Ethical business leads revolution

One of the benefits of living in the Northern Rivers is that here, the sustainability revolution has already begun. Permaculture, organic farming, natural therapies, Council-led recycling projects and socially responsible small business provide examples of a trend towards living within our environmental limits.

Sustainability requires social well-being for everyone, preserving the environment and economic viability in the long term. Operating a business consistent with these three objectives is difficult.

Two local organisations that have embraced the principles of sustainability and ethical business are Red Dragon Inn and spellwear. Red Dragon Inn (www.reddragoninn brews a traditional ginger beer using mostly organic ingredients sourced as locally as possible to reduce transport impacts. The drink is free of chemical additives providing the health benefits of ginger and lemon. To ensure the quality of the drink is uncompromised, the drink is not pasteurised, and is brewed in the bottle providing a living drink made with natural ingredients. However this excludes the use of glass bottles.

Red Dragon Inn’s commitment to ethics and sustainability are evident in their marketing and distribution practices. Advertising is simple and informative. Packaging is minimal, and for deliveries outside the local region, reused polystyrene boxes are collected from local businesses and used to keep the product cool.

Red Dragon Inn’s carbon emissions are reduced by running a delivery van on 100% natural gas. Remaining carbon emissions from the business are offset by the owner’s forest in the Border Ranges. Organic waste is processed through Council’s worm farm, and most printing is done locally.

Then we have spellwear, which operates from a beautifully crafted webscape at Utilising a creative and transformational process spellwear helps participants manifest healthy, wealthy and joyful lives. Developing positive values and belief systems are integral to this process, and spellwear’s own business operations reflect strong environmental and ethical values.

The business reduces its environmental impact by using non toxic, 100% recycled paper and hemp textiles, sourcing inputs locally where possible with all production performed in the Byron Shire. Operating online reduces customer transport impacts.

This ethical commitment has shaped sales and design strategies. Local production means higher unit costs, leading to a web-based sales strategy rather than through distributors who would add their own profit margins to the selling price. The product is hand drawn deliberately, avoiding the glossiness and chemical toxicity of mass produced products. Sustainable business practice fits the overall aim of spellwear, with its focus on the creation of home grown magic.

As with all business organisations operating within the conventional economy, both Red Dragon Inn and spellwear are unable to achieve complete sustainability given their dependence on unsustainable energy, transport, IT and mining systems for some steps in their production and distribution systems. However the objective for small business is to recognise the sources of unsustainability which are within their control and to eliminate these.

Sourcing inputs locally, providing a product free of toxic materials, reducing carbon emissions and waste, recycling and reusing all materials, designing a product which promotes well being and applying strong ethical values to every aspect of their business are significant steps towards sustainability.

When these organisations are able to make the next step and switch to renewable energy, zero emission vehicles and zero pollution production systems they will be models of sustainable business organisations, leading the transformation to the next industrial revolution – the environmentally and socially sustainable one.

Geoff Lamberton is a senior lecturer in ethics and sustainability at Southern Cross University.

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