Business Advice

4 simple but essential tips for building an ethical small business

- April 11, 2022 3 MIN READ

Consumers today are savvy – they’re looking to purchase from and deal with businesses who are truly ethical – who value their suppliers, don’t exploit people or the planet, and who operate with integrity. So how can small businesses set themselves up with ethical practices and build trust with their audience? Anu Sawhney, founder of ethical Australian jewellery brand Bidiliia, shares her four top tips for building an ethical business.

If our parents and their parents made better choices we wouldn’t be in this dilemma.

But as it stands, we all need to make a conscious effort now to build ethical and sustainable businesses, to leave a positive legacy for future generations.

1. Approach your makers with respect

This is not limited to your business dealings with them. Know their holidays and days off, and be open to incorporating these.

If working with Menorca (Spain) has taught me anything about Spanish culture – it’s that they celebrate life, regularly and with all their heart. And while that might seem like an inconvenience because our jewellery make time is longer than average, their days away are accounted for when order timelines are established in the beginning of the year, so we can factor in this timeframe and keep our makers happy.

2. Pay fair asking wages

In a world where prices for all commodities and services are inflating, it seems silly to expect makers to take on price cuts or not increase their prices.

We don’t negotiate on prices – never have, never will – but we do expect fair warning on when to expect a price increase so we can review our pricing structure.

The impact of not negotiating prices is quality. Very often when businesses negotiate with suppliers, they’re actually negotiating on quality. Maintaining premium quality standards is of utmost importance for Bidiliia. If that’s important to your own brand ethics, then consider paying fair asking prices for your products.

Anu Sawhney, founder of ethical Australian jewellery brand Bidiliia

Anu Sawhney, founder of ethical Australian jewellery brand, Bidiliia

3. Skip the vanity margins

One of the reasons Bidiliia is a profitable and sustainable business is that we’re priced to buy at full price and not wait for a ‘sale’.

According to fashion industry practices, there are four big sales a year and four mid-season sales – when you divide that down through the year, you only have to wait 6.5 weeks for a sale. This isn’t even accounting for all the flash sales!

Customers are used to discounts and I’ve had to work harder to change their habits. But when they receive their jewellery and it is high quality, sustainably packaged and presented to delight, the right customers are happy to pay full price for the product and the experience.

Committing to this pricing model has meant we can sustain regular growth. Not discounting because we’re having a bad day or week or month. This is a tricky one but when you have flash sales regularly, even your most loyal customer will wait for a sale. Because who doesn’t love knowing they’re saving money?

4. Work towards being a sustainable business gradually

This has been our goal from day one, and while it was a non-negotiable in how our jewellery is made or how we source raw materials, it didn’t show up immediately in other aspects.

A big change was continuously working on sustainable packaging. The first thing we changed was the tape we use, from standard plastic to 100 per cent biodegradable tape, and now we’re on the hunt for a paper tape that uses a vegan glue.

It isn’t set-and-forget, but a continued work in progress to work on overall business and environmental sustainability. We’re learning all the time, and always looking for new ways to do things to lessen our impact and remain ethical in our practice.

And we’re always communicating these efforts with our customers, so they maintain their trust in us and our practices.

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