Ten years of ethical web design

Published: 28th Aug 2015 in Ethical Business,  Ethical Web Design

Last week I met with a lovely lady who teaches creative digital media at a college in Leicestershire. She felt it would be useful for her students to learn about the social and environmental impacts of our industry and was particularly curious to find out more about web design as a green and ethical business.

It was really interesting for me to re-visit and describe our reasons for setting up Make Hay. I realised that whilst an awful lot has changed over the past ten years in terms of the relevant technology and our experience, the need for caring, responsible and ethical business is just as vital and our reasons for working this way are exactly the same.

Why set up a green and ethical web design business?

For us it was an extension of how we wanted to live. To focus on things that have a positive impact just felt right to us and back in 2004 we could really see the potential for charities and social businesses to spread their work far and wide using the internet. We wanted to be a part of that, to facilitate it. Bearing in mind, back then Facebook was brand new, Twitter hadn't been created yet and we didn't have the tools to publish a whole range of media anywhere in world from the palm of our hand. Times have surely changed!

What hasn't changed is that we love to meet and collaborate with people who are doing a range of wonderful things, from conservation at home and overseas to tackling bullying and fighting for the rights of people all over the world. The aim of working together to create a more effective online presence is what we do. Now, there are just so many more amazing ways to do it.

What's involved in running our ethical business?

Like other web designers we have the same concerns of day-to-day project management, keeping informed in a constantly changing field and being competitive in a growing industry. I've already mentioned our motivation and ethos but there are just a few other things we may do differently. Here's a run-down:

We have ethical and environmental policies.
We established our ethical policy on day one and it has been our foundation ever since. It describes the things we aim to support as well as the types of projects we won't take on. We hope it shows our commitment to our current and potential clients and that we have no interest in turning a profit by exploiting people or the planet. Our environmental policy outlines all of the things we do to work in as green a way we can, like using a renewable electricity provider, buying recycled office products, working efficiently and re-using materials.

We run our own Green Hosting service
The powering of data centres and cloud computing is one of the largest global contributors to carbon emissions. Astounding, right? So rather than add to the problem we run our own hosting server powered by 100% renewable electricity from UK wind farms. We host our web design clients’ sites there and other customers can sign up too. There’s lots more info over at our Green Hosting website.

We see ourselves as part of a bigger movement
Through high quality, beautiful and good value web design for charities and social businesses we’re playing one small role in a whole movement looking for positive social change. Our work has to have a point and with our clients it really does.

We sponsor local groups and businesses and things that make us smile
It’s not always about business, sometimes it’s just nice to help out. We’re Wildlife Guardians at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and sponsor Creative Nottingham, Dummy Jim, The Abdication and Sherwood Women’s Institute.

How did it work out?

When we first ran our fledgling business idea past family and friends all those years ago overall we got a positive “good for you and best of luck!” but some were concerned that what we were attempting was too risky. They suggested that we take all the custom we could get and worry about our social responsibility when we were established. That wasn’t an option for us, we wanted credibility from the off.

In the early days we were approached by a couple of companies (one involving mining and one horse racing) whose projects would have been pretty lucrative for us. We said “no thank you” and never looked back. Pretty soon we found ourselves supported by lovely like-minded folk and attracted clients who loved our ethos and the feeling was mutual.

Mostly nowadays we work with charities and we’ve come to understand their particular pressures and requirements. When a social business comes along, we jump at the chance to be involved. We have great long-term relationships with our clients and enjoy nothing more than developing their website further as their organisation evolves.

So how did it work out? Ten years on, pretty good I’d say and its all down to the amazing people we work with.

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