Today I thought I would give you a bit of an insight into what I'm currently up business-wise and some of the thought processes which sit behind running a business.
As part of the Entrepreneurial Spark programme, we are required to come up with a problem statement for our business - this basically involves pinpointing exactly the problem or issue that your business is designed to solve.
This is an essential process for any business of any size or at at any stage - especially as your problem statement may shift/change as you expand your services/products or tap into a new customer base.
Now my business Bright Ethics, as you probably know, offers Ethical Certification to UK organisations.
How this works: In order to gain the BE certification, an organisation must prove that it has met our ethical criteria, which constitutes substantial and demonstrable ethical commitments in key areas of operation.
Basically a business has to show that they not only talk the talk when it comes to being ethical/responsible/green - they also have to walk the walk.
Once an organisation has met this set of criteria, it is then able to display our Heart Mark.
This Heart Mark acts as a visible indicator to consumers that they are buying from an organisation that not only says it is ethical, but has also proved it to an external body.
It's quite easy to paraphrase what we do functionally, however the slight difficulty comes when we try to create a clear problem statement. Because in my mind, we are trying to tackle quite a few issues/questions:
- It's very hard to tell as a consumer who is actually living up to ethical promises, as opposed to those just "greenwashing" by paying lip service to positive action.
- What does it actually mean to be an ethical business - what do consumers want to see businesses doing vs what can businesses actually achieve without becoming unprofitable
- How do we help support businesses trying to improve on ethics and encourage them to pursue ethical/environmental/green policies
- What makes consumers choose to buy from an ethical business and how can we make ethical products more attractive and available to a wider audience.
- What does it mean to be "ethical" and how do you quantify that
- How can we help purpose led businesses stand out and position themselves in an increasingly competitive global market
- Is there an issue with all terminology such as"ethical", "CSR", "green", "responsible" in a business context; do businesses and consumers understand these terms and agree on their meaning.
Unpicking these bullet points is my current challenge as I try to develop a clear and succint problem statement for the business.
Part of this process requires developing a deeper understanding of who (exactly) has the issues/concerns identified above, why do they care about them and what would a solution look like for them. Because there is no point in identifying the problem your business is trying to solve without coming up with a solution that satisfies those who share the problem.
Research into consumer attitudes and behaviors is a vital activity when developing and testing your problem statement, as it allows you to make decisions based on market desires and needs, rather than your assumptions.
So here endeth the first "lesson", but like all good learning experiences, I have a practical assignment!
As part of our continued research, Bright Ethics is currently conducting a short survey into consumer attitudes towards ethical business. If you have a spare five minutes to help us out below, it would be greatly appreciated!