Sustainability. What is enough?
Whilst attending UK for Good's 'Business for Good' Festival in Chester last week, a key question kept coming to the forefront of my mind – When it comes to operating a sustainable business, what is ‘enough’?
Having recently taken the decision to acquire another brand, we knew our operational responsibilities would grow overnight. But our intention is for that growth to enable us to do more good as we move forward. What we definitely can’t lose sight of is that any increase in business goes hand-in-hand with further supporting our purpose. We include the words 'support, resilience, transparency and honesty' in our mission, and a quadruple bottom line (purpose, people, planet and prosperity) is at the heart of everything we do, but it's easy to focus only on the day-to-day when things get busy.
The stoic philosophers (Marcus Aurelius, Seneca) believed that very little is needed to make a happy life. We often think we need lots of money, power, fame and possessions, but what we actually need is much more simple than that. They suggest we should look for inspiration, guidance, reassurance and clarity in and from others, ideally on a daily basis. I really believe that this, together with their suggested pillars of wisdom, courage, justice and temperance will set us on the right path.
So we’re definitely not going to lose sight of our bigger goal and our opportunities to encourage collective action using the wisdom of those philosophers. We’ve recently launched Just, Good Travel - a community for travel professionals to come together to learn about how their companies can act more sustainably and responsibly. The positive feedback and rapidly growing interest hopefully shows that there’s an appetite for the aforementioned inspiration, guidance, reassurance and clarity to help others. We’ve had an equally positive start for SP Sustain, a product we created to help travel organisations and their supply chains measure their progress against established sustainability criteria in tourism.
At UK For Good's Festival, we were reminded about the importance of displaying strong values to create a purposeful culture. That frameworks like B Corp help structure your whole business to do more good. And that by committing to give back through volunteering and donating to charities and environmental projects (and then telling impactful stories), we have the power to amplify our message and encourage positive change from others. But is that enough?
The answer is, fairly simply (and dauntingly), no. Firstly, we have to do everything with heart and emotion, otherwise it becomes a tick box exercise. And we can't stand back and admire what we've achieved so far. Even incredibly tough processes to go through in order to create a better business (like B Corp) are not, in themselves, enough. We have to use these as platforms to kickstart increased activity and create a culture throughout our organisation and beyond, which encourages making positive differences to the climate, communities and our people an absolute and permanent priority. Individually, that still won't be enough, but collectively it might.
As a business we have so much to be grateful for and plenty to look forward to. We're part of some great networks that help us to appreciate that commercially, what we currently have is enough, and this in turn drives us to push for even more impactful change. I hope we're on track to develop a structure and framework to support further widespread action in the travel sector and that we can encourage others to ask the question about their own organisations: 'What is enough?'.