Ethical is the new black


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Is green the new black? Or perhaps ethical is more in fashion? I really think this is more than a passing ‘trend’, and is an ethos that is here to stay. Do you agree?

Last week I attended the local social sustainability event, Ballarat Green Drinks, where I am part of the small voluntary team of organisers. Each month we bring a guest presentation to a room full of like-minded people – all with a focus on green/eco/environmental/sustainable/ethical topics of interest. There’s an opportunity to have a drink and chat with others, learn something new, and feel part of this worldwide movement of events. We are not affiliated with any political party, and have a welcomed a fabulously diverse range pf excellent presentations over the past three years.

Talina Edwards Architecture Federation Business School United Nations PRME Global CompactFor this event we had the opportunity to hear from three presenters, Executive Dean Bob O’Shea, Dr Helen Weadon and Craig Hurley, all from Federation University Business School here in Ballarat – on the topic of ethical and sustainable business. We don’t often associate business, commerce or finance with ethics and sustainability – especially when it comes to multi-national corporations and some of their track records. This is why it was so encouraging to hear that there is an emerging worldwide trend to think and behave in this way – and that our future business leaders need to have these values – and that it is also the responsibility of universities to teach this stuff!

The FU Business School heard about a sustainable corporate initiative that the United Nations put forth in the aftermath of the GFC – the UN Global Compact and Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). Once they signed up, there was a focus on ensuring that ethics, corporate social responsibility, human rights and sustainability is embedded in their courses (not just elective subjects), and also a focus of their research, and perhaps most importantly their behaviour in the university/workplace too – i.e. they must practice what they preach. This IS THE FUTURE of business – ‘business’ does not have to be a dirty word and be just about greed and profit – you can do the right thing too (oh and leave the greed behind!). Or as Clare Bowditch the founder of Big Hearted Business says, ‘Do What You Love, Make Money, and Save The World’ and there is an ever increasing number of businesses worldwide doing just this.

The presenters mentioned two young Australian businesses (that I’m a fan of) who are following a new type of business model – where they are doing good with their profits going to charitable causes, and they have thrived due to their crowd-funding campaigns, social media presence and online marketing strategies. Who Gives a Crap sell 100% recycled toilet paper, and donates half of their profits to build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. They now also sell tissues and paper-towel made from sustainable-grown bamboo and sugarcane. Thankyou is a social enterprise with 100% of their profits go to charitable causes around the world. Their products include bottled water*, snacks, body-care and the soon to be launched baby-range thanks to a very successful online crowd-funding campaign. (*Yes there are a plenty of environmental and economical reasons why we should avoid bottled water, but these guys figured that at least they could launch a new product that did more good than it did harm – unlike all the others on the market – so that an everyday item sold here could help many around the world have access to clean safe drinking water. I also hear they are in the process of improving their environmental credentials.)

'Who Gives A Crap' & 'thankyou'

We’re proud to support ‘Who Gives A Crap’ & ‘Thankyou’ products!

As part of the Leadership course I am doing this year, we have learnt from some fascinating futurists who specialise in strategic fore site and they are also forecasting the shift in mindset with corporate values, and of other new business models already on the world stage (think of the success of Uber and Air B’n’B). I love that there is already this noticeable shift to a more ethical and sustainable future, and I for one feel very optimistic that this is just the beginning….

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Want to know more about how to vote for a better world by choosing where to spend your money on everyday purchases:

Do you have any favourite businesses (or products and services) who are showing great leadership with the way they do things? Who care not just about economic sustainability of their company, but also environmental and social too? I’d love to know in the comments below!

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Talina Edwards Architecture: elemental design is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. Click here to ensure you won’t miss out on our news!



  1. Alex on May 11, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    I love WGAC but I’m seriously dubious of Thankyou. In addition to their bottled water, most/all? of their toiletries seem to contain palm oil. Looks like greenwashing (ethical-washing?) to me. That’s my concern with a lot of this stuff – the louder a company is about it the more it seems to me like a marketing ploy, rather than true values. I’d like to hear more about ethical businesses that you might not know about because they’re just quietly getting on with it.

    And Uber and AirBnB aren’t stellar examples of ethical business either. A couple of critical articles from my bookmarks:
    The Case Against Sharing — Medium
    Travis Shrugged: The creepy, dangerous ideology behind Silicon Valley’s Cult of Disruption | PandoDaily

    • talinaedwards on May 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Hi Alex – thanks so much for your comments – I’m definitely interested in following up your links and finding out more about what really happens behind a brand – and of course then getting this information out there. And apologies I didn’t mean to suggest that Uber and Air BnB are ethical – just that they are new business models.