Go Green & Bristol Pound Workshop: Exploring Ethical Finance

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The morning of Wednesday 8th June saw a great turn out for our Go Green & Bristol Pound Introduction to Ethical Finance for SMEs held at the Tobacco Factory, home of many creative industries, found in the heart of Southville.

This unique venue provided a great space for getting business’ to start joining the dots between their underlying values and the procurement of financial services for small and medium enterprises growth.

Within People

After a delicious breakfast was served, with a selection of pastries, we heard a compelling presentation from Wren Aigaki-Lander who is a partner at Within People. She explained about how helping companies keep sight of their purpose can help to drive sustainable growth. Wren got everyone to think about the purpose of business, which is not just to make money, but is driven by joy and environmental and  social impact.

Some of the key things to consider with business purpose:

  • Purpose is about meaning and performance – not about making money.
  • Build a framework for purpose
    • Why: the core expression of business that drives vision of commercial success and culture.
    • How: the unique behaviours of companies.
    • What: defines our space created by business.
  • Think about the joy, impact and profit of the business (JPI’s instead of KPI’s!)

Triodos Bank

We then heard from Alex Higgins, who is relationship manager at Triodos Bank. He started by getting everyone to stand, and asked us to think about where our money is going and what it is invested in. Although we all thought we were ethically minded, non of us knew where our pounds were going.

He explained the idea of 100% transparency, which allows people to know where they pounds are going and what its invested in, resulting in an ethical banking system. Alex noted the pay-scale is often unfair in big companies, with highest pay being 300 times more than lower pay. This unfair pay culture does not align with ethical finance practices. Triodas bank understand that different countries do business differently but that an organisations culture is key to promoting ethical finances.

Bristol Pound

Steve Clarke, who is Chief Finance Officer from our co-hosts Bristol Pound was next to speak. He started by explaining how the Bristol Pound can support independent traders, strengthen local communities, and encourage sustainable local economies. With years of experience in this field, Steve was a great guest speaker in getting people to start think about a different and ethical way to finance via the Bristol Pound.

Steve went onto talk about the benefits for companies, and noted that the Bristol Pound can lead to new business links and networks, staff involvement and commitment, and zero-interest loans. He made the points that spending local with an ethical finance system can increase carbon savings from local supply chains. This also means that during financial decline (like in 2008), Bristol is protected through local spending of the Bristol Pound. The scheme can demonstrate the possibility of radical change, promote a fairer more sustainable economy, and bring people together, empowering communities.

A lively debate followed the presentation from businesses present,  followed by more networking over a delicious spread of fruit and coffee.

Workshop Activity

An activity facilitated by Go Green, Bristol Pound, and Triodos, with assistance by Wren Aigaki-Lander, commenced where attendees got into small groups to identify where and how money flows in and out of their business, and to match flows with suggested Go Green actions and opportunities through Bristol Pound and Triodos. In the activity, businesses also thought about the ethical challenges they face, along with next steps they can make to become more ethical.

Some ethical challenges for businesses:

  • Expense of sustainable energy.
  • Waste management.
  • Distribution of decision making.
  • Time & effort to practice ethically.

Some next steps for businesses:

  • Check energy suppliers.
  • Encourage more sustainable actions in workplaces.
  • Sign up to Go Green & Bristol Pound!
  • Ensure third parties are ethical.
  • Research charity donations such as 1% for the planet.

Bristol Green Capital Partnership / Crowdfunding

After a positive and lively discussion from the attendees, Vicki Woolley from Bristol Green Capital Partnership talked about how the partnership has worked with Crowdfunder UK to launch the Better Bristol crowdfunding platform. The platform has grown from the end of 2015, and is now working with over 800 member organisations to create a strong group of project partners and specialist networks in food, energy, resources, transport and more.

The scheme of Crowdfunding has benefited Bristol, with 120 hours of coaching to projects, which has raised £174,672 from 28 projects, along with £89,901 pledged by businesses. The scheme can increase community involvement and funding to result in a community hub being created, such as at The Spike Island cafe.

LettUs Grow

We were lucky enough to have a business come along and speak at the event who had been very successful in the Better Britol Crowdfunding scheme just mentioned above. Jack Farmer who is co-founder and director of the start-up company LettUs Grow came to talk about the technology company designing and retailing products that allow self-sufficient growth of food plants in the home. Jack is passionate about good food and sustainability and hopes to build a worldwide community of food growers who can make a real difference.

Jack talked about how the funding target of £5000 was exceeded to over £7000, through interesting pitches and marketing, such as dinner with Jack for a hefty sum!  He mentioned the successful press attention he had from the Independent, Techradar and Virgin’s Voom. With all the success, Jack talked about what was next for him and the business, with extra funding being acquired, conducting further research and development, and plans to keep growing as a business.

Key messages on ethical finance:

  • It’s important to focus on the ethical purpose of your business.
  • 100% transparency of money is ideal to keep finances ethical.
  • Shorten supply chains which will result in increase carbon saving along with positive impacts on local economies.
  • Think about the flows of money in and out of your business – are they ethical?
  • Think about your business’ ethical challenges and what the next steps are to overcoming them.
  • Encourage and take advantage of the Crowdfunding opportunities for green projects in the city.
  • Think about the impact of employees when dealing with finances – is everything fair?