Want to know how to set up your own cruelty-free business but not sure where to start? Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder of vegan restaurant chain Stem + Glory, shares her advice on what to consider when you're first starting out...
More and more people are demanding transparency from businesses in terms of their practices.
Even so-called ‘ethical’ businesses, such as ourselves, 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.
So where do we start if we want our business to be cruelty-free? The answer, as with most things, is of course with ourselves.
Find your motivation
I had my ‘aha’ moment when I was a teenager. I was already a vegetarian and I had never really eaten much dairy anyway.
But 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 gave up eating meat there and then, on the spot, and 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.
It was like I had just woken up from some murky fog and all of a sudden, I could see clearly how I wanted to live my life.
After that it was just inconceivable to me that I would ever eat meat or cheese, milk or eggs again. Not eating animals is a big part of cruelty-free for me, and I personally believe you cannot claim to be cruelty-free if you consume or sell meat products.
From my ‘aha’ moment on, everything I’ve 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.
Consider your wider ethics
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, but it is also about refraining from harmful thoughts too.
So, Ahimsa really means complete absence of violence and harm in thought, word and deed. This, in my opinion, is what cruelty-free really means.
And it is this ethos that 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.
Look deeper than your suppliers
Over the years, I’ve 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 I have learned to look deeper.
Everything, absolutely everything, needs to stand up to scrutiny.
Not stocking products that are tested on animals and having that as a 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.
It all starts with you
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 and that includes staff, suppliers, contractors – anyone and everyone really with whom you have professional dealings.
I do believe that if we want to live in a cruelty-free world, it starts with compassion to self and compassion to others – whoever they are.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem + Glory; hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurants, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredients, 100% made on site. Stem + Glory also offers click-and-collect and local delivery in London and Cambridge.
Read more vegan business advice
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- Behind the scenes at BOL Foods
- Meet the CEO of 3D-printed vegan steak producer Eshchar Ben-Shitrit