The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in many businesses facing an uncertain future, rethinking how they will make money. Many entrepreneurs have found a silver lining from their new circumstances in being given an unexpected opportunity to work on sustainable and ethical ideas as they reinvent their business.
Making your start-up or existing business sustainable or ethical is also a smart, future-proof option. Customers are now much more informed and aware of the environmental impact of their purchases. A more sustainable product or service will create a positive brand image and reputation that will impact the bottom line of many businesses.
Restoring Dublin’s economic health is now the big challenge. Many small businesses have collapsed or gone into deep freeze, and the crisis will have a long-lasting impact on our lives and the economy. However, this is also an opportunity to transform Dublin into a leading innovative and resilient city, and a test bed for new innovations that prioritise circular economies, climate resilience and ethical practices.
Overall, we need to take the energy we have put into working together on the COVID-19 crisis and use it to create more sustainable businesses. Our current production system is wasteful, and endorses a harmful consumer culture of disposability. It’s unsustainable, and makes for bad business practices. New businesses in our current climate will be judged not just on how they use their profits, but also on how they earn them.
There are a number of Dublin-based companies that have already provided a template on how we can embrace a sustainable future:
WILD BY WATER
Dublin-born sisters and designers Jacki Parker and Nicole McKenna embarked on their entrepreneurial journey by creating the Wild by Water brand. They combined their skills and passion for turning every accessory they make into an advocacy for sustainability. The business came about when they were both working in the fast-paced world of fashion and design. Escaping into the wild helped them to recharge their batteries.
Realising how important the natural environment is to our everyday life helped them to create the philosophy for their business. They built their supply chain with critical awareness, observing the critical impact that production has on the natural environment, and insisted on using high standards of sustainable production for their offerings. They now have a range of nature-loving bags and accessories that feature pictures of their adventures in the wild. Each bag is made from upcycled materials, is water-resistant and built for longevity.
THE PLANET CALLS
Leslie Maleipaard is founder and venture partner at Fortino, a traditional investment company based in Dublin. She’s also a Senator for Ireland at the World Business Angels Investment Forum.
In 2019 she founded The Planet Calls, a non-profit organisation with sustainability at its heart, alongside partner Amour Setter. The creative communications agency is focused on aligning companies with Sustainable Development Goals and the Circular Economy to create a cleaner planet. The Planet Calls works with companies who want to refine their brand through embracing sustainability goals. However, the companies must be fully onboard to make the necessary sustainability changes, not just at the marketing or advertising level. Edelman’s Brand Trust and Coronavirus Pandemic report has found that 71% agree that if they perceive a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever.
The Planet Calls have backed a number of successful ventures, including Dunia Designs. They’re a sustainable design company specialising in the recycling of plastic waste to create beautiful and bespoke furniture and other products. The Planet Calls helped to promote Dunia as the leading voice in secondary raw materials as well as strengthening their competitiveness in the market of turning waste into value.
Lizzy Hayashida and Willie Conaghan are on a mission to build a community of everyday philanthropists. They created Change Donations, a micro-donation platform which makes giving to charitable causes simple for users. It will round up your purchase to the nearest euro, and donate your spare change to the charities of your choice. This began as a college project in 2018. After coming first in an accelerator program competition, they realised they had an opportunity to create a meaningful product.