May 23, 2023 9.00 pm This story is over 10 months old

Better Business Summit: Empowering sustainability in a changing social landscape

Sustainability does not have to come at the expense of profitability

By Local Democracy Reporter

Leading Lincolnshire businesses and leaders attended the inaugural Better Business Summit – hosted by Stonebow Media and Social Change – to hear illuminating talks on how organisations can thrive while also making meaningful contributions with sustainability models.

The Social Change Better Business Summit on May 22 at the Engine Shed in Lincoln, brought together like-minded business figures and entrepreneurs who are daring to do things differently, in the name of environmental, social and ethical sustainability.

It is the first day of the Stonebow Media-organised Lincolnshire Business Week 2023.

The well-attended event brought many local businesses to the Engine Shed for illuminating talks and inclusive panel discussions. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The Better Business Summit was split into two sections – with the focus on Inspire in the morning, and Act in the afternoon.

A number of keynote speakers held talks throughout the day, hosted by Kelly Evans, Social Change CEO. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Keynote offered insights into their journeys towards sustainability, and how profit does not need to make way for the treatment of planet and people. In an introdcutory speech at the start of the Summit, Stonebow Media and MyLocal founder and director Daniel Ionescu spoke of the importance of “starting the conversation” on sustainability rather than hosting a “lecture series” telling people what to do.

Founding director of Stonebow Media and MyLocal, Daniel Ionescu. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Talks were held by people such as Joy Lam, the former circular economy director for the world’s largest toy manufacturer, LEGO Group, and Krisi Smith, the founder and director of B-Corp approved business Bird & Blend Tea Co.

Questions were asked on moral responsibilities within business, with’s head of sustainability, Nikki Buckley, saying: “Change is rarely comfortable.”

Nikki Buckley, head of sustainability at | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Speakers then gathered for a panel discussion, welcoming questions from the audience on how best to embrace the societal shift towards sustainable awareness, while also securing the long-term future of your business model.

These talks were about more than the desire to protect and save our planet, it was centred around striving to make a change by pursuing passions and sticking to your principles.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Discussions questioned how modern business has shifted in recent years, and how a need for social impact has grown exponentially with the rise of the digital, social media age – offering more accountability across the board and less hiding places for businesses neglecting their social impact.

A big topic regularly addressed in the discussion was the process of earning B-Corp accreditation.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Earning certification as a B-Corp business is a long process ensuring that businesses are meeting high standards of performance, accountability, and transparency across multiple sustainable factors.

It explores the degree of impact your business has, not just in monetary value, but the impact on people and planet, also.

You can learn more about how to start the B-Corp certification process, and what being a part of B-Corp can do for your business, here.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Talks also explored prospect of circular business models – the process of reusing material to create a circular cycle, rather than a wasteful linear model where things are thrown out once they are used.

Sustainability is about much more than simply recycling – reducing your carbon footprint is much more of an all-encompassing philiosphy that can be achieved in a number of different ways.

Gerrard Fisher during his talk. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Gerrard Fisher at QSA Partners, one of the speakers at the summit, discussed the idea of consumption reduction, or extending the shelf life and usability of products, rather than displacing them at the first sign of adversity.

“Business model change is challenging”, he said. Reference was made to the ‘7 Cs of circular business models’ – which are customer, coherence, commitment, collaboration, change, circularity and commercial case.

“Every person can have an impact and reduce carbon footprint by reducing your consumption, either through our businesses or the advocacy we promote.”

Joy Lam is the former circular economy director of LEGO Group. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The business summit on sustainability in business explored several important topics related to the shift towards more sustainable practices.

One of the key discussions centered around the concept of moving from a product-based model to a service-based model in businesses, particularly in the context of technology and electronic devices.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Additionally, the discussion emphasised the importance of understanding the service needs of customers and ensuring that the service provided aligns with those needs.

It was acknowledged that in some cases, the service may come to an end, and it is acceptable to end the customer relationship at that point.

Rachael Langbein of Social Change | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The focus should be on providing value and meeting customer needs rather than solely pushing products into the market without considering their long-term implications, it was stated.

Rachael Langbein and Daisy Graham at Social Change held a talk on the importance of social value, as well as social return on investment.

Rachael and Daisy discussed the power of social value, and how Social Change is a champion of that. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The concept of social return on investment (SROI) was introduced as a way to quantify the value created in social, environmental, and economic terms.

It was contrasted with traditional return on investment (ROI), which focuses on what a business gains from its investments.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

SROI, on the other hand, looks at what has been created for stakeholders and aims to capture both positive and negative outcomes.

The importance of stakeholder engagement was emphasised, with the speaker advocating for direct consultation to understand the changes and impacts experienced by stakeholders.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

This qualitative insight is crucial for accurately assessing social value and assigning financial value to different outcomes.

By understanding the importance of various outcomes to stakeholders, businesses can make better decisions and deliver positive change while mitigating negative impacts.

The speech also highlighted the benefits of considering social value and SROI for businesses.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

It can help inform decision-making, identify activities that create or destroy value, and make a strong case for funding or investment.

Furthermore, fostering a culture of social responsibility can empower employees, encourage community engagement, and improve relationships with stakeholders.

Overall, the panel session emphasised the significance of social value and SROI in driving meaningful change, understanding stakeholder perspectives, and making informed business decisions.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

These discussions aimed to provide businesses with valuable insights into implementing sustainable practices and contributing to environmental preservation while also driving profitability.

The delectable lunch was organised by local business ROCO BBQ, also offering tasty options for vegan and non-vegetarian palates.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The day rounded off with a cocktail networking event – serving as another great opportunity for those in attendance to open dialogues with speakers at the Summit and other like-minded SMEs.

More photos and the video from the Better Business Summit on the Lincolnshire Business Week website

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