasis on ‘fine-tuning’.

So how do you utilise Parkinson’s Law to increase efficiency? First, you need to recognise the symptoms of under-productivity. For example, when you have too much time given to complete a task, you tend to procrastinate, or even put off responsibilities until the deadline is pressing, and it becomes an urgent matter.

People are so used to spending lots of time at work, doing trivial tasks and ‘pretending’ to be productive – “working for the sake of working”. But a long time spent at doing something is not really productive. People often will tell you to commit more time to working but do they ever tell you to work less?

Solution

The solution to under productivity may be to work smarter, not harder. There are of course a plethora of books to assist you in Time Management. Such as:

However, here are a couple of processes of how you can efficiently manage tasks using Parkinson’s Law:

Break down your tasks. You might have an enormous to-do list, with many items and clear deadlines. Start the productive process off by identifying what are your most important tasks. Methods such as the Eisenhower Matrix can help you set priorities as to what is urgent, or what is really important to yourself or your team at the time.

The idea is to retain punctuality, whilst increasing the scope of work with attainable and relatively simple tasks

Break down your deadlines. Once you know your most important small and achievable tasks, take a hard look at your deadlines. Shift your currently conservative deadlines and shorten the time to complete each task. A time-box practice can help you separate activities with their own deliverable’s and deadlines. Use the Pomodoro Technique to time box your work. This practice uses a timer that builds up a slight pressure on performance, helping you to focus and deal with distractions.

The idea is to keep the same scope of work, whilst reducing deadlines.

Cautionary note

A bad interpretation of the law can have negative consequences for both the individual and the business as a whole.

Some managers are all too familiar with Parkinson’s Law: so much so, that they take it to the extreme and try to cram more work into a given time than can be really performed. They will begin to schedule an overload of tasks, purely to keep everybody busy scheduled and pushing to tight deadlines, without ever having time to procrastinate or worry too much about finer details. Result? Poor quality of services and stressed out-staff.

Putting mental and physical stress on your daily routine will have good results over the short term. But put under too much pressure over a prolonged or even an undetermined amount of time, and it can lead employees to chronic stress issues, or what is colloquially referred to as a burnout. You may also lose clients who primarily came to you because of the quality of your work.

Takeaway message? Work Smarter. Not Harder.


Hey, now you’re here, why not come and join us at Eco-Exec?

Confidence in business?

Confidence

When someone asks you to “put your confidence in them”, what response do you give? Is there a link between competence and confidence? Does it matter?

We often see ‘confidence’ as a positive trait to have. A quick search on the internet and you will see there is a lot to be said on the subject:

And that’s only just scratching the surface! So, is all this attention justly deserved?

There is actually very little overlap between how good people think they are and how good they really are. Just because you are confident does not make you qualified to perform a task. What makes you so sure you will succeed? Are we being over confident to secure a business deal?

Why is confidence used to motivate us, get us off the couch, make us healthier and help us live up to our potential? Doctors, entrepreneurs and whole economies can benefit from the right kind of confidence and the ways in which we can tell the good from the bad. It seems trust from others forms part of securing a deal in not only business, but in our day to day lives.

During our workshop sessions we will actively discuss behavioural traits in more depth. And confidence is a great subject to start with, both inward focusing (how would you rate your confidence and what measurements matter) and outward looking (can we spot a con from a good deal; what level of confidence do you display on your website and social media platforms).

So, confidence is more than likely to be a good trait to have, but probably better not to over use it! What are your thoughts?


Hey, now you’re here, why not come and join us at Eco-Exec?