Sustainablee : Taking sustainability from concept to successful business model
Updated: Mar 26, 2022
Covid19 was very much referred to as nature's response to the damage done by irresponsible human consumption. But many seem to forget the sustainable aspect when shopping or carrying out their purchasing. BuinessLounge.lk meets the founder of Sutainablee Dinushika Gunaratne as she takes us though the journey of Sutainablee and what it takes to build a business model around Sustainability and create a paradigm shift in consumer behavior.
1. Why did you choose Sustainability as the basis for your business ? How did it all start ?
Sustainablee was a passion project. During my years of working in the corporate sector, I had wanted to start my own business. Being involved in waste management and sustainability, it was evident that in order to change people’s lifestyle to be more sustainable the consumer needed to have the necessary tools, available in a convenient manner.
So I began working with the cottage industries and environmental organization I met during my career in the industry, and developed a range of eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives for the consumer under one brand.
I want to ensure we promote local products, as I have seen the talent and creativity among our local artisans and through this brand I wanted to ensure this is showcased. All products are curated to ensure they have minimal impact on the environment, as we advocate sustainable living, we also encourage and help the consumer to choose wisely when they make their purchases.
2. Is the market ready for sustainability based solutions ? What was the response that you received ?
Yes, I believe it is ready. We have had a very good response to the brand and products from our experience in running the business and our stall at the Saturday Good Market and other channel partners during the last year. We found that consumers are looking for that one stop shop to purchase these type of eco-friendly items. Be it for gifts/ or personal use.
As we provide a comprehensive range of items, from re-usable bags, personal care, home care and stationary items, In the future we hope to expand to other categories, but for now we would like to focus on the current range.
3. What has been your biggest challenge ?
Working with the small cottage industries, our model is to support the local manufacturer so in order to do so we purchase the items upfront from the suppliers to ensure they are financially stable. However, we have encountered many limitations in such business with the aspect of scaling up and also meeting deadlines.
Since such industries do not maintain a stock of raw materials or have working capital, home based operations are often distracted with family issues taking precedence and the business is given second place. However we have learned to mitigate these issues and set up small achievable targets so our supply chain is not affected and the suppliers are also satisfied.
4. We see a lot of lip service to Sustainability without a proper plan of action. How do you counter this ?
Presently ‘Sustainability’ has become a buzz word, however many do not know the true meaning of sustainability. It is simply, the use of resources consciously, making sure it available for generations to come. Therefore, we as consumers have the power to make this choice when we make purchase decisions and choose our way of life.
We have the power as conscious consumers to select brands and institution that practice proper environmental standards, and reject brands that do not.
However, given the current global situation, it is clear that we cannot ignore the environmental impacts created due to our irresponsible actions by us humans.
Therefore if the market continues to produce and promote items which are harmful to the environment, the only option as a conscious consumer, is to make a stand, by refusing and rejecting these items and switching to eco-friendly alternatives.
5. How can the average consumer reading this be sustainable?
Sustainability is using the current resources for our purpose while saving it for the future generations. If all of us have this in mind when we consume or make our purchases, each one can live a sustainable lifestyle.
It doesn’t require big changes to your lifestyle, we also try to educate the customers by saying ‘each of us have the power to fight climate change by taking one step at a time’. Just be conscious to use a reusable bag, and refuse / reject plastic bags. When you order be conscious of your packaging, or think do I need to order, or can I cook at home today. There are many way to reduce plastic packaging and recycle, are we doing our best. Are we conscious consumers?
You can still follow your normal daily practices, start with a simple action and gradually it will become your lifestyle.
6. How geared is the Sri Lankan education system to encourage sustainable consumption ?
From my experience, I feel International school children are more aware and educated on this topic. However I feel more education can be provided on the sustainable living and its importance
When I used to work in the corporate sector we were involved with providing training to school children on these topics and found that teachers, principals and students have the following theory in their text books, or curriculum but most don’t practice in their school yards or homes.
So the practical knowledge it not given and they do not know how to connect the teaching to what is happening to the environment or the surrounding. We as adults need to educate the children and empower them to express their concerns.
A small group of children are campaigning against climate change and polythene use and they are called the ‘Earth Guardians’. These group give us the confidence and can also help encourage other kids.
It is truly satisfying to know, that at least some children and youth understand the need to voice their concerns and fight for climate justice.
7. Plans for the future ? What can we expect from Sustainablee in 2020 ?
Sustainablee had a good first year and hoped to keep the momentum through 2020 as well. However, with the Covid 19 pandemic it was difficult for us to continue with the plans we had to for this year.
As we are a small business, we were able to get through the pandemic period by keeping our fixed costs low and continued our social media presence to ensure the business and brand continued to operate.
In response to the current market conditions, we hope to move our market place from pop up store and open markets to a digital platform. We want to ensure our products are still easily available to the customer through both retail and online channel partners.
Our plans for 20/21 would be to focus on finding new channel partners and to collaborate with other like-minded brands to promote sustainable living and our products range to the customer.
We will also continue to explore the export market and develop a partnerships with overseas clients as well.
Editor : Tharindu Ameresekere