How Sustainability Shapes the Legacy of My Chocolate Firm –

A number of months in the past, I introduced a giant purpose publicly: my firm, Seattle Chocolate, could be carbon adverse by 2024. It was bold, daring, and seemingly out of attain—which is exactly how I knew it was the precise purpose to set.

Sustainability is a key focus for my enterprise right this moment, nevertheless 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 via 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 this planet—one that might outlive me.

I’ve at all times 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 technique I would go away a legacy via chocolate.

Whether or not you might be fascinated about legacy or not, our companies are unbelievable automobiles we will use to make an influence on the world round us.

Listed below are a number of the practices I’ve leveraged to encourage our firm’s sustainability influence.

Inspire with hope, not concern

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 unbelievable keynote speaker. One sentence resonated with me: “We’ve got 100 months left earlier than the injury from international warming is irreversible.”

These details and statistics will be sobering. Many individuals typically have a visceral response to them, virtually feeling burdened with guilt and concern concerning the present state of the setting. A fear that the earth goes to implode and change 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 very least we now have 100 months,” is what I stored telling myself.

When the issue feels giant, a way of helplessness can rapidly overcome us—and it’s not an excellent place for anybody to be in. Main with hope was the one means 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, finally, carbon adverse).

Within the course of, I discovered that hope will at all times be the best motivator and the simplest software within the entrepreneurial toolkit. Inspire with hope, not concern.

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

Effort goes a great 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 neglected from a sustainability perspective. For instance, the plastic luggage we had been utilizing (and throwing away) for years had been recyclable. Distributors by no means instructed us as a result of we by no means requested.

Now, we recycle these luggage.

A part of the trouble got here all the way down to setting out inside processes. We applied a coverage to look to different distributors if the seller we’re presently working with will not be prepared to implement sustainable practices. Until they determine the best way to work inside our parameters, we is not going to work with them.

Typically it’s the smallest efforts, whether or not it’s asking laborious questions of your current distributors or implementing new processes that set off transformation, which have the biggest influence. My finest studying: put in small efforts and let the modifications carry you ahead towards larger 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 certainly one of our Seattle Chocolate wrappers and a be aware 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 questioned, “Why did Betty say that?”

My crew and I dug deeper. It didn’t take lengthy to make an attention-grabbing discovery: whereas the paper and the plastic that we used had 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 could be solely recyclable. As soon as we completed it, I wrote Betty a letter again saying, “I did it. And thanks for caring sufficient to level it out!”

The very best leaders pay attention greater than they communicate. Typically which means listening to clients, like Betty from Oregon, in an actual means. The result’s a optimistic suggestions loop: when folks really feel like they’re being listened to, they are going to really feel extra motivated to help and take part within the huge purpose you are attempting to attain.

Entrepreneurs are the changemakers the world wants. We will transfer quick, tackle bold initiatives, and create change that may ripple out far past the boundaries of our corporations. Why shouldn’t we take the lead on sustainability, essentially the most urgent problem that every one human beings are going through proper now?

My journey tackling sustainability jogs my memory that we now have a alternative once we take 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 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 this 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 right this moment’s main entrepreneurs, take a look at EO on Inc. and extra articles from the EO weblog