Welcome to The Pivot Pod, where we'll figure out together what's next for small business. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new expert on each episode. Today it's how one business finds sustainability values both save and make them money.

Ethical business practices can often be seen as a 'nice-to-have'.

After all, when the rubber hits the road, what's most important is that the business itself survives.

But one New Zealand business, Chia Sisters, says its ethical model has been the secret to its success, including paying staff the Living Wage and installing solar panels in a bottling plant.


Listen to the podcast episode here:

When Covid-19 hit, co-founders Chloe and Florence van Dyke first thought their health drinks would be fine. But when lockdown was announced, they realised it would be more difficult, as most of their stock was sold through cafes.

It took communication with stockists, customers, and banding together with other businesses, to give their business room to move.

Florence van Dyke said, while staying in touch with cafes to see how they were getting on, they also set up a website so they could sell directly to customers.

"We offered free delivery to every doorstep in New Zealand and collaborated with other Nelson food entrepreneurs, which was really fun.

"We launched our Little Box of Sunshine in the second week of lockdown, which had a collaboration of all of our favourite food from Nelson.

"So it had the likes of Pic's Peanut Butter, Proper Crisps, Yum Granola, as a gift box or snack box. We were sending hundreds of those around the country, which was great," she said.

"I truly believe that our neighbour is not our competitor.

"There's a whole world out there, and if we're all saying look, sustainability is important, health is important, buying New Zealand made is important, that's a whole lot of voices saying the same thing. And we all benefit from that."

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Chloe van Dyke said facing the situation head-on proved liberating and allowed them to experiment with what their business offered.

"Failure was a real possibility, so that allowed us to operate without fear," she said.

"I'm so excited to see what comes out of this. Because as soon as failure is likely, you do everything you can.

"You're no longer scared of failure. It's so in your face, that you're no longer scared to try things when you might have been before."

Chia Sisters has committed to ethical practices including the Living Wage and installing solar power in their bottling factory.

While some might see such measures as a luxurious expense at this point in time, Chloe said it actually saved them money overall.

"We really want to prioritise having a positive impact on the environment and the communities in which we operate," she said.

"For us, [the Living Wage] has not only been the right thing to do, but it's also a sound economic choice.

"Our team are dedicated and passionate, we have less turnover, staff aren't worrying about financial stress at home, which makes them more productive at work.

"We have so many wonderful people wanting to work for us. This just is a no-brainer."

While the addition of the solar panel hadn't paid itself off yet in terms of energy in and costs out, it had opened up new, profitable product options.

They created a fresh-pressed juice range, which they called Bottled by the Sun.

It's gone on to win awards, and the profits from the juice have "far outweighed" the cost of the solar panels.

Florence said even as they looked at ways to keep adapting their business to the many changes brought about by Covid-19, their sustainability values weren't up for debate.

"I guess the best question is, is it profitable to be ethical? And the answer is definitely yes."

Listen to the full interview on The Pivot Pod episode above.

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