September 26, 2023


Learn Business From Experience

How Sustainability Shapes the Legacy of My Chocolate Firm –

5 min read

A number of months in the past, I introduced a giant objective publicly: my firm, Seattle Chocolate, can be carbon damaging by 2024. It was formidable, daring, and seemingly out of attain—which is exactly how I knew it was the correct objective to set.

Sustainability is a key focus for my enterprise right this moment, however it wasn’t at all times 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 means 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 secure. Slowly, I started shifting my focus to utilizing the corporate as a automobile to make a mark on the planet—one that will outlive me.

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

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

Listed here are a number of 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 shopper packaged items world). I sat in a crowd and listened to a implausible keynote speaker. One sentence resonated with me: “We’ve 100 months left earlier than the injury from international 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 in regards to the present state of the atmosphere. A fear that the earth goes to implode and turn into uninhabitable rapidly 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 least we have now 100 months,” is what I stored telling myself.

When the issue feels massive, a way of helplessness can rapidly overcome us—and it’s not a superb place for anybody to be in. Main with hope was the one method ahead.

My crew and I broke the “huge 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 damaging).

Within the course of, I realized that hope will at all times be the best motivator and the best software 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 exhausting questions. We challenged them and ourselves.

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

Now, we recycle these baggage.

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 presently working with is just not prepared to implement sustainable practices. Except they determine how you can work inside our parameters, we won’t work with them.

Generally it’s the smallest efforts, whether or not it’s asking exhausting questions of your present 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 adjustments carry you ahead towards greater efforts.

Lead by listening

Six years in the past, I obtained a letter from a girl named Betty from Oregon. Within the letter, she enclosed considered one of our Seattle Chocolate wrappers and a notice that stated: “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 crew 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 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!”

The most effective leaders pay attention greater than they converse. Generally which means listening to clients, like Betty from Oregon, in an actual method. The result’s a constructive suggestions loop: when folks really feel like they’re being listened to, they may really feel extra motivated to help and take part within the huge objective 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 situation that every one human beings are going through proper now?

My journey tackling sustainability jogs my memory that we have now a alternative after we have a look at a giant mountain earlier than us: both we really feel empowered to take it one step ahead, or we really feel hopeless in regards to the dimension 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 go away 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 Speak 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 right this moment’s main entrepreneurs, take a look at EO on Inc. and extra articles from the EO weblog

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