We are at the edge of a new Industrial Revolution.
We need to move from a “take-make-waste” mindset, to a “waste-make-retake” approach where businesses work with, not against nature. We also need to develop supply chains that not only do no harm, but actually enrich the lives of many.
As part of Interface’s Mission Zero® and its new Climate Take Back strategy, the company is committed to eliminating any dependence on virgin, fossil fuel derived raw materials and to creating supply chains that benefit all life. The concept of inclusive business epitomizes these goals.
An inclusive business is a commercially viable enterprise that has a positive social and environmental impact. It brings low-income communities into the value chain, either by employing them directly as producers or service providers, or by giving them access to sustainable goods and services as consumers.
As an inclusive business, Net-Works brings marginalized communities in the developing world into a mainstream global supply chain. Through the community bank infrastructure that Net-Works establishes, communities can manage the local net supply chain and gain valuable access to financial services. By incentivizing the removal of waste nets from the ocean and enabling local conservation projects, Net-Works is also helping to replenish marine ecosystems, while securing a supply of recycled nylon for Interface’s carpet tile.
As co-founders of Net-Works, Interface and ZSL are part of a small, but growing movement dedicated to this new, inclusive way of doing business. Here are some examples of inclusive business in action from other companies we admire.
In September 2015, Ikea became the first major retailer to source 100% of its cotton from more sustainable sources. This includes cotton grown to the Better Cotton Standard, by farmers working towards Better Cotton, and sustainable cotton from the USA.
Inclusive business relies on collaboration, and Ikea works together with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to provide technical assistance and best practice training to thousands of farmers in Pakistan and India.
Because of the training, farmers are better able to minimize production costs and conserve up to 50% more water. Soil fertility has improved and biodiversity in the area is protected.
As a result of adopting these more sustainable methods of cotton farming, farmers’ yields and profits increase over time, improving their livelihoods and enabling them and their families to have a better quality of life and for them to pay for their children’s education.
The Better Cotton Initiative is another example of business working together with NGOs to establish social enterprise practices that tie directly to business strategy, while at the same time, improving the quality of life for local farmers and benefitting the local environment.
L'Occitane: A Better Shea Butter
L’Occitane en Provence sources its high-quality shea butter in an environmentally and sociably responsible way, building a reliable supply chain in the process.
Strong partnerships are fundamental to successful inclusive business models, and by sourcing its shea butter from five co-operatives in Burkina Faso, L’Occitane empowers and supports around 15,000 female shea butter nut pickers and processors while reducing the environmental impacts of the production process.
As a result of the revenues generated by working with L’Occitane, the cooperatives have been able to set up social development funds, which finance community development initiatives such as sponsorship programs for orphans and vulnerable children.
The company estimates that it pays 20 – 30% more for its shea butter than it would for shea butter in western industries. However the company is able to bear these extra costs due to the large margins it makes by creating such a high quality product.
Veja: Transformative Trainers
French trainer and accessories company Veja works to use solely sustainably sourced cotton and rubber from Brazil while also respecting its workers’ rights.
Veja pays a fair price to its farmers and producers and chooses not to advertise so that it can reinvest as much as possible back into its production chain. Through working with Atelier Sans Frontieres who sort, package and send out the finished products once they arrive by boat in Paris, Veja is helping to support the reintegration of people who face social exclusion.
Veja sources Amazonian rubber to shape into the soles of their shoes, but they semi-process the latex into rubber sheets using a method that doesn’t require any industrial processes inside the jungle. This system protects the natural forest ecosystem, and also ensures that rubber tappers receive a higher income.
Veja relies on strong relationships with multiple collaborators, including the local Brazilian Green Party, and they are building a solid business with positive environmental and socioeconomic repercussions.