Opinion: Sustainable business and giving back

  • 10 Jul 2019

By Susie Ma, Founder & CEO of Tropic Skincare

Every organisation has a duty to help in the fight to reduce pollution from plastics and other sources. It can make good business sense, too.

I’m sure we all recall watching sea creatures struggle against plastic pollution in Blue Planet II. Environmental issues carry more weight than ever before; Sir David Attenborough’s programmes are quite simply global emergencies disguised as nature documentaries. 

The whole world is talking about climate change, deforestation and the effects of animal agriculture. Reports predict that there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, and children born today may be the last generation to see coral reefs in all their glory. We can’t turn back time, but we can use our positions as business leaders to give back to the planet. 


It’s easy to fall into playing the blame game when it comes to the health of our planet. Politicians have their role, but the pollution and plastics released into the world don’t come from politicians; they come from our businesses. In my own sector, I was shocked to discover that personal care and beauty products account for one-third of all landfill waste.

It’s important for your brand’s ethics to be clearly defined for customers. While 50 per cent of adults are willing to switch to a company that supports a cause they believe in, 73 per cent find it hard to identify how ethical a business is. Trends suggest that certifications are the way to go when it comes to clarifying your ethics. For example, in the beauty industry, it’s no longer enough to simply claim your products are cruelty-free – consumers need proof. 

In this example, certification from PETA or Cruelty Free International would clear up any doubt. If you produce vegan products, could you consider applying for certification from The Vegan Society? Even switching to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper is a step in the right direction. The FSC ensures that paper stock is recycled, or that new trees are planted for every one taken down; making this switch is a simple change that is easy to implement.

Humans constantly take, but rarely consider giving back. When we cut down trees to make way for our livestock and crops, temperatures increase. Scientists have warned that a 4oC rise could kill 85 per cent of the Amazonian rainforest. It’s easy to ignore environmental issues, as they largely affect the planet’s poorest inhabitants. It’s important to remember that we are all in this together. When we expand our businesses and take from the earth, those on the other side of the world are affected by climate change, tsunamis or reduced rainfall. 


Even small differences can make a huge impact. Can you reduce single-use plastics from your packaging – even from just one product? Can you educate customers on how to recycle the boxes your products are shipped in? Why not change to a green energy supplier for your headquarters?

Perhaps you could introduce a cycle-to-work scheme, or get together with like-minded entrepreneurs to share knowledge and set collective goals.

I’m the first to hold my hands up and admit that my business is far from perfect, but I believe in progression, not perfection. I can’t help but wonder: if we all felt it was important to give back, how much of a collective difference could we make?

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