What does “going green” mean and how can it impact your business? Aris Markantonakis, Head of Sales and Exports at his family business, Mills of Crete, and Opportunity Network member, has spent the last 20 years making his Greece-based business “go green”, resulting in growth and innovation.
In 2018, a report by the Financial Times found that the commercial industry accounted for 18% of all Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and that the US industry alone was responsible for more than a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore it is no secret that climate change is one of the biggest challenges the world faces. The human population must take action soon if we are to prevent the worst outcome. It is up to businesses to take a stance, make their companies sustainable, and become a “green business“.
Green businesses are the future. They have the means and influence to be pioneers for social and environmental change. These powerful enterprises can trigger this wave of change and a shift in focus towards sustainability. This will bring about an immensely positive impact in regards to climate change.
What does being a “green business” mean?
Being a green business means following a strategy that aims to limit the overall impact on the environment. The sustainable strategy encompasses operating procedures, product and material sourcing, labor practices, and shipping methods, etc.
Green businesses are becoming increasingly more common as a means to help the environment, but also to grow and innovate within your business.
Aris Markantonakis is head of sales and export at his family business, Mills of Crete, and an Opportunity Network member. He follows this narrative and has spent the last two decades making his Cretan-based business increasingly more sustainable.
Greece is on the path to becoming a far greener country. It plans to spend more than half of the $32 billion funding they received as part of the EU recovery fund on green transformations.
Aris shares how Mills of Crete has been able to thrive as a green business. He gives five key benefits of these environmentally friendly companies.
1. Talent attraction and retainment
The incorporation of sustainability into a business strategy attracts employees who align to the business ethos or adopt a more sustainable approach during their time working for the company
According to McKinsey, nearly 3,000 employees said the strongest motivating factors to adopting a sustainable mindset are to: align with a company’s goals, missions, or values. Research by Deloitte shows that almost 9 in 10 millennial employees believe that a business’s success should not be measured exclusively by profit, but rather should take into account the likes of social and environmental impact. In fact, millennials are willing to sacrifice a portion of their salary to work in a business that is sustainable and offers social benefits.
Businesses are more likely to attract and retain employees if they can establish a strong strategy of sustainability. A business that has a sustainability certificate, such as the Green Business Bureau, can clearly demonstrate its commitment to potential employees. This helps to retain employees that are committed to sustainability. Green businesses attract and retain employees which will have an overall positive impact on the business, both economically and socially.
2. Impact on the local community
Mills of Crete has a vast product list, ranging from olive oil to animal feed. They all work together and feed into each other to create a sustainable business structure. The use of the pulp from the olives, used in the olive oil making process, to create pellets to fuel the mills, a sustainable alternative to petrol, is an example of these sustainable practices. Many bakeries in Crete also use these pellets as fuel meaning they can reduce their CO2 emissions significantly enough to qualify for EU green initiatives.
Mills of Crete began its sustainable journey in 1998 when the business went entirely GMO-free. From this point onwards, the business has continuously striven to become more green, sustainable, and supportive of the local populous. This business nurtures the local economy as it creates vast amounts of jobs for the Cretan locals, attracts talent, and encourages locals to stay.
On a larger scale, Australian banks Westpac and ANZ have committed themselves to aid their local communities and businesses. Strong sustainability practices and the addition of sustainability to their business process and culture allow this commitment to be carried out. ANZ is currently aiding their 100 highest emitting business customers in identifying and combating their climate change impact for the better.
When businesses take a stance against climate change, the local population can benefit immensely from it. Therefore loyalty and trust are built up between the business and local community.
3. Profit in green businesses
Shifting to a sustainable business strategy undoubtedly has an external positive impact, aiding the environment. Research shows that this change can also have a positive internal impact. According to Deutsche Bank, 89% of the 56 academic studies they reviewed showed that companies with high ESG ratings outperform the market in the medium and long term.
On a more personal level, since the business began to focus on sustainability, Aris has seen an increase in his efficiency when he works. He states that “there is a more holistic approach to the way I work now as it is not about “how much money I can make from selling this.” Now I focus more on “where I can source something locally” and “where can I dispose of this sustainably.”
The World Economic Forum named Ørsted the most sustainable business of 2020. The Danish business reduced its carbon emissions by 83% by investing in offshore wind power. The company’s offshore wind farms bring green power to more than 13 million people. The aim is to reach 50 million by 2030. Tony Heap, CEO and creator of Corporate Knights, said of businesses with a sustainable strategy, “in this age of climate and carbon constraints and an emerging climate economy, these companies are positioned to succeed.” The adoption of sustainable practices means that businesses are poised to become the next leaders in their industries.
“In this age of climate and carbon constraints and an emerging climate economy, these companies are positioned to succeed.”Tony Heap, CEO and creator of Corporate Knights
4. Innovation and sustainability
When you are on the path to adopting new, sustainable practices, innovation is key.
Mills of Crete has innovative ways to become more sustainable, introduce new products, and maintain loyalty from the local community. The company plans to reintroduce local flora and fauna to the island. This takes the form of the carob tree, a local tree that was cut down to make way for olive groves. The green business plans to reintroduce due to the recent discovery that the pods on the tree are now considered “superfoods”.
The reintroduction is a prime example of how sustainable strategies can invigorate the local economy and community. It is also likely to provide opportunities for growth within a business.
Patagonia, the American outdoor clothing brand, has combined innovation and sustainability to create the company’s core values. The values consist of “build the best product,” “cause no unnecessary harm”, “use business to protect nature” and, “not bound by convention”.
The green company is seen as championing the approach of corporate social responsibility. In 2012 it became the first Californian company to be “B registered.” This means it gained more freedom to strive for the betterment of the environment or wider society. Patagonia’s marketing campaign, “Don’t buy this jacket”, was created during the recession as a means to encourage buyers to make a long-term investment in their goods. Such savvy marketing took into account the global situation and also encouraged long-term investments over impulse buying which positively impacts the environment.
While the fashion industry accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of wastewater, Patagonia’s innovative case has set a precedent for other companies within the industry.
When a business focuses on being environmentally friendly, innovation is always happening.
In the case of Mills of Crete, Aris said he had learned that “cooperation is key” and that it is crucial to remember that “one man’s waste is another man’s treasure.”
By turning to sustainability, the business’s goal is no longer focused solely on how much money can be made. Instead, the green company’s goal is now spread between profit and positive environmental impact. A selection of products that are not linked in any obvious way have now become part of a cycle that boosts sustainability and reduces waste. This concept was coined the “circular economy”.
A report by Harvard Business School poses the idea of the “Shared Value Opportunity.” This means that a business can both “do well” (make money) and “do good” (solve social and environmental problems). This idea of “doing good” positively correlating to “doing well” demonstrates that businesses with a sustainable strategy are the way forward.
Enekem, a Canadian business, really does use someone’s trash to power their business. It converts trash that cannot be recycled into biofuels like methanol and ethanol that can be used in everyday products. Now the city of Edmonton, Canada, reuses 90% of its trash which saves a staggering total of 100,000 metric tonnes of trash from the landfill a year.
“One man’s waste is another man’s treasure.”Aris Markantonakis, Mills of Crete
The 5 strengths of being a green business are:
- Talent attraction and retainment
- Impact on the local communities
- Innovation and sustainability
By becoming a green business, CEOs are not only ensuring that their businesses will have a positive impact on the environment, but they are also paving the way for their future success in a world that is increasingly concerned with sustainability.