Independents can Lead the Way

When we launched York as our first Good Business Charter city, I was excited to connect with Rebecca Hill of Galtres Lodge, an independent hotel.  She also chairs Indie York, a group of over 200 independent businesses across the city.  York has a thriving independent business culture, with Bishopthorpe Road voted best high street in 2015 and featured by national media in 2018.  As a resident, I am pleased that when tourists visit they find such variety in retail and hospitality.

These are two sectors I am so keen to see embrace the Good Business Charter and champion its principles.  There are two main reasons for this:

  1. The GBC began as an idea of a retailer, a retailer who has shown that you can treat your workers well and give excellent customer service, and still make a profit.  When Julian Richer discussed his idea with the CBI and TUC, it was coming from the perspective of shoppers, who want to support the good guys, but don’t know who they are.  Retail and hospitality are two of the key sectors that work B2C – and that consumers are choosing to spend their money with day in day out.
  2. They also happen to be two of the sectors with the lowest pay and least secure work.  I have been told on a number of occasions that our stance on real living wage and fairer hours makes it too challenging for retailers to join.  I disagree.  If we want to provide customers with a good experience, we cannot expect to do this off the back of people experiencing in-work poverty, struggling to put food on the table and unsure how many hours they’ll get of work each month.

So when I was invited to be on a panel at the Independent Hotel show earlier this month I jumped at the chance.  Just as in York, independent businesses are leading the way in our GBC city, there is such an opportunity for the independent hotel sector to lead the way for hospitality as a whole.

They have the advantage of marketing themselves to consumers in a direct way so that those consumers can make informed choices about where they stay.  Sustainable practices matter more and more, but so do the way workers … and suppliers … are treated.  And the recent findings from the Institute of Business Ethics reminds us that payment of taxes matter too.  Businesses need to take a holistic approach to behaving responsibly.

I was privileged to be on a panel alongside one of our accredited members, The Bull Inn, as well as leaders in sustainable practices: Belu water and Karma cola.  Our host was Jac Kneebone of Lore Group.  To watch the panel discussion please see below.

Belu and Karma have done a tremendous amount of work around thinking very intentionally about their supply chain and about their environmental impact.  It was inspiring to hear their stories.  Meanwhile, I love The Bull Inn’s clear focus on their people and how they really care for them, with clear rules in place to guide that.

Some may feel these organisations are at a different level, but everyone has to start somewhere, and my tips are:

  1. Start small – take things step by step so you can sustain it
  2. Start now – don’t put it off but put it in motion now
  3. Communicate it – there’s no good doing something great if you don’t tell people you’re doing it!
  4. Involve others – your workers and customers will be delighted to give their suggestions and feed into the process
  5. Embed the process – don’t have it sidelined as one person’s job, but make responsible business behaviour central
  6. Join forces with other like-minded businesses – getting GBC accreditation would be a good way to achieve this
  7. Don’t forget the social side – we want to save the planet for future generations but let’s not forget the current generations in our workforce.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • energy conservation eg. LED bulbs, solar power
  • water conservation eg. dual flushing toilets, safer cleaning products
  • recycling, reduce single use plastics
  • local food preparation, effective use of waste food
  • promote local commerce and use of public transport by guests

Full panel discussion: