From major multinationals to micro-businesses, any company should be thinking of buying eco-friendly products; and even better if it can be supplied locally. Reducing transportation and showcasing UK-based manufacturers and distributors is the reason for GreenBuying to exist. From recycled stationery, non-toxic cleaning supplies, to renewable energy, ethical insurance and telecoms, this eco B2B e-commerce covers the whole range of eco-friendly products for businesses! Another big focus on GreenBuying mission is implementing school programs to introduce eco-friendly education on the younger generations. A model that intends to scale all over the world. Are you in?
We interview Matt, the founder of GreenBuying, a B2B brand to be replicated across the globe – so national markets can be showcased and sustainable education can be spread to more schools. He is actively seeking social entrepreneurs in different countries to join his network of licensees. Pay attention folks, if you are interested in becoming the next eco-preneur this could be the perfect opportunity. And by the way, we hope you enjoy this interview and learn as much as we did!!
Hi Matt, what is your background and why did you start GreenBuying.co.uk?
Hello there, and first of all many thanks for inviting me to do this interview. I’m delighted to meet you and to discover OurGoodBrands – a great concept which deserves all the success! So I come from a procurement background, beginning with Unilever PLC and then back in 2002 I founded a procurement consultancy business here in the UK. I’ve worked with many dozens of clients since then, helping them to improve their purchasing practices and reducing their supply chain costs and risks. But I’ve felt that one piece of the “value for money” jigsaw was missing – namely the need to protect the environment when sourcing business goods and services. I felt that there was a lack of help either off or online for company buyers who wanted to source more eco-friendly products and services. That’s where the germ of new business was formed – which is now fully created in GreenBuying.co.uk!
What do you currently offer at GreenBuying and who should reach out?
Good question. So currently we have an e-commerce platform selling ‘best of British’ business goods such as recycled stationery, non-toxic cleaning supplies, recycling bins, outdoor furniture made from recycled plastics. And we also promote eco-business services including renewable energy, ethical insurance, ethical telecoms, and ethical office furniture clearance. In the near future, we are also looking to add new content, particularly to encourage buyers to avoid plastics, so biodegradable catering and packaging products are of interest to us.
In terms of our client base, we’re looking to work with UK businesses, schools, government departments – in fact, any non-residential organisation which procures and wants to green up their supply chains.
We also offer educational presentations at schools where we discuss sustainability and the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling. We want to encourage the next generation of consumers to be savvy enough to challenge businesses to become more environmentally aware.
Why did you decide to exclusively take on board brands that were made sustainably and based in the UK?
We want to reduce transportation – hence we don’t import or export. By doing so, we reduce the carbon footprint of our business and of course reduce the total costs to our clients. We also want to showcase UK based manufacturers/distributors to encourage more supply of eco-friendlier products and services. The more demand we can bring to them, so the stronger their business will become, which in turn will ensure that we have a sustainable supply chain in the future.
What products and brands addressed to B2B you currently offer at GreenBuying? And what kind of businesses should buy eco-friendly products on your platform?
We believe that any kind of business should buy eco-friendly products. We have clients who are major multi-nationals, but equally, we have micro-businesses too. We make it easy for companies who aren’t geared up to paying upfront with a corporate credit/debit card by allowing 30-day payment terms for those clients who are reliable payers and who are required to send purchase orders rather than placing orders via our online shopping cart.
Would you be able to provide rough data on what the impact of one business could be if they decide to buy eco-friendly products on your platform?
It’s really difficult to be precise on this one. We don’t have the ability to calculate the amount of carbon reduction through purchasing from our site – partly because we don’t know what the business client has switched away from which is presumably more environmentally harmful. But whilst hard data may not be easy to obtain, the specification or function of the products or services on offer can be clearly seen to be beneficial to the environment – for example, the removal of toxic chemicals contained in our cleaning products; the reduction in new plastic or paper manufacturer in the office supplies products; the ability to manage separate waste streams thanks to the recycling bins, making it easier to recycle the waste and thus reducing landfill or incineration; the diversion of plastics from landfill into useful outdoor furniture likes benches and children’s playground equipment; revenue being generated for conservation charities from the ethical insurance premiums; companies being encouraged to source their energy from solar or wind rather than from fossil fuels.
Could you please explain what is your vision for the platform?
My vision of GreenBuying is to be THE online destination for all UK businesses looking to reduce their consumption of non-eco-friendly products and wanting to re-use and recycle. I also want the brand to be replicated across the Globe – so national markets can be showcased and sustainable education can be spread to more schools.
That’s why we’re actively seeking social entrepreneurs in different countries (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Europe, Asia & Africa) to join our network of licensees, all under the GreenBuying brand. Initially, we will need to concentrate on where there is a sufficiently well-developed supply chain for eco-friendly business products and services. Where a market is not well developed, we may have to consider allowing importation of products. Whilst this may not be ideal, it will still be an improvement on where most businesses are now. Licensees will be given support to make their business as successful as possible, we will also require as part of their licencing agreement, that they devote at least a minimum amount of time presenting in schools – they may choose to outsource this part of their service.
So you allocate resources to implement school programs about eco-friendly topics. How do the actual school programs look like, and why should every school across the UK use them as a tool?
To be honest, the school programs are currently very basic and just involve the use of Powerpoint presentation slides. It needs more time and resource to make them more consistent and to be as powerful an education tool as possible. My hope is that we start in a small way and then as the GreenBuying brand develops and more revenues are being generated via the licensees, then we can invest more time and money into making the programs even more compelling. My thinking is that over time we will be able to secure sponsorship from corporations who are keen to get involved in the schools’ programs. They will be able to help fund educational resources to ensure that these are given out to schools either free of charge or heavily subsidised. We don’t want to make this aspect of our work a profit generator. This work will, however, be critical to the GreenBuying mission.
What is about educating the younger generations that excites you the most?
Kids are naturally curious about the World around them, and even at a very young age understand that the damage that we’re inflicting on the planet is very wrong. Given the alarming speed of global warming, it will be this generation, and their children in turn, who will be the first to really suffer directly from the damage we’ve been inflicting on the earth over the last few decades in particular. Because time is not on our side, it is therefore in my view imperative that we educate children that they can take action now and that when they become adults they will have even greater influence – for good or for bad – through their buying decisions. We want to teach them that they must challenge suppliers at home and at work to do the right thing and protect the environment. I don’t believe there are any more powerful influencers on the health of the planet than consumers. But to succeed, we need to educate their minds before they get into bad habits. So I hope you can see that this is why GreenBuying has a responsibility not just to influence today’s consumers, but tomorrow’s consumers too.
Explain to us how you are willing to replicate the GreenBuying model worldwide, how are you planning to facilitate that and how people willing to join will feel supported?
I want the GreenBuying vision and brand to live not just through me and not just here in the UK. If it only exists in such a narrow sphere of influence, the vision will not become in any way a reality. So I really do want others to take the brand and to do some amazing things in their own countries! I am also of the view that having a profit-making business model will help to further motivate individuals to drive the concept further forward at pace. I don’t think making money is unethical, as long as everyone is working for a common goal which is environmental sustainability.
So to replicate the model, we will need passionate entrepreneurs who understand the vision. They will have to invest a (relatively small) amount of capital upfront which will fund the e-commerce platform, the hosting and payment gateways and marketing training support. They will also need to invest a fair amount of time in sourcing and negotiating with eco-friendly suppliers in their country. We will help to populate the e-commerce platform with the products and services. Once up and running, they will have regular communication with the licensor (in the UK). So we will ensure that every step of the way the licensees will feel supported.
What needs to happen for your vision to become a reality?
For the vision to become a reality, we need to find willing participants! I predict that we will start the process with one or two early adopter licensees and will progress step-by-step. No doubt mistakes will be made, but as long we’re all learning from them, the vision will become a reality. So if anyone reading this interview thinks they would love to run their own business, be part of a growing global network of like-minded pro-environmentalists/educators, and can make both time and some money available, I’d love to hear from them!
Finally, how would you encourage people, brands or social entrepreneurs who share your vision to come on board? What is the best way to reach out?
We will be spreading the word via social media. And through blog posts and interviews like this one. That’s the beauty of social media – it can quickly spread the word around the globe.
Is there any other similar brand you know or are curious about? Comment below, and we will make it happen!