The financial outlay to enable change can often deter business owners from making adaptations and, when it comes to sustainability, costs play a large role in the decision-making process. The immediate hit on profit often looms too large for designers and business directors to take a long-term outlook and therefore the implementation of sustainable development is often delayed.
A selection of CEO’s and designers are guiding their brands and companies to opt for the right choices and the success is proof that merging the financial and sustainable needs together is entirely possible.
Dare To Think Bold
Jan Christian Vestre, CEO of Norwegian outdoor furniture brand Vestre, says you have to be courageous in your fight for sustainability and follow what you feel is the right thing to do. “There are crucial factors to overcome.” he states, “Dare to think bold. We aim to become the most sustainable furniture brand in the world. Nothing less. Make people believe in the vision. It creates extreme motivation and creativity. Follow your heart and gut feeling more than traditional ROI analyses. I mean, we are entering into new business models where classic economic models do not always apply. Focus on the goal ahead, not that much on the short-term results. Because there will be huge advantages for them who have dared to lead the way.”
Since the company was founded by Johannes Vestre in 1947, its core motivation has been to improve the world we live in, not to produce as many products as possible. The projects they work on look to create communal areas which promote everyday democracy. In doing this they harness the use of renewable energy and locally-sourced, environmentally-friendly materials.
Taking over the company as CEO at the age of 25, Jan Christian Vestre has taken it to new heights more than tripling its turnover and making the company carbon neutral since 2010. This achievement has been down to his visionary approach to business and a strong appetite to make a difference in today’s world. “I am not driven by the goal of becoming rich and famous.” He continues, “I am driven by a strong belief that we can use social design and our green manufacturing industry as a powerful tool to create a better world. I understand that we are not the biggest company in the world and don’t have as much impact as huge organisations, but I still believe that everybody can save the world. A little. Some people find that naive. I don’t care, because I know we are right. Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. When we get more companies to understand this, we will create an extremely powerful and global movement for positive change. This is my ultimate goal in life.”
With over-consumption and mass production being two of the main factors towards climate change, the way we produce and consume has to adapt. Thinking with a circular mindset is imperative, ensuring the second life of a product is taken into consideration. This being said, we cannot deny that a business has to be profitable, however, it’s financial success should not be the sole focus. Chasing short-term profits has led to a rise in a throwaway culture with companies capitalising on the quick successes found in a trend-led society. Vestre are keen to also share any profit they make, donating 10% of their bottom line to sustainable projects taking place around the globe. This commitment is admirable, however, it isn’t for personal recognition but the desire to have a positive impact which drives them forward. “If all Norwegian companies had done the same,” He continues, “we would have matched the entire Norwegian foreign aid budget TWICE! Imagine what an impact that could have.”