Your Customers Want Ethical Supply Chains

It's no secret that millennials want to do good in the world, especially when they're shopping. As a small-business owner, you may have the same goals, but you know something your customers may not: Paying fair prices for ethical and sustainable goods isn't cheap. If you're hesitating, consider taking the plunge — 90 percent of millennials would switch to a brand associated with a good cause.

That strategy can take a lot of different shapes. You may want to focus on importing goods from verified independent farmers and artisans, or enter into partnerships with local nonprofits and other businesses that pump profits into the local economy. However you choose to structure your participation in an ethical supply chain, you can jump in with both feet or ease in.

Some find all the points of entry overwhelming, but as it happens, consumers will reward almost any action you take, whether it relates to whether environmental impact, working conditions, or community involvement. Other businesses care about these matters too. According to 2016 research from the Ethical Corporation, nearly half of surveyed stakeholders (including everyone from corporations to NGOs to academia) were concerned with human rights standards and conditions in their supply chain. Forty percent wanted to be sure they understood every step in a product's journey to their store, called "traceability."

If you're balking at the thought of turning a profit while still supplying affordable goods and services, you have further options for ensuring your small business can embrace ethical consumption. Consider cutting down on your electric usage with solar panels, or shipping with biodegradable packing material. Taking good care of your workers also raises your reputation, and can save on turnover in the long run.

If you decide to pursue ethical supply chains, shout it from the rooftops. Not only are your customers explicitly on the lookout for buying opportunities that fit their values, but they're willing to pay up to 25 percent more. Make ethical shopping part of your social media strategy. Maybe your profits will look a little different, especially at first, but no matter what, you're paying it forward to other small businesses — and providing your customers a worthy opportunity to change the world with their money.