I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, (I usually break them within a couple of weeks anyway), but this year I have promised myself one thing; that by the end of the year, my finances will be in better shape.
At the moment, I have a day job two days a week and I run two small businesses. My pet sitting business keeps me fed, but the business which shows the most potential is my soap business. At the start, I made a couple of decisions about ingredients: I will fragrance only with essential oils and absolutely no palm oil will go near my products.
Palm oil is used in a great many everyday products, including most of the soaps, cakes and biscuits we buy at the supermarket and increasingly, in the production of biofuels. To feed this increasing demand, large swathes of tropical rainforests and peatlands of South Asia are being felled, to provide land for palm oil plantations.
Concerns about climate change, greenhouse gasses and the search for alternative fuels is, ironically, making things worse. Clearing forests and draining the peatlands releases more greenhouse gasses than burning fossil fuels. This is having a major environmental impact and a detrimental effect on local communities and wildlife. Chief among victims is one of our closest living relatives, the Orangutan, which could be virtually extinct in five years. Adults are killed, leaving baby Orangutans orphaned by loggers greedy for land.
So, no palm oil for me.
I want to build a successful business, but I want it to be an ethical business. I make soap using the most environmentally friendly method possible and keep packaging to a minimum. The company supports a charity, helping them to raise funds for their work in protecting the forest habitat of the Orangutan; we also give a portion of profits from one of our products to a UK based dog and cat rescue charity working in Afghanistan.
I don’t see why businesses can’t be built taking the needs of others into account. The Fairtrade movement has been in existence for about 30 years and is proof that we can benefit others when we make our buying choices. All this is dependent on education and it is a slow business, but there is no point in just paying lip-service, it is important to put into action what you believe.
So, by the end of this year I hope to have my business on a firmer footing, (taking a bit of a salary would be nice), I would like us to be able to support more charities, have our products in more outlets and I would like to be able to look back at the beginning of the year and see an improvement. Only time will tell.