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As business leaders, we have our own ideas about how to change the world. However, before our ideas change the world, they have to change us on a personal level. We have to fundamentally question our values and our ways of living.
Think about it this way — let’s say your goal is to help make the fashion industry more sustainable. How can you do so if you’re constantly hitting the “check out” button online and getting boxes of new clothes delivered to your front door?
No matter what your business idea or goal is for bettering the world, here are three things to think about throughout your journey.
1. Reflect on Whether or Not You’re Living Up to Your Brand Values
If every business actually lived up to its brand values, the world would be doing a lot better than it is right now.
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Regardless of the industry you’re trying to change, you should take stock of your personal life to determine if you’re living up to your brand values. For example, as I was planning to start my sustainable T-shirt line, Citizen-T (which takes clothing from landfills and second-hand stores and refashions them), I reflected on my own fashion consumption habits and made changes. I’m not saying I’m perfect when it comes to sustainable fashion in my own life, but the process of starting and maintaining my business has made me more conscientious about every piece of clothing I purchase.
Reflection is most effective when it happens regularly. Some ways you can ensure that you regularly reflect is by blocking off a time on your calendar each week or month or by creating a personal policy to ask yourself the hard questions if you, say, want to purchase a particular type of item.
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2. Get Feedback From Your Team
In addition to reflecting on whether or not you’re living up to your brand values in your personal life, you should ask yourself if you’re doing so at work.
It’s important to get feedback from your team to learn how they feel working with you, if they feel like you’re “walking the talk” when it comes to practicing your values at work, what changes they want to have a better work life, if they feel like their voices are truly heard and more. You can gather this feedback using anonymous surveys or, depending on everyone’s comfort levels, meeting with your team members face-to-face.
You don’t even have to gather this feedback in a structured way. Personally, I like touching base with the people I work with during our day-to-day activities; I don’t have a formal feedback gathering system. However, regardless of which path you decide to take, make sure you act on that feedback once you receive it!
3. Use Your Voice in Your Industry
There are many times where you have to use your voice and call out certain practices to truly attempt to disrupt things.
You can use your voice to better the practices in your industry, no matter what your title is. For example, in 2020, a group of anonymous former employees of the makeup and skincare company Glossier called out their ex-employer for racial and managerial issues. In 2021, ex-Google engineer Emi Nietfeld wrote an op-ed in The New York Times about the sexual harassment she faced at the company.
What these people did was brave, and I encourage you to be brave too if you’re in the position to do so. I say “if you’re in the position to do so” because I recognize that not everyone has the privilege of being in a financial position to publicly, non-anonymously, call out their employer or others in their industry that they need to work with. However, if you have the privilege to publicly call out bad practices in your industry and remain silent, it’s hypocritical. I won’t say that I’ve been perfect at doing so, but when I see a questionable practice in my industry, I’ll voice my concerns.
Ultimately, we shouldn’t solely view the success of a business through the lens of money. Businesses need to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.
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