Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

I teach ‘Sustainability’ every day, and as the days go by, I’m learning more and more that there are certain life laws that carry through across disciplines and industries. Almost everything I teach in one industry can be generalised and applied to another, no matter how different they are. Additionally, the principles of business that have become so entrenched in how enterprise functions are starting to form the very foundations of how sustainability works as well. This is why I think the business world and sustainability are truly a match made in heaven.

YES, we have been a bit greedy as a species. As a collective, we remind me of my late dog. (R.I.P.). She was a beautiful black Labrador, had a face that you could never get angry with. If she was left in the house and there was even a slight opportunity to get to food, she would find it and she wouldn’t stop eating until she was physically incapable of moving. It worries me that she never learned her lesson and maybe people won’t either. That’s been the human race for the past few decades now. Gorging on growth, growth, and more growth until there’s very little left. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Eyoel Kahssay on Unsplash

What even is ‘sustainability’?

It’s hardly the most fascinating of topics to discuss but arguably one of the most important. What is ‘Sustainability’? Honestly, if you begin looking to answer that question, you’ll end up down quite a few rabbit holes and eventually you might come out from them with very little more than you had before.

The issue with defining such a term is that it’s so all-encompassing. It’s literally the future of the planet and all species within it — all of the complex social, economic and environmental debates condensed into a word. Many people have attempted it, however! …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Luisa Brimble on Unsplash

As I’m writing this, the world is waist-deep into a Pandemic. Covid-19 is still very much causing disruption to our way of life and how economies are running.

I’m a freelance sustainability consultant and that means that I work with companies to build sustainability into their model and daily operations. This work up to now has been put on the back-burner, as I’d already decided that no one would want to pay for my services when most business owners are struggling to pay rent & bills. I’m beginning to think that was a silly train of thought.

We’ve seen the words ‘pivot’ & ‘adapt’ being thrown around so recklessly since the world went into lock-down in March, that it almost makes you nauseous hearing right now. Those terms do hold some merit though, and we’ve seen many businesses either call it a day or make a decision to move towards the customer. One of the main examples being restaurants turning into takeaways overnight. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Every day I’ll watch as a new hospitality venue jumps onto Instagram to boast of their new sustainable packaging. They believe that they’re reducing their impact and in many ways, they’re probably correct. The problem is, the obstacles go far deeper than merely switching to a less impactful material.

Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I get it. I own two coffee shops and it’s actually really difficult to remove waste from the equation. There’ll be no judgment from me; I wholeheartedly understand that alternatives are marketed to us, and if they seem better than what we already use, a similar price, we’ll often make the switch. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Igor Starkov on Unsplash

So, you own a coffee shop; or you’re planning to? Maybe you don’t own it but you’re in a management position and know the benefits of building environmental and social values into your daily operations. I’m going to lay some of the lessons I’ve learned on the table. Before I begin, I’ll give you some context. I own a coffee shop in a small town/suburb near Liverpool in the UK. It’s a fairly affluent area which was important when choosing a location. There’s no wrong area to open a coffee shop, you just need to adapt your offering. We wanted to offer specialty coffee and really test the boundaries of what was offered in our area and what people were used to. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

I could start this by telling you all about how coffee remains one of the world's most beloved drinks and is the second most traded commodity on the planet, behind crude oil. A proper introduction. But I’m not going to do that, because fitting the topic of Coffee & Climate Change into a thousand-word article is nigh on impossible as it is. So let’s just skip the starter and get right to the main.

Coffee is systemically unsustainable. That’s less than ideal, when it’s also one of the industries most susceptible to climate change-related pressures. The supply chain has historically been known for its exploitation of producers and with such colossal demand, the intensification of agriculture comes with widespread use of harmful artificial fertilizer and loss of biodiversity. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

In short, yes; and those two attributes MUST be able to co-exist in order for a more sustainable future to be possible. This is one of the greatest concerns I see as a consultant for sustainability in business. Some entrepreneurs want to grow a Fortune 500 company and others want to build an NGO or non-profit and focus on meaningful change. Regardless of the ambition, a business requires growth and funding to be functional.

In order to make ‘Sustainability’ the norm, we need to develop it into a money making machine.

One of the big misconceptions and barriers to the two co-existing is a deeply entrenched idea that any business focused around sustainability, whether it be environmental or social, cannot be profitable. The idea being that costs are too high and demand is too low. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

The Fashion industry has been split into this ‘good guy’ & ‘bad guy’ storyline. Slow Fashion being the hero, coming to save the day; but are the roles really that clear cut? In reality, is Slow Fashion likely to dominate in the coming years? Well, to understand this we must first look into the differences between these two players.

It’s perhaps taking much longer than it should, but slowly people are beginning to realize the urgency of climate change; they’re also coming to understand that our addiction to consumption and convenience are significant contributors. The fashion industry is notorious for being at the forefront of these impacts, accounting for about 10% of global CO2 emissions according to the 2018 Climate Works report. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image by Oladimeji Odunsi

I may be speaking too generally here, but I feel we’re notoriously bad at overlaps or fuzzy boundaries. Anything within those grey areas, we tend to do everything we can to avoid. We love clarity and placing everything into a box. You’re either right-wing or left-wing, you can’t float somewhere in between; you’re either religious or against religion. The issue with this way of thinking is that life and the world we live in are much too complex to accommodate it.

It’s incredibly important to consider the extent to which many elements of society and the challenges we face every day are so closely connected and mutually influential. Furthermore, if we truly want to shape a future around social equality, environmental & public health, then we must gain a deeper understanding of these complexities. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Ravi N Jha on Unsplash

It is widely known that India faces major challenges with waste management, with an average of 42 million tonnes of waste generated every day. That’s the equivalent of 3 million trucks full and 70–75% of it is left in the landfills at the city outskirts, leading to large built-up areas of hazardous waste. There seems to be no sign of this changing and these landfill sites are becoming over-saturated and spreading into inhabited areas.

This is not just an ugly build up of waste; it comes with plenty of harmful consequences, such as polluting groundwater and releasing methane, which is not only toxic but flammable. In 2018, the Bhalswa landfill in Delhi caught fire and took three days to extinguish. The Ghazipur landfill, also in Delhi, remains the largest in the country, and in 2017, a collapse led to the death of two people. …

About

Jamie McIlhatton

Sustainability Consultant and Owner of @sundastudio // Specialty Coffee Shop owner @wyldecoffee // Just trying to take my own advice...

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store