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Can We Afford Not to Account for Artisanal Jeweler's Sustainability Efforts?

Posted by Alicia Arkwright on

Even though the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) reports only 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, does that mean the rest of us small and medium sized business owners shouldn't prioritize tracking and reporting our carbon footprint and sustainability efforts?

According to The World Trade Organizationsmall and medium sized business's represent about 90% of businesses worldwide. These companies are the true backbone of our global society. They're also the people we interact with on a daily basis; they could be you, our partners, neighbors, peers and colleagues, or our network on social media.

To get a bit more granular, reported by Katherine Lucas McKay of the nonprofit CFED;

in the US alone micro businesses (defined as 5 employees or less) make up about 92% of small businesses. Numerically this is 26 million micro businesses with 3.6 million of those employing an average of 1.7 people.

I feel like we should pause to allow those number to sink in a bit. So, micro business are small businesses and they make a noteworthy impact. Hence the inclusion of 1099 workers in the Covid relief CARES Act.

If you're reading this and you've developed a business of your own or are currently work for a small business in some capacity, I image you understand the time, effort, and creativity it takes to run a business. I run a business. It didn't start off that way, but over the past 5 years that's the direction I've pointed my compass towards. Transforming my hobby into an enterprise has taken a lot of work accompanied by a significant learning curve. 

Energy spent developing a craft, investing in equipment, learning e-commerce skills, creating operational and budgeting systems, networking with communities, understanding our customers needs, failing, adapting to economic changes (looking at you Covid), and many other tasks I'm sure I'm forgetting - all require innovation and a bit of scrappy resourcefulness.

As we've learned, small businesses may not be the largest GHG emitters, but what about our impacts in other measurements of sustainability - like our supply chains. I think sustainability accounting is precisely where us stakeholders come into play. Entrepreneurs embody a natural drive to learn, innovate, test, refine, and repeat. Coincidentally, this is how sustainability systems are created. Identify a goal based on data available, innovate, test, refine, and repeat.

I think micro businesses could be a fruitful testing ground for sustainability reporting. We could generate data for larger companies to use as examples and they can cherry pick the pieces in which they can scale. There are 100 top polluting businesses and millions of micro businesses - that's a lot of examples to cherry pick through.

As jewelers, we can contribute simply by tracking our miles or asking our refiners for their businesses emission information. To go deeper we can use gemstones from mines who provide documentation of their labor practices, collaborate with other businesses and/or organizations working on their sustainability efforts, or document our waste versus recycled output. The goal is to document the environmental, social, and economic impacts of our practices, supply chains, and products.

Sustainability is more then a trending keyword. It's a concept to help our societies use the Earth's resources, which we rely on heavily, in an efficient manor and build compassion into the fabric of our global economy.  

 

There is no reason to believe that bureaucrats and politicians, no matter how well meaning, are better at solving problems then the people on the spot, who have the strongest incentive to get the solution right. - Elinor Ostrom

 

It's quite easy to become overwhelmed with reporting on your sustainability efforts, I've felt it. There are a lot of 'ways' to do it, but the silver-lining means there's room for creativity. Start small and document your progress. There's no race or best method. We're playing the long-game - influencing the global conversation around resource use.

This year was the first year I put together a Sustainability Report reflecting my 2019 activity. There are holes and places for improvement, but hey it's a start. 

2019 Sustainability Report

What do you think...

Do small businesses have a chance to innovate and influence larger systems on a whole?

How does reading about sustainability efforts make you feel about a business? 

On a different note, spring is here! Is anyone gardening during this quarantine? What are you planting?

 

Connect with me by leaving a comment below, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts!

-Alicia

Sustainability

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