When companies care about people and our planet, having a sustainable purpose is the foundation for building caring communities. There is mutual support and trust that connects us around what’s important to us. And instead of just buying or consuming, we can choose to have a relationship with any company that claims to care.
And it’s our responsibility to question whether a company is causing harm to both people and planet through their business practices. From palm oil plantations cutting down tropical rainforests, to coal and copper mines dumping toxic waste into rivers, there are many companies—in the name of profit—not concerned with the wellbeing of people, communities and the environment.
Influencers and celebrities can be in flashy ads or TikTok reels telling us how much they love a product that we must have. But why does this hold any significance in our lives? Do they know us?
And are they being radically honest about why we should trust the company they promote? Nope. That’s not their job. As content creators, they get paid to convince us to consume more and more stuff.
Do our young people really need superficial role models instructing them what to wear, how to look and even how to feel? Is happiness bought through products and even surgeries to reach a superficial standard of beauty?
What if more of us asked, is this product or service using humane practices that are healthy for us and sustain the planet, or are they depleting?
This is one way we begin to examine whether anything is healthy or toxic for our own wellbeing. It’s not whether it’s good or bad; right or wrong. Our health and wellbeing is the number one criteria we need to consider today.
I am not endorsing any of the companies below. But I am curious about their claims of being sustainable and healthier for the planet.
We each need to investigate for ourselves. But the point in sharing is that there are some companies breaking away from the norm and pioneering healthy practices and systems.
Allbirds is using recycled plastic bottles to manufacture their shoe laces. They claim to be transitioning back to renewable, natural materials. 100% of Allbirds’ wool is sourced from regenerative sources—reducing or sequestering 100% of on-farm emissions from Allbirds’ wool. They believe regenerative agriculture represent a huge opportunity to local communities, biodiversity, ecology, and long-term viability of the land. “This is why Allbirds is all in. And we think the rest of the fashion industry should be, too.”
Everlane has used over 34,000 lbs of regenerated nylon waste to develop its swimwear collection. They partner with ethical factories around the world. They claim to “source only the finest materials. And share those stories with you—down to the true cost of every product we make. It’s a new way of doing things. We call it Radical Transparency.”
What is Radical Transparency? A practice where customers know how much their clothes cost to make. It involves revealing the true costs behind all products—from materials to labor to transportation. Then list them without the traditional retail markup.
Simplifyber is imagining how clothing and shoes are made. Liquid cellulose is poured into a single 3D printed mold. And a shirt or sneaker is then created. When the material reaches its end of life, it is recycled into clothing again. The products are biodegradable, and the whole process reduces waste. “We are transforming the world’s $1.9 trillion Footwear and Apparel industries (and centuries-old factory system) into sustainable, additive manufacturing.”
Growing Sustainable Purpose
Mycoworks is producing a fungal-based biomaterial that can replace leather. Their textile eliminates the need to farm millions of animals for leather. This material is also certified bio-based and on its way to becoming plastic-free. The production process of mushroom leather requires very little water and energy to produce, further minimizing its environmental impact compared to animal skins.
Ecovative pioneered the art and science of growing complete structures with mycelium. By up-cycling the byproducts of agriculture, they replace plastics, leather, meat, and other unsustainable products of industry and factory farming. As part of the circular economy, their environmentally friendly packaging has the protective properties of polystyrene packaging (EPS). But doesn’t contribute to the 8 millions tonnes of plastic that enter our oceans every year. It can be safely disposed of at home.
Zero Acre Farms provides an improved alternative, produced by microorganisms and fermentation. Vegetable oils have been linked to widespread health and environmental issues yet they’re in everything we eat. They’re not only unhealthy but are a major cause of deforestation. The company’s mission is to give the world an oil change with all purpose cooking oil. Sustainable purpose is at the heart of their creations.
sweetgreen is on a mission to connect people to real food, while leading with purpose and making sustainable decisions that last longer than we will. “We’re building a transparent supply network, why we cook from scratch, and why we’re building a community of people who believe in the power of real food.”
Creating Healthy Paths
Imagine different choices are made. For example, instead of Return on Investment (ROI), we took a look at whether organizations are fueling a regenerative and sustainable economy where all living beings on the planet matter.
It’s up to each of us to discern between the hype and so called purpose-washing of the brands we consume. And we can also choose to work for companies that align with our own purpose and mission.
What’s fantastic is that we can create companies that offer what we need and lead with purpose; not structure. Maybe instead of wanting to be innovative, we can start focusing on having a sustainable purpose, individually and collectively?