Early in 2015, I made the decision to become a sustainopreneur and founded a business – EnviroBuild – with the aim of solving problems related to social and environmental sustainability.
Sustainopreneurship is just that, the organising of a business to solve problems related to sustainability – both social and environmental – in addition to making a profit.
EnviroBuild is a supplier of sustainable construction and landscaping materials, which – through its activity – increases demand for recycled plastic and wood, and therefore reduces demand for deforestation.
Entering into sustainopreneurship was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only do I enjoy owning and running a thriving business, but I am working towards my goal of “giving back more than I have consumed in my life” on a daily basis. This was my aim back in 2015, when I left a successful career in investment banking to found the business in the July of that year.
Two years later, and EnviroBuild is now a £4 million business that donates 10% of its profits to preserve biodiversity and reduce the impact of climate change through organisations such as The Rainforest Trust. As a business that insists on market leadings levels of recycled components across all of our product ranges, we help to lower the embedded carbon within buildings when our products are chosen over those of competitors that are composed entirely of virgin plastics.
EnviroBuild also provides a sustainable product choice for architects, specifiers and homeowners across the UK and Europe, which competes on durability and aesthetics with non-sustainable choices. In this way, we’re creating momentum for sustainability in an industry that isn’t currently being strongly driven by government legislation in this area.
I’ve learnt a lot in the past two years and want to encourage more budding entrepreneurs to consider sustainopreneurship. The process isn’t dissimilar to starting up any other business, however there are a few key differences. Here are my 5 steps to becoming a sustainopreneur:
You’re sustainable, but what else?
There is a market for sustainable products being sold at a premium, but you need to do your research and identify how large it is. We went the other route and looked for products and services that provide value to the consumer irrespective of whether they would pay an environmental premium. Think carefully about which approach you are taking, and avoid getting stuck in the middle!
Find the right partner
Going into business alone is hard. Finding a business partner (or two) doesn’t just half your workload, but dramatically decreases your chances of making stupid mistakes and gives ideas an echo chamber to test their effectiveness. I was joined by EnviroBuild’s director – Dr Aidan Bell – in February 2016.
Alternatively ensure that you have people you can talk to. There are lots of mentors willing to help sustainopreneurs, seek some out, you’d be surprised how willing people are to help a good cause!
Build the right team
I doubt a single article has been written on business without ascribing success to surrounding yourself with the right people. It is obvious, but completely true, and I’d suggest recruiting the best people that you can – and being a sustainopreneur can make this task ever so slightly easier!
Yes, one of the greatest benefits of being a sustainopreneur is that it allows you a real edge when looking to recruit your first staff – working for a company with sustainable goals is an attractive prospect! We have found this to be true across a range of people, from professionals leaving the City to fresh faced graduates.
However, the clearest recruitment advantage is found within the millennial age group, a generation that wants to work for a cause and in some ways correct the environmental mistakes of their parents.
Avoid growing pains
Managing high growth is sometimes an overlooked issue for startups and overtrading is very easy to do if left unchecked. You can damage key relationships by not being able to deliver as you have sold, plus you can freeze up your finances and therefore your ability to operate.
Starting a business is hard. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing it is going to be a very long slog. Belief in your final goal will help, but it won’t help with every task, and when you’re burning the midnight oil finalising invoices or your market segmentation strategy, it can be a long way from your mind.
Remember that you’re the boss! If you’re not working hard, go outside for a walk or have a nap, nobody can be productive all the time, and there is no worse feeling than procrastinating for two hours and not even opening that spreadsheet.
James Brueton is CEO of EnviroBuild