The Organisation for Responsible Businesses always says, "Doing good things is good for business." And in this episode, their CEO and Co-Founder Jill Poet explains how doing good things and having good company values towards people and the environment can be good for your business, get you noticed, and close more sales.
Jill also elaborates on how your values and good deeds can help your business in different ways, why you need to be genuine and authentic by being and doing good, and why you don't need a budget for your CSR and sustainability initiatives. And she also shares a handful of ways she does to get herself and Organisation for Responsible Businesses noticed.
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Hello and welcome to this episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur. Today, I'm delighted to have Jill Poet, who's joining me. And Jill is the co-founder and CEO of the Organisation for Responsible Business. Jill, welcome to the show.Jill Poet:
Hello, Jim. Thank you very much for having me here today. It's delighted to be on the podcast.Jim James:
Well, it's fantastic. Because you're doing a lot of great work on really helping companies to be responsible and to play their part in society. So tell us, how does it matter? Why does it matter for a company to be responsible when it comes to getting noticed?Jill Poet:
Well, we always use the phrase "Doing good is good for business." And it was true 12 years ago. But, oh my goodness, it's so much truer today. Because whoever your client is or your potential client, they are, whether that's a consumer, private sector, public sector, they are increasingly wanting to buy products and services from businesses that care about people, and care about the environment. So you not only need to be doing those things, but actually you need to be talking about them. I've come across loads of businesses that do really good stuff, but if I look at their website or their LinkedIn profile, or whatever, it doesn't tell me. So you've got to do this stuff, but you need to talk about it because people want to know. And if they have to make a decision between buying from your competitor and you're talking about the good things, you're getting yourself noticed, and they will want to come to you.Jim James:
Okay, so Jill, that's fantastic. So doing good is good for business. What about the danger of being accused of "greenwashing," is one of the big ones now, or making a comment just for the sake of making a comment, but not really taking action as a result? What do you think about that?Jill Poet:
That's absolutely true, Jim, and we totally support the New Green Claims Act in the UK. That is, it's not a legislation, but they just enforcing it. So the word that we use all the time, and I bore people with it, terribly "It's got to be authentic." And it's a good thing, you need to be careful as well, because sometimes small businesses can say things that maybe the advertising people don't like, which they've said with no intention of misleading. So you do have to be careful. But if you're authentic and if you have core values at the heart of what you are doing and you can evidence anything you say, that's the big thing with the advertisement authorities. If you say anything, think about, "If anyone questions this, can I have evidence to prove what I've said is true?" And if you have, then you're absolutely fine.Jim James:
So, Jill, being authentic is obviously important, and being genuine. And I read about how in America, now, brands have to take a position on certain issues. For example, like "Black lives matter." How do you help a company to understand what opportunities there are that are, if like, within their core values but are also ways that they can demonstrate that the socially responsible as a business?Jill Poet:
Absolutely. One of the things that we have that is a really useful tool to build for businesses of any sizes, it's designed for small businesses, but actually, even a CEO of a big corporate would benefit from using it. Not that they're likely to, but they will benefit. We've got an online course and it really helps you to focus on what you are doing, if you're doing it well enough, and what more can you do? We talk about people supporting their people, you know, if you've got employees. And we work with a lot of sole proprietors who haven't got any people, but they collaborate with other businesses. So your people, if you've got people, your local community, that sort of supply chain impact where you might impact the lives of maybe indigenous people that you'll never meet, but you still need to be thinking about it. And of course, your environmental footprint, and supporting your local community. So all of those things... and if you're a small business, you have to be aware of and thinking about these things. So you can't necessarily do a lot in every area. You know, small businesses have only got a limited amount of capacity, but the course is designed to help you to think about what's appropriate for your business. There isn't a one-size-fits-all benchmark. We call, we ask the appropriate for the size type and impact of your business. So you can think about what you are doing, what you are really doing well, what you can improve on, and the things that you are doing well. Then obviously, that gives you the opportunity to really talk about those and expand on them, and get yourself noticed for those good things. And people will like that honesty as well, if you are just in the process of thinking about a more sustainable approach. And when I use that word, I mean, sustainability in its broadest holistic sense. You know, if these things aren't necessarily been on your agenda before, but suddenly you've had this light bulb moment and you're thinking, "God, I need to really change what I'm doing." People are quite happy for you to say, " We are looking at business process, processes, we're thinking how we can change. And it's beginning of a journey for us, but we are committed to doing XYZ." Which is very different from you sort of alluded to the corporate world earlier on. And for years now, I've had CSR departments, and the focus of the majority of that was some of them have been really good, but the focus of the majority of those departments have been CSR projects and that bright, shiny projects that are designed to catch the attention of the outside world. Then they might be doing those bright, shiny things - not thinking about their local community, not even engaging their employees, not caring very much about their employees, not caring about diversity, wellbeing, all those things. And they used to be able to get away with it, but they can't anymore. Because of social media, because of NGOs, because, you know, everything is so much out in the open and it's back to this word ' being authentic.' So people aren't interested in you doing bright shiny things, unless those bright shiny things also equate to those core values in your business. Whether you're a big corporate or small business, they want it to be real.Jim James:
That's really interesting, Jill, and presumably along with authentic people are now becoming accountable, aren't they, for what they're doing in their supply chain or in a community or in their workforce.Jill Poet:
Yeah, not so much small businesses, in fairness. Larger businesses quite definitely are. The hot topic in terms of large businesses now is ESG. It might be a term that you're familiar with, which stands for Environment, Society, and Governance. And interestingly enough, although it's not a phrase that I use, it's been our approach since we launched because we define a responsible business as one that operates ethically and responsibly. I'm sorry, ethically and efficiently. Always meets and exceeds legislation, and cares about people, and the environment. So, to be a responsible business you absolutely need to be proactively trying to make a positive difference in terms of people in the environment, but you need the right systems in place. You need to be efficient. You need to meet legislation. And unless you're doing all those things, you're not a responsible business. And that package together actually is pretty much what ESG is. So we've been doing it for 12 years, long before it was sexy or had a specific name. It's just good business and it's what we say, "You know, it's just good business for doing all these things." And again, you know, doing good is good for business. So you're a responsible business, you're operating efficiently, responsibly. You're going to be a really profitable business and people are going to like what you're doing. You're going to get noticed. They're going to want to work with you.Jim James:
Okay, so you've mentioned there being good business. Do you think that ESG, or used to be called the triple bottom line in big companies as well, years ago, impacts profits? Is it expensive, Jill, to be a responsible business? Because it used to be that it was really sort of a PR budget item - CSR. Do you see it changing in terms of affordability?Jill Poet:
First, for small businesses, it's not an expense. It absolutely isn't an expense. I had a conversation once. I was given a training session and there was a lady that worked with... I won't name the organisation, but it was a charity that did the same sort of thing, but in the corporate world. And I said to this group, "Now, if you were going into a small business, supposedly whatever, eight or 10 people. And you wanted to talk about corporate social responsibility, what sort of budget do you think they would need to have?" And this was several years ago. We went around the table and there were various budgets, and there always a budget. And I said, "Well, no, actually you do not need any budget at all when you are doing corporate social responsibility as a small business, properly, because it's about core values. It's not necessarily about those projects." Yes, of course. If you have some funds that you want to put into that and to do things, that's great. Or if you want to do things such as course marketing, where you be involved with an organization such as B1G1 or Work for Good, wherever a percentage of your turnover profits, whatever way you want to do it, goes to a good cause. That's great, if you can do that. But actually you don't need a budget. You don't need to think of it in terms of what you can do. And even on environmental things, you can start by doing no-cost, low-cost things. And then when things fence the money that you are saving, if you want to maybe consider buying new equipment or something like that is going to be more environmentally friendly. And quite often as well, there are ad hoc schemes across the country where you might get some funding to support any purchases that will help you be more environmentally friendly. I will just start with that. It can be complicated because we've all heard the big drive for things like, you know, "find electric car, buy an electric car." If you're going to change your car or your business vehicle anyway, it needs changing, then, yes absolutely. But if you have a car that hasn't got particularly high emission impact, reasonable miles per gallon, and you don't do a lot of mileage, the most environmentally friendly car you can have is the one that you have already got. Because people don't understand the carbon that's embodied in the building of such vehicles and such equipment. And so you have to be very careful that you have to do the right things, but don't just get carried along the sexy wave and the, you know, stuff that's out there that makes you think you've got to do that. Need to be thinking of it sometimes.Jim James:
But really a very interesting, I'd say, in the same way, I suppose, that kindness doesn't cost anything, does it, to other people. Responsible business doesn't have to cost anything, it's a mindset and approach. And can I ask you, Jill, about how you think that impacts the employees and getting a new people to work for you? Because one part is the sales angle, but what about in terms of getting engagement with potential and new employees?Jill Poet:
Absolutely. And more so the nether with the millennials that are coming into the workplace, they're now the biggest force in the workplace. And they are far more concerned about who they are working for and what their values are. And we have got several of our more recent members in the last couple of years have actually walked away from really good careers, with a good salary, all the perks, et cetera, et cetera. And because the company's ethos doesn't think their souls. And they've come away and they've started their own business to do things the way they want to. And several of them, which I absolutely love, it excites me so much. Front and center of, you know, you look at their websites and they'll be saying, "We will only be work with ethical business or sort of value space to businesses," whatever phrasiology they use. But that they talk about their own values, and we want to work with like-minded people. And that is really driving this whole agenda forward. And you know what, several of them have been, and I haven't, you know, this has come from them. We have these conversations in some of their networking events, but I haven't said to anyone ever, "You have to do this," because it's a business decision they have to make. And some of them have been a bit wary of doing it. It's a big step to take to really niche down your potential client profile and every single one of them at the absolutely flourishing. And the really nice thing is not only is that business doing well that they are not working with really nice people. So yeah, it's again, you know, doing good is good for business, it gets boring, and I keep saying that, but it's just so true.Jim James:
Well, Jill, you are Poet by name and poet by nature, I can see this. Now, you used to artists this business some 12 years ago with your partner, now your husband. How are you getting the Organisation for Responsible Businesses that noticed as an entrepreneur in your own right?Jill Poet:
It's very much like any other business to be fair. We have to talk about what we're doing, that the purpose behind it - our values. Opportunities like coming on a podcast with you, Jim, are always very welcome. Social media is a big part to play. I personally like LinkedIn, so I'm quite happy on LinkedIn, but I've got someone else who does the rest of that social media because I hate it, but it is important. So you have to know what platforms are there for you. And things like blogs. Look at your website on the about us page. Don't have to be ubiquitous. We've been in business for 20 years and come provide the best ever service and products because everyone can say that. What makes you different? What makes you stand out? What makes you get noticed? Your values will help you get noticed. And these are all the things that every business needs to think about and drive forward. And it's the old story, isn't it? Sometimes, when you're really busy, well two things, when you're really busy, you forget to do that because you're too busy. Or conversely, if trade is really bad, you haven't got much money, so you don't do some of the things that you should do. But you need to keep that going permanently. Always make sure that you're out there and you've got the focus. Apply for awards. We won an award recently, which we were absolutely thrilled with. And it's, you know, whatever you can do that works for your business that fits in well with your business. I would just say be very careful. Certifications are great, we offer obviously membership of all, always a good way to get yourself noticed. We have also got a course and certification options starting from something quite basic to a really robust evidence-based certification. But when you are looking at any sort of certification, or membership, or not just go badge collecting. Make sure that it has real value because if it hasn't, if you've just collected something where you've ticked the box, people are going to see through that. So authentic.Jim James:
Come back to being authentic. Do you have one example, Jill, of let's say your favourite responsible business activity, from maybe one of your members, do you like to share?Jill Poet:
My favorite responsible business activities. Do you know that's really so hard to say because we have so many great members doing so many interesting things. So many of the millennials have got a particular focus on the environment and we've got a lot of copywriters, and of course, because they write and they're passionate about the environment, they're knowledgeable as well, and the stuff that they write about the environment on LinkedIn and several of them. So that's probably one of my favorite things. Just seeing these businesses, not just promoting themselves as a business, but talking with purpose about what they believe in, what they're passionate in. I will give you a big example of one of such ladies, she's more of a marketer at general marketeer than a copywriter, and she'd made the decision to not so much come out of the corporate board. She'd already got around business, but change our client associate wasn't so much focusing on corporate clients. And she was writing a lot of articles, again, on the environment to perk writer. And all of a sudden, these corporate businesses were coming to her and asking her to do work for them. And they were businesses that, previously, would never wanted her in the door because she'd been saying, "No, I'm not going to, you know, you've got to do this, you've got to do that. I'm not going to talk about this because that's not genuine." And another saying to her, " I want you to work for us because we want you to show us what we need to do. So that we're doing it properly. We will really want to be sustainable, but we know that the message has got to be authentic." So, yeah, that's probably a good example. So there's a bit of a generalisation, but that's a real business that I've had experience.Jim James:
Jill Poet, the co-founder of the Organisation for Responsible Businesses here in the UK. Thank you so much for sharing your passion and for what is a genuinely great cause. Thank you for coming with me, Jim James, on the UnNoticed Entrepreneur show today.Jill Poet:
Thank you, Jim. It's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for your time.Jim James:
It's been a pleasure and inspiring. Thank you. You've been listening to Jill Poet. And of course, as always, I will put all of the details of Jill in our show notes. You've been listening to me, Jim James, on The UnNoticed Entrepreneur show. Thank you so much for listening. And in the meantime, keep on communicating.