Ethos magazine wants to uncap the potential for businesses to do good

by Grace Wang in April 2017
Current affairsMental healthOutdoors

We’ve seen Lagom and Courier, two very different titles telling stories of entrepreneurship and creative businesses. Joining them is Ethos magazine, a new title published out of Liverpool that wants to champion socially-minded, responsible organisations.

The small-format quarterly journal highlights progressive and innovative startups, non-profits and social enterprises, and wants to offer an insight into how businesses could be changed for the better. We talk to publisher Fiona Shaw and managing director Andrew Beattie to find out about a weather app for farmers in West Africa, a sustainable restaurant in Bristol, and how UK key-cutters Timpson is giving back.

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Why did you want to make a magazine about good businesses?
Fiona: I’ve been a business journalist for nearly 20 years, and when I started, the world of business was a very different place. It was pretty ruthless, dominated by numbers, rather than stories and people. Now, businesses know that, for people to take them to their hearts, they have to do better: be more sustainable, responsible and innovative. And they’re the stories that we want to tell.

Andrew: We’ve also noticed a generational shift towards purpose-driven business and entrepreneurship with a social and civic conscience – our role is to communicate the stories of the people and businesses leading us towards that, and hopefully speeding up its arrival in the process. The feeling we get from the people we meet through our work is also incredibly positive and motivating, and it’s nice to share that feeling.

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Tell us about some of your favourite businesses at the moment.
Fiona: I’m really interested in sustainability and recycling, especially businesses that use food waste for social good. People like Too Food to Go, LA Kitchen, Second Bite and the Severn Grower’s Project. Lucy is doing some amazing work right now with the ethical energy company Brighter World, and our operations director Patrick Hurley would say Timpson for their work with prisons to train and employ ex-offenders, as well as Ride Austin, a non-profit, community-owned alternative to Uber.

Andrew: Co-operative bakery Homebaked in Anfield constantly inspires us — we made a film about the work they do last year and have recently collaborated with them on a newspaper about community business. They’re a diverse group of remarkable people that have made something beautiful out of hard times in their local neighbourhood by always asking the question — ‘what does it mean to live well?’ They make the best pies I’ve ever eaten too.

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From behemoths like Etsy to a small sustainable restaurant in Bristol, what were some highlights from the issue?
Fiona says: One of my personal favourites was the story about farmers in Africa, and how an app that measures rainfall and predicts weather patterns has had such a dramatic impact on their lives. Parley for the Oceans, our cover story, was very popular. Even for a huge international brand like Adidas, there are a lot of people out there who don’t know anything about the good work they do. We had big global brands in there alongside localised community organisations. Our aim is to make sure people can relate to stories, whether that’s through their geographical location, their product or service, or their ethos.

What do you hope to inspire in readers?
Fiona: We hope people will see businesses doing good stuff, and be inspired to start their own, or do something differently. And we hope people see that some businesses are making a real effort to do things the right way, and will demand more from the organisations they transact with.

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Andrew: In less than ten years, at least half the working population in the west will work for themselves, and we think that these people will at least in some way identify as social entrepreneurs. So we want to fill them with inspiration and the confidence that comes with knowing that people have done it before, and that there are lessons learned and ideas out there to help them.

What’s the best thing about starting a new magazine? And the most difficult thing?
Fiona: You can’t beat the smell of freshly-inked paper in the morning. It’s always a thrill when it arrives, and the feedback has made it all worthwhile. And we’ve had a couple of occasions recently where people we wanted to interview have already seen and read the magazine… and that’s amazing!

Andrew: A big challenge for us moving forward is going to be bringing the right advertisers and partners on to help make the magazine and business sustainable financially, but also share the values of our readers and really understand what we’re trying to achieve.

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