SUSTAINABILITY is a hot topic in 2020. As the climate continues to change, environmental sustainability is increasingly discussed by scientists, politicians, activists like Greta Thunberg – and, more and more, brands.

The sustainability conversation has come a long way since Verde Nieto started her first business in 2002.

Now, companies clamour to have their brand recognised by Verde Nieto’s company Positive Luxury, home of the “Butterfly Mark” which authenticates the positive impact of luxury brands. The mark is earned by brands that strive for excellence in sustainability. But in the early 2000s, Verde Nieto struggled to get the issue into business vernacular.

“I remember talking to businesses about how to incorporate sustainability into their business strategy,” she says. “They thought I was out of my mind.” “I couldn’t believe the apathy about sustainability. People were not engaged, the media didn’t want to cover it, people didn’t really care.”

But by the time Verde Nieto sold her first business, an international sustainability communications consultancy, the public was beginning to wake up to the damage being done to our world. Nature programmes fronted by David Attenborough shocked many people into action – and influenced the Butterfly Mark that has become the emblem of Positive Luxury. Verde Nieto met Attenborough at a ceremony where she presented him with a lifetime achievement award. He told her about the British Blue Butterfly, a species that became extinct in Britain in the 1980s but was successfully reintroduced by scientists.

HeraldScotland:

“That really inspired me,” she explains. “To me, the butterfly represents the power we have as humans, to wipe out an entire species but also to reintroduce it. We have the same power for good if we put our minds to it.”

Verde Nieto will be among the entrepreneurs sharing her story at FutureX’s Impact Summit in Glasgow on May 20, which empowers startups, companies and policymakers who are contributing to a sustainable global economy. Since 2011, Positive Luxury’s Mark on their branding. Verde Nieto and the company’s Sustainability Council designed it this way to ensure the mark is only awarded to those who deserve it. In a world of “fake news”, it can be difficult for consumers to differentiate between companies using buzzwords to chase sales and those that are genuinely sustainable.

“The food industry didn’t always have accreditations like organic and FSC [Forest Stewardship Council],” she says.

“Our company, and a lot of similar businesses, are much more relevant in today’s world, because otherwise how do you know? As an individual, I want to know that I can trust what I am buying.”

Verde Nieto anticipates more environmentally friendly businesses will continue to appear in the years to come. “Companies that are coming to the market now must be sustainable,” she continues.

“If you are an existing company, it is about retrofitting sustainability principles into your business practices.”

There has been undeniable progress towards greater sustainability, but Verde Nieto argues that a “proper sea change” is still to happen.

One way to push the environmental agenda is through events like Impact Summit. There, business leaders come together to discuss issues like climate change, tech for good and sustainable fashion – and how companies can take the lead towards a stable and sustainable future. Verde Nieto’s story should be an inspiration to any young entrepreneur.

After all, her current job didn’t even exist at the time she graduated, with a whole sector of businesses now springing up thanks to greater interest in the environment. But what would be her advice for young business owners? Well, as Verde Nieto will discuss at Impact Summit in May, there is no easy road to success. “Being an entrepreneur sounds amazing, but it is tough,” she insists.

“It is hard work, but it pays off when you see the idea that you scribble on the back of napkins flourish into a business. I feel very lucky to have the team I have.”

HeraldScotland:

Impact Summit 2020 will take place at SWG3 in Glasgow on Wednesday, May 20. For further information and to book tickets, visit: www.impact-summit.org