Between the recent US election and the upcoming Gigantic Shopping Weekend, I’ve been thinking about what businesses can do to be the good they wish to see in the world. As a small business I think it is perfectly fine – and sometimes your responsibility – to take a stand. If you don’t, who will? Not only that, but you give your customers another reason to fall in love with you.
Support underrepresented people.
Hire them as models. Stock their products. Advertise job opportunities in places where they will see them. Seek out people in your field who don’t look like you.
Use eco-friendly packaging.
Try not to wrap everything in individual plastic bags. Or use those plastic bags that biodegrade in like 3 months. Use recycled/recyclable packing materials.
Donate a percentage of sales.
Find an organization you believe in and pledge to donate 1% (or whatever seems reasonable to you) of your profits to them. Don’t be shy about it! Let your customers know what you’re passionate about. You could also engage your customers by picking a different organization every month.
Source ethical materials.
Fair trade, organic fabrics. Ethically sourced gemstones. Natural dyes. Recycled materials. If you don’t personally create your product from raw natural resources, what happened before the materials came to you? And if you own a shop, make a point to stock ethically-manufactured products.
Have a ramp to your door. Use alt tags for photos on your website. Try to see your business from the perspective of someone who: uses a wheelchair, doesn’t speak English, has impaired vision, has a service animal, has small children, and I could go on. How can you make their experience a little easier?
Check your area’s laws about accessibility and see if they offer training. I took accessibility training a few years ago and it made me consider things I otherwise never would have thought about that could make a big difference for someone. Here are some ideas from the Rick Hansen Foundation.
Sponsor a local organization or festival.
Make a one-time donation to help your local youth centre buy a van. Buy advertising at an LGBT film festival. Mixing marketing with do-gooding is a-OK in my books!
Lend your space.
Let a local art program for adults with developmental disabilities have their year end show in your studio. Let an organization you believe in sell their fundraising [buttons/bracelets/whatever] at your shop. Have a bulletin board where local organizations can advertise – and think about keeping the parameters narrow so a) it doesn’t become a wild mess, and b) people come to know your shop’s board as a source for info on [local rallies/environmental causes/support groups].
Be a mentor.
Help bring someone up the ladder behind you. Especially look out for people who are underrepresented in your field.
Donate to a silent auction.
A cause you believe in has asked you to donate one of your pottery pieces to their silent auction. Go for it! One thing to look out for: try to assess if the auction audience will appreciate the value of your work. If you donate a $150 bowl and it’s sold for $60, that’ll feel pretty crappy (and you might as well have sold it at full price yourself and donated the money).
Offer a mending service.
Keep your products out of the landfill by letting your customers know that you can mend the item they purchased from you.
Have a lending library.
Not everyone needs to own everything. We’re used to renting cars, movies, and books, and now many cities have libraries for tools. But you can rent anything! Mud Jeans is proof: they lease jeans! After a year you can choose to keep the jeans or send them back so they can be recycled.
How is your business ethical?
Share in the comments below! I’m sure there are more ways than I’ve listed here, so let’s inspire and encourage each other!