Welcome to our interview series where we speak with purpose-driven business owners and ecopreneurs from around the globe. Every few weeks, we’ll dive into their journeys, learn about their wins and challenges, and the resources they couldn’t do without.
Prepare to be inspired and learn something new!
Today’s guest is Gareth De Gante from Good Business Sustainability.
Please tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and what you did before starting your own business.
My name is Gareth and I’m a qualified sustainability consultant with a Master’s degree in Sustainability and over 17 years’ experience working with businesses to achieve their environmental and social sustainability objectives. I have been lucky in my career to have worked with brands that pioneered the sustainability movement and to help businesses at the beginning of their sustainability journey.
After working in-house for businesses in the retail, construction and finance sectors, I set up Good Business Sustainability in 2021 to provide an outsourced sustainability service tailored for smaller businesses.
What inspired you to create a purpose-driven company and how did you come up with the business idea?
I have been lucky enough to work with businesses that have been true leaders in sustainability, as well as to have worked across a wide variety of sustainability topics, including climate change and energy use, plastic and packaging, waste and circular economy, toxic pollution, animal welfare and testing, human rights, health and nutrition, raw material sourcing and charitable initiatives.
My aim was to use these skills and experience to support businesses that are earlier in their sustainability journey and struggling to navigate what can often be confusing terminology and changing priorities in the sustainability space.
In the UK, small and medium enterprises use around 50% of total UK business energy and are responsible for half of all business carbon emissions, so they are critical if society is to achieve sustainability.
However, without dedicated sustainability resource it can be challenging for smaller businesses to achieve their sustainability objectives.
That is why I set up Good Business Sustainability, to help SMEs by providing an outsourced sustainability department that can provide support across a range of different sustainability topics.
In your experience, what are the main challenges of starting and running a green business?
There are plenty of challenges when starting and running any type of business. An additional challenge when trying to ensure your business is environmentally and socially sustainable is that this covers such a large range of complex topics. It requires knowledge and experience in identifying and tackling those sustainability issues that are most relevant for your business.
On top of that, sustainability is an incredibly fast-moving sector, with legislation and best practice updated on what can seem like a daily basis. Keeping up with all the changes to provide effective support to clients can seem like a full-time job on its own.
What is your business mission & purpose and why?
My business mission is to help smaller businesses that don’t necessarily have a sustainability department to achieve their sustainability objectives and to capitalise on the initiatives they are already doing.
Sustainability can be complicated, I work with business owners to make it easier.
How does your work address societal and/or environmental issues?
My work with Good Business Sustainability can address a large range of societal and/or environmental issues dependent on the needs of the organisation that I’m working with. I have worked on projects that measure and reduce business carbon emissions in the agricultural sector, provided circular economy solutions and set up supply chain safeguards for workers in the fashion sector, and worked with businesses to achieve B-Corp status, a key milestone for many businesses that aim to be sustainability leaders. The project is very much tailored to the client’s sustainability objectives.
What are the most common mistakes you see green businesses make?
One of the most common mistakes I see is sometimes referred to as sustainability “tunnel vision”. This can mean for smaller businesses, especially those that are purpose-driven, only focussing on the sustainability topic that their product helps to resolve, and ignoring other sustainability risks and opportunities.
Some of the most challenging topics may be hidden in the supply chain, whether this be scope 3 carbon emissions, human rights and labour issues, biodiversity, animal welfare, pollution, plastic or waste. While it is important to keep a clear focus when running a small business, customers and other stakeholders expect a business to take an holistic approach to managing its sustainability impacts.
What makes your business unique?
Good Business Sustainability provides tailored sustainability solutions to make being green easier.
We use our tried and tested EASIER methodology to help businesses integrate sustainability into their business strategy and operations.
Is there anything that you do outside of your business that is driven by similar (sustainability) objectives?
I have always been interested in working with nature, so one of the activities I enjoy is volunteering with an environmental conservation charity in my local community. It involves protecting and enhancing wild spaces in and around Birmingham, and provides a reminder to me of why I work in sustainability.
I would definitely recommend joining a local volunteer group to others. I have learnt new skills and got to meet a lot of like-minded environmental enthusiasts in my local community.
What do you like the most about the work you do?
What makes my day is knowing that I can make a difference working with amazing entrepreneurs on their journey to build sustainable businesses. I have an artistic side so I enjoy developing graphics and presentations, but I am also a bit of a geek that loves working with spreadsheets and data, calculating performance and analysing trends.
How do you grow and scale your business, and what are the main growth constraints and opportunities?
While growth is not a priority for me, new business is important for any consultant. Given the increased need for sustainability there has been a lot of opportunity and I am definitely seeing this continuing to grow, with opportunities not just with businesses in the UK or developed countries, but more internationally as well.
What green businesses/sectors do you see growing the fastest right now and/or will become mainstream within the next 10 years?
The next ten years are critical if we are to achieve international net zero ambitions and limit global warming to 1.5C. One of the biggest challenges I see for businesses currently is measuring reporting and reduce scope 3 emissions, which include those emissions upstream or downstream in the supply chain. Businesses and technologies that can resolve these challenges will do well.
Artificial Intelligence solutions and machine learning are also being used in interesting ways to make industries more sustainable. For example, telecoms companies are using AI-enabled technology to measure energy performance and identify cost savings and carbon reduction in their networks. One area of growth will be the AI talent needed to ensure this AI data is interpreted and actioned to effect the changes needed.
In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be a successful eco-entrepreneur?
If I were to list the top three skills, these would be passion, customer focus and resilience. The most successful eco-entrepreneurs I have met are very passionate about sustainability and have a genuine commitment not only to reduce their own environmental impact but to help others reduce theirs. A laser-focus on the customer and ensuring that they leave delighted is what will keep customers coming back and persuade them to recommend you to others, providing highly effective marketing to you free of charge. Finally, in every entrepreneur’s journey there are setbacks and difficult times. Resilience is therefore critical for any eco-entrepreneur that wants to make their business work.
Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with aspiring or current green business owners?
Setting up my own business is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done. Aspiring business owners can make it easier by remembering nobody is an expert at everything. Where it can be afforded, it is generally a good idea to get help when a task is not your speciality. This allows you to focus on delivering what you need to your customer.
What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?
One of the joys of being a green business owner is that you can be proud that you are making a positive impact, and keeping an eye on something larger than yourself can help keep you motivated. The other thing that keeps me going is my husband, whose unwavering support is a constant source of strength and inspiration for me.
Gareth De Gante, Good Business Sustainability
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