How Sustainability Shapes the Legacy of My Chocolate Firm –






A number of months in the past, I introduced an enormous purpose publicly: my firm, Seattle Chocolate, can be carbon unfavorable by 2024. It was formidable, daring, and seemingly out of attain—which is exactly how I knew it was the proper purpose to set.

Sustainability is a key focus for my enterprise in the present day, but it surely wasn’t all the time the case. Like most entrepreneurs, I spent the primary years specializing in survival. I had a imaginative and prescient to make the world a greater place by way of chocolate—however to ensure that any of that to occur, the corporate needed to be financially sustainable.

It took 10 years to get our enterprise worthwhile and steady. Slowly, I started shifting my focus to utilizing the corporate as a car to make a mark on the planet—one that may outlive me.

I’ve all the time been a “tree hugger” at coronary heart. Spending the final 36 years within the Pacific Northwest amongst outstanding landscapes created a connection to the planet. Sustainability turned a pure alternative: it might be a method I would depart a legacy by way of chocolate.

Whether or not you’re fascinated with legacy or not, our companies are unimaginable automobiles we will use to make an impression on the world round us.

Listed below are among the practices I’ve leveraged to encourage our firm’s sustainability impression.

Inspire with hope, not worry

Years in the past, I attended the Pure Product Expo (a cornerstone commerce present within the pure client packaged items world). I sat in a crowd and listened to a improbable keynote speaker. One sentence resonated with me: “Now we have 100 months left earlier than the injury from world warming is irreversible.”

These details and statistics will be sobering. Many individuals usually have a visceral response to them, nearly feeling burdened with guilt and worry concerning the present state of the setting. A fear that the earth goes to implode and develop into uninhabitable shortly units in.

Getting back from that commerce present, I used to be full of a way of urgency—however I additionally felt a way of hope.

“At the very least we’ve 100 months,” is what I saved telling myself.

When the issue feels giant, a way of helplessness can shortly overcome us—and it’s not a very good place for anybody to be in. Main with hope was the one means ahead.

My workforce and I broke the “massive downside” down into smaller steps: we leveraged GreenFeet to audit our carbon footprint, analyzed every space of our enterprise, set KPIs and milestones, assigned accountabilities, and constructed a roadmap to turning into carbon impartial (after which, ultimately, carbon unfavorable).

Within the course of, I discovered that hope will all the time be the best motivator and the best instrument within the entrepreneurial toolkit. Inspire with hope, not worry.

At this level, we’re now right down to about 87 months – and but I really feel simply as hopeful as ever.

Effort goes a good distance

Inside 90 days of listening to that there have been 100 months earlier than the planet suffered irreversible injury, Seattle Chocolate turned carbon impartial.

How did we truly obtain this in such a brief time frame?


We reached out to all of our distributors, together with the first vendor from whom we buy chocolate. We researched. We requested our distributors laborious questions. We challenged them and ourselves.

Within the course of, we realized there have been many areas of our provide chain which we had ignored from a sustainability perspective. For instance, the plastic luggage we had been utilizing (and throwing away) for years have been recyclable. Distributors by no means informed us as a result of we by no means requested.

Now, we recycle these luggage.

A part of the trouble got here right down to setting out inner processes. We carried out a coverage to look to different distributors if the seller we’re at present working with shouldn’t be prepared to implement sustainable practices. Except they work out easy methods to work inside our parameters, we is not going to work with them.

Generally it’s the smallest efforts, whether or not or not it’s asking laborious questions of your current distributors or implementing new processes that set off transformation, which have the most important impression. My greatest studying: put in small efforts and let the modifications carry you ahead towards greater efforts.

Lead by listening

Six years in the past, I acquired a letter from a lady named Betty from Oregon. Within the letter, she enclosed considered one of our Seattle Chocolate wrappers and a notice that mentioned: “That is rubbish.”

Betty, who had labored for a recycling firm in Oregon, claimed the packaging that we used to wrap our chocolate was not recyclable; the one technique of disposal was tossing it within the trash.

I had been assured that our packaging was recyclable, but I checked once more with our packaging vendor. The seller reconfirmed that the packaging we had bought from them was solely recyclable. I nonetheless puzzled, “Why did Betty say that?”

My workforce and I dug deeper. It didn’t take lengthy to make an fascinating discovery: whereas the paper and the plastic that we used have been every recyclable, the bonding of the 2 of them collectively rendered the packaging now not recyclable. Betty from Oregon was proper.

It took us six months to trial and error a brand new wrap that wouldn’t tear at retail and can be solely recyclable. As soon as we achieved it, I wrote Betty a letter again saying, “I did it. And thanks for caring sufficient to level it out!”

One of the best leaders pay attention greater than they converse. Generally which means listening to clients, like Betty from Oregon, in an actual means. The result’s a optimistic suggestions loop: when individuals really feel like they’re being listened to, they may really feel extra motivated to help and take part within the massive purpose you are attempting to attain.

Entrepreneurs are the changemakers the world wants. We will transfer quick, tackle formidable initiatives, and create change that may ripple out far past the boundaries of our firms. Why shouldn’t we take the lead on sustainability, probably the most urgent problem that each one human beings are dealing with proper now?

My journey tackling sustainability jogs my memory that we’ve a alternative once we take a look at an enormous mountain earlier than us: both we really feel empowered to take it one step ahead, or we really feel hopeless concerning the measurement and scope of it, by no means taking a step ahead and by no means making any progress.

Hope creates momentum—and as soon as momentum happens, who is aware of what legacy you’ll depart behind on the planet lengthy after you’re gone?

Contributed to EO by Jean Thompson, the CEO of Seattle Chocolate and jcoco. After delivering an acclaimed TEDx Discuss in 2017 titled “Think about a World With out Chocolate,” Jean has been on a mission to unfold the chocolate revolution.

For extra insights and inspiration from in the present day’s main entrepreneurs, take a look at EO on Inc. and extra articles from the EO weblog

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