It’s fair to say that cruelty-free is having its moment. From animal welfare and non-animal testing to veganism, increasing numbers of people are demanding transparency from businesses in terms of their practices.
As a so-called ‘ethical’ business ourselves, even we are having to dig deeper into everything from supply chain to personal morals and motivations to stand up to the rigorous challenge that being truly cruelty-free brings, says Louise Palmer-Masterton, the founder of Stem + Glory.
So where should you start if you want your business to be cruelty-free? The answer, as with most things, is of course with ourselves. Here are some of the ways you can make your business cruelty-free.
Identify your motivation
For me, during a chance encounter with the Krishna movement, I was introduced to the idea of compassionate eating for the first time and it made complete sense to me. I have never looked back. As soon as I thought about what I was doing by eating meat and equally by eating any by-products from the meat industry, it just hit me like a ton of bricks.
Not eating animals is a big part of cruelty-free for me. However, whatever your motivation for incorporating cruelty-free into your business, it helps to educate yourself about what is really going on in the world.
Do your research
Farming practices, how we treat animals, and how we treat each other are all an integral part of our daily lives. Take the time to read about what actually goes on and make sure to carry out some solid research. If you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to do that then so be it.
Just because something is out of sight it doesn’t mean it is not happening and if the information is not in front of you, seek it out. Find out what really happens to animals when they are slaughtered.
Make cruelty-free your driving force
From my ‘aha’ moment on, everything I have done has been driven by what yoga calls Ahimsa – non-harming. This is what I believe is the basis for a cruelty-free world – and therefore a cruelty-free business. It’s obvious that not killing and eating animals is a big part of Ahimsa, but what about its wider meaning? Ahimsa is about refraining from harmful actions.
This ethos needs to be applied throughout the business – from your suppliers to your staff, from your products to your marketing. Focus on a complete absence of violence and harm. Over the years I have had to learn how to apply Ahimsa to business. I can’t live my life one way and turn a blind eye when it comes to commerce.
On the surface, it might seem easy enough to just focus on your suppliers and the supply chain. But it pays to look deeper. Everything, absolutely everything, needs to stand up to scrutiny.
Not stocking products that are tested on animals and having that as company policy is important. Dealing with fair trade companies who look after their staff, choosing ingredients and materials that don’t damage the environment, paying a fair price and treating suppliers fairly – are all part of being cruelty-free.
We, of course, also eliminate ALL animal products from our stock and supply chain. But you have to take that outside your own business too. We only work with ethical suppliers who have done their own due diligence on their suppliers. We are rigid in our checking because it really matters. If you want to be cruelty-free – you also need to ask the same of your suppliers.
Take positive actions
Beyond that and perhaps even more importantly, being cruelty-free really starts with positive actions and interactions. And that comes from you. Look to yourself to be kind and be compassionate with everyone including staff, suppliers, contractors – anyone and everyone really with whom you have professional dealings.
Although this may seem like a big undertaking, it is worth it and customers (and suppliers) will appreciate it and recognise it. Cruelty-free businesses will be more and more important in the future as customers will demand it and the transparency to be sure you are doing what you claim. Start now. Build the ethos, bit by bit, into your business. Tell people what you are doing and be willing to accept that you may not get it perfectly right every time – but a desire to change, and genuinely sticking with your ethics will help you attract a strong, committed team and loyal customers.