Green and Blacks co-founder Jo Fairley joined guests from a range of industries at Robert Walters latest Empowering Women in the Workplace seminar, to share her insights into building a successful ethical brand.
From humble beginnings in a Portabello flat, Jo built Green and Blacks into a £100m company, a household name that is, according to a recent poll, “cooler than Prada”, and an organisation that is able to have a positive impact on the lives of cocoa farmers around the world as one of the country’s first ‘Fair Trade’ brands.
“I’ve always believed very firmly that it’s not just possible to run a successful ethical business, but that ethical business practices and corporate social responsibility directly contribute to that success.” Said Jo Fairley.
Having begun her career as a journalist with women’s magazines, Jo says that in her early working life she felt she was in an environment where she was encouraged and empowered at work. However, since moving into new areas of business, Jo describes herself as a ‘Born-again Suffragette’.
“Women in business need strong role models, and we need to support one another. Sharing contacts and helping one another to grow contact networks is absolutely key. As someone who never felt comfortable in a ‘networking’ scenario I found I had far more success and felt far more confident if I considered, when going into those kinds of situations, what I could offer other people, not what I could get from them.”
As an employer, Jo felt that being flexible was vital to getting the most out of her staff. By setting deadlines for projects, rather than strict office hours, Jo’s employees were able to manage their personal and family life while still performing well at work.
“We always felt it was important that we remained flexible to the needs of our staff to strike a balance between work and home or family life. When we had single parents working at Green and Blacks we appreciated that their schedules would need to be adaptable. By giving them the opportunity to manage their own hours we created a sense of trust that saw these employees perform exceptionally.”
Jo went on to stress that empowering and supporting women in the workplace is not a concern solely for women, and how men can be encouraged to play a role as well.
“Whenever I’ve been asked by men how they can better support women at work, I have always asked them to consider how they would want their daughter to be treated in that position.”
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