I would love to meet someone who does, I would love to hear their arguments. I would love to understand the mindset… in the same way that young FBI agent protagonists in films are so keen to study psychopaths and serial killers…
We have scientific proof that human beings are causing catastrophic climate change. We also spend most of our waking hours at work, and more than 75% of the British workforce is in the private sector. If businesses are not actively solving social and environmental problems then we shouldn’t be surprised that they are, instead, a root cause of both! If we want a healthy, happy civilisation and a planet that can continue to support all of us, then surely we need the majority of our human effort to be a part of the solution? We can’t solve these problems while we sleep. We can’t rely on the less than 25% of us that work in the public sector.
And apparently the UK public agree, with the B Lab UK and ReGenerate poll revealing that “76% of people believe business has a responsibility to protect the natural environment”.
In 2005, Elvis and I did not start a business; we initiated a rescue mission to ensure that London’s damaged, decommissioned fire-hoses would not end their lives in landfill. Our business solves waste problems. We give our fire-hoses a second life by transforming them into bags, belts, wallets and purses and then we donate 50% of the profits to the Fire Fighters Charity. We don’t have a balance between purpose and profit. If we aren’t solving waste problems, there is no revenue. When you have the privilege to start something from scratch, why would you travel down a dark destructive road paved with exploitation and environmental degradation? There is another road.
We are so proud to be a social enterprise and a B Corp. B Corps legally change the constitutions of their businesses, they put it in writing; the planet and its people are at least as important as shareholders. We are part of a growing community of businesses that know we are only going to ensure a future for everyone’s grandchildren if we spend most of our working lives dedicated to solutions, collaboration, equality and diversity… we must dedicate our efforts to each other and to this beautiful earth we share. The people who start and build and work in these businesses are our heroes and peers, they are our teachers. It is through this community that we learned the most important thing that we ‘design’ is not our products, but our business itself.
This is a resilient community, it prioritises stakeholders over shareholders, and it is embedded in its community. Elvis & Kresse doesn’t have a long, complicated supply chain. We are our supply chain. We have a team of dedicated craftspeople and during the pandemic we have collectively re-choreographed everything we do to make it socially distant and safe. We have the full support of the London Fire Brigade, Brigades across the UK and the Fire Fighters Charity. We have amazing customers who have supported us throughout because our mission is just as much theirs as ours.
Our businesses represent the best of the private sector, and possibly the best thing about us is that we want everyone to join. This is not an exclusive club. We will welcome any business, with open arms, who wants to use the pandemic as a moment to pause, and rethink. This doesn’t have to be a painful transition either, embrace the idea that change does not equal sacrifice. The fashion industry represents a systemic, structural failure. It might be good for shareholders, but it has not been designed to benefit everyone in its ecosystem. The earth pays, the ocean pays, the makers pay, the farmers pay, and the consumer pays. Our products could have been made by underpaid workers or with materials and practices that destroy the environment. But why would a sane, sentient person do that? We chose, instead, to be truly creative and as a result our business is a joy to be a part of.
I can’t promise that this kind of work isn’t hard. I can tell you that it is much, much easier to motivate yourself, your colleagues and your community behind worthwhile challenges. It genuinely is more fun to make things better than to make things worse.