Creating change, one step at a time

It is clear that Local First has a focus on not only supporting and strengthening local businesses but also on positioning them for long-term sustainability within the community. One way this can be seen is through discussions of economic empowerment, equity, and quality of life. During a recent Measure What Matters workshop, we presented information about social justice and what that means for for-profit businesses. Participants were also able to engage with Janay Brower, Founder of Public Thread.

In its most basic form, social justice is defined as “equal access to wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” When relating this to business, it can help to consider a triple bottom line approach in which you equally factor in your company’s impact on people (both internal and external to your organization), profits and the planet.

Some ideas for putting this into play within your organization include: paying living wages, ensuring you have inclusive hiring practices and utilizing eco-friendly packaging. Take a look at your day-to-day operations. All companies can find opportunities for making a measurable, positive change to both their internal stakeholders and community at large.

As a Grand Rapids-native, Brower is personally connected to this mission as well. For her, the term social justice means “trying to create a business or organization that is really based in trying to do things the right way on the front-end.” When it comes to Public Thread, this proactive approach can be seen through their mission and operations.

“In our case, [we] try to honor the people, honor the planet and be creative and allow for different approaches to manufacturing,” she says. They honor the people by paying living wages. Additionally, Brower is currently pursuing a worker-ownership structure which will allow Public Thread to take another step towards empowering its employees.

Textile and apparel manufacturing traditionally can have a lasting impact on the environment. Through a focus on upcycling, or repurposing/reusing discarded materials to aid in the production of new high-quality goods, Public Thread is actively working to keep materials out of landfills. “Particularly for textiles, when [materials] biodegrade in landfills, they produce 72 times more gases that go into our environment. That has to do with our air quality [and] the breaking down of the ozone layer. We are actively trying to prevent [this] and give [the textiles] a different purpose, which allows us to create jobs in that process,” Brower adds.

These are only a few examples of the social, economic and environmental impact businesses can have. As we approach year-end, now is a great time to review your organization’s operations. Challenge yourself to identify two or three focus areas and develop plans for becoming more deliberate in your actions. Change starts will one step. You may be surprised by how small, calculated plans can have such a significant impact on a larger scale.


About Stingray Advisory Group LLC: Stingray Advisory Group LLC is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. By creating dynamic customized solutions for business growth, we empower businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools to further their development. To learn more or schedule a consultation, visit Follow us today on Facebook and Twitter for more helpful tips!

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