how to Build an ethical sustainable business

I’m all about simple, stress-free changes that you can easily make to your life and business so it becomes more sustainable, eco-friendly and ethical. So here are a few small, ethical steps that you can take that don’t cost the earth…

1. Sustainable Life & Business on-the-go.

One of the easiest changes to make is to carry re-usable items with you to cut down on plastic waste. I’ve had my trusty KeepCup for over 5 years and try to bring it in my bag or when I’m travelling anywhere to fill up with tea. I also cary a re-fillable water bottle around with me and a tote bag for impromptu shopping trips. You can get some great ‘on-the-go’ accessories from &Keep.

As an ethical sustainable design agency I make sure that whatever I bring with me to a meeting is sustainable. For example I have a cork notebook and ipad case, PELA phone case and try to cycle to meetings when I can or use public transport. 

2. Where does your money go?

Banking is one area that you can change quickly to make sure your money isn’t going to fund arms dealers, corrupt businesses, tax avoidance and polluting companies. I currently use the Starling Bank for my business and personal. Triodos is also an excellent ethical bank. You can use The Ethical Consumer to research the background of any banks or companies that may be related to your business.

3. Supporting Local ethical Independent Businesses.

When we shop local we are choosing to use our money to empower another businesses with good ethics. Many large companies lose their soul as they grow, but most smaller independents really care about what they do. There’s also less of a carbon footprint as many items are locally sourced and without unnecessary packaging. 

Holding business meetings in independent coffee shops who care about sustainability is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to supporting your community. Choose somewhere that offers biodegradable cups and encourages the use of reusable coffee cups. I also like to see if they are stocking local, fair-trade teas and coffees and cakes from local suppliers.

Don’t be afraid of changing a client suggestion to meet too! One client asked me to meet in a big chain hotel but I then made an alternative suggestion to meet in a lovely coffee/bookshop nearby and explained that I like to support the independent cafes wherever I can. The client loved my suggestion and hopefully will hold more meetings there in the future!

4. Embrace digital tools

I rarely print anything off and use PDF contracts, online note keeping, online forms and paper-less banking to ensure I’m not wasting paper and ink. You can also encourage your clients to do the same by asking them to keep documents digital. Having a Google Drive or Google Document are both quick and easy ways to share items without printing.


5. Buy sustainable marketing materials 

Feel good when handing out your branded business marketing materials. There are a great range of sustainable business cards, flyers and roller banners available that can be printed using vegetable inks on re-cycled paper and even out of re-cycled coffee cups. Hatch print is one of my favourite UK based printers to use. They are Vegan & Vegetarian society approved, plant trees to offset their paper use and have a range of bio-degradable products.  

Really think hard if you need to get something printed or is there a digital alternative. PDF’s and Ebooks can be made to look really professional and can be emailed to your prospective clients as opposed to sending over brochures or flyers in the post.

Read about my top ethical business suppliers here.



You can use your business to ‘do good’ by attending community events and using social media to show your support. Businesses and social enterprises can benefit each other. You may have talents that may be more beneficial to share than a percentage of your profit. Perhaps you have extra materials that you don’t need and could donate to a local art project, or you could sit down for an hour a month with a charity and give them a few marketing tips. Sometimes these small acts of kindness are far more impactful than money donations.

You could also organise your own ethical event. I recently organised a mass Litterpick in my local town and spread the word on Instagram and it was a great way to give back without the typical donation route which can sometimes feel a little cold.

Some businesses like to choose a charity and donate a a percentage of their profit to them at the end of the year too. Again try to choose a smaller charity that may benefit from your support. Even better if it is a charity that fits in with your brand ethos.


So start small, maybe try and make one change and let’s join the movement to create a more ethical, sustainable and conscious business world!

 let’s join the movement to create a more ethical, conscious business world!

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