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 Luke Fernandez from Practice Capital.
Please tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and what you did before starting your own business?
I am a management consultant, living in Perth, Western Australia, which happens to be the most isolated capital city in the world. I was a lawyer (in a past life) and was always interested in the environment. I moved from law into publishing, I ran a tourism magazine, and then into education, running training colleges and also lecturing in leadership, marketing, management and sustainability. I set up a consultancy in 2015 focused on marketing and management and then pivoted my consultancy towards business sustainability management services, just before COVID. Impeccable timing, some would say.
What inspired you to create a purpose driven company and how did you come up with the business idea?
Well, the primary driver was the birth of our son in 2020. There’s a shift in the cosmos when you start having to think about future generations. And sustainability is the greatest cause of our generation. They say if you really want to learn something then teach, and in teaching sustainability it opened my eyes to the gravity of what we’re dealing with. It took us 200,000 years to reach a billion in population, and then just 200 years to reach 7 billion. It’s an extraordinary statement of growth for any species, but we are like no species that has ever existed on the planet. We are an ominous force that is changing ecosystems that have been stable for millennia, which is now threatening not just our lifestyle but our ability to survive as a species on planet Earth.
In your experience, what are the main challenges of starting and running a green business?
At this stage of the game, it is finding like minds. The majority of businesses are still stuck in ‘business as usual’, as if that exists any longer. But more and more businesses are becoming sustainable, because even more and more consumers, in fact 79% of consumers according to one study, are shifting their purchase decisions towards sustainable brands, products and services.
Businesses just need to decide. Just like any worthwhile change in life. There are a multitude of reasons why businesses should become sustainable, least of which, your customers are changing their buying habits towards sustainable brands as we speak. But businesses often don’t know the sustainability landscape well enough to move.That is why we have in fact set up the first Sustainable Profits in 6 Weeks ChallengeTM, particularly for small businesses to flick the switch and change direction, virtually overnight, with all the benefits that come with being sustainable.
What is your business mission & purpose and why?
Our purpose is to lead a revolution of mindfully sustainable, profitable and celebrated businesses that actively contribute to better environments for us all, as individuals, societies and our future generations.
Our mission is to embed best practice in business sustainability management within businesses across sectors. If you consider yourself to have professionalism about what you do, professionalism necessarily involves taking into consideration ALL the significant data. Including data that suggests that outputs from your business are impinging on the sustainability of life as we know it, in the course of you turning a profit. If something isn’t sustainable, then it simply isn’t professional.
In the 80’s we went through a quality revolution, where at the end of the decade, if you weren’t a quality business, you closed your doors. Now, the same thing is happening for sustainability. Not being sustainable speaks for itself.
As a professional in business sustainability management, , what are the most common mistakes you see green businesses make?
I see many businesses take partial steps towards being green but do not complete the job. There is a formula to sustainability and while it may be good to purchase a few offsets that doesn’t really cut it. I’m not suggesting that in itself is greenwashing, some businesses are just taking baby steps. But there is now, not a huge investment involved in becoming an authentically sustainable brand, perhaps as much as a marketing campaign. And the ROI is significant. Perhaps multiples of any marketing campaign. And there is now growing evidence that this the case. We use University of Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership methodologies. You can review our site www.practicecapital.com.au to see how some of this plays out.
What makes your business unique?
We show businesses how to become more profitable by becoming more sustainable. This is not smoke and mirrors, when you calculate your emissions, you’re in fact reviewing your waste and cost, your inefficiencies, and controlling those inefficiencies makes you more efficient and reduces your cost base. When you become more sustainable your staff rally behind perhaps the greatest cause of our generation, sustainability, and that creates engagement, the holy grail that opens the door to productivity. And of course, 79% of your customers are choosing sustainable brands, so if you want an edge in your market, a first mover advantage, now is the time to act.
Is there anything that you do outside of your business that is driven by similar sustainability objectives?
Sustainability needs to impact on all decisions that have a bearing on sustainable outcomes. If there is sustainable option you should be at least considering it. So from choosing our vehicles to air conditioning, at purchase and in use of, we try to think efficiency and sustainability. Buying less stuff is also significant, though sometimes hard with a 11-month-old though.
In which area of your business are you struggling the most to reduce your environmental impact?
Transport. And with COVID upon us, we don’t fly. But we need to offset if we cannot reduce our emissions esp with flights, when that day comes. And these days offsetting is easy, very transparent and very affordable – something all of us should do more often.
What’s your day-to-day like?
Forming relationships with as many people as I can, including new clients, servicing existing clients and getting good collaborative work done with my team. We have a eleven-month-old so, factor that into the day to day. He plays a huge part of the day and makes it worth all the intensity.
How do you grow and scale your business, and what are the main growth constraints and opportunities?
We are in a growth phase as we speak and managed growth is about having a sound plan, and the partners to get you there. As a business consultancy the main constraint is finding our audience. There are sustainably minded businesses out there, but rarer still are those that are prepared to act on their principles. Having said this there is a green economy about to explode. And the goliaths are now seated at the table. China, the world’s largest emitter has just launched the biggest carbon market which is anticipated in having a far reaching impact over time. And of course the US are back in the ring too. The net result will ensure a green economy emerging at pace over the few years ahead.
In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be a successful eco-entrepreneur?
Being able to read trends in this knowledge economy is hugely beneficial. We all have access to data, but to discern truth and knowledge and glean wisdom, these are art forms that need to be strived for. We need to hold the faith, even when everything is telling us to throw in the towel. Remember, the reality is, they need us.
Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with aspiring or current green business owners?
If you have a thick skin and are prepared to rough it out in the short term, you can take a first mover advantage and dominate as green markets evolve over the next years ahead.
What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?
We live in the most dynamic period in human history, where great things are possible in a world of exponential knowledge growth and extraordinary human endeavour. It is a double edged sword though, the genius is our great success but also our tragic flaw. But it’s worth every day just to see what can be accomplished and what we can overcome, for us and future generations.
Luke Fernandez, Practice Capital.
An experienced strategist and sustainability management professional with proven experience in championing successful brands and leading high performing teams in the health, technology and education sectors.
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