How Sustainability Shapes the Legacy of My Chocolate Firm –

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

Sustainability is a key focus for my enterprise as we speak, 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 steady. Slowly, I started shifting my focus to utilizing the corporate as a car to make a mark on the 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 could be a method I would go away a legacy by means of chocolate.

Whether or not you might be excited about legacy or not, our companies are unimaginable autos we will use to make an affect on the world round us.

Listed here are a few of the practices I’ve leveraged to encourage our firm’s sustainability affect.

Inspire with hope, not concern

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 incredible keynote speaker. One sentence resonated with me: “We have now 100 months left earlier than the harm from international warming is irreversible.”

These info and statistics will be sobering. Many individuals usually have a visceral response to them, nearly feeling burdened with guilt and concern concerning the present state of the surroundings. A fear that the earth goes to implode and turn out to be uninhabitable rapidly units in.

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

“No less than we’ve 100 months,” is what I saved telling myself.

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

My staff and I broke the “huge drawback” 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 changing into carbon impartial (after which, finally, carbon adverse).

Within the course of, I realized 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 harm, 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 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 all the way 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 keen to implement sustainable practices. Until they work out the right way to work inside our parameters, we won’t work with them.

Typically it’s the smallest efforts, whether or not or not it’s asking laborious questions of your present distributors or implementing new processes that set off transformation, which have the biggest affect. My greatest studying: put in small efforts and let the modifications carry you ahead towards larger efforts.

Lead by listening

Six years in the past, I acquired a letter from a girl named Betty from Oregon. Within the letter, she enclosed one in every of our Seattle Chocolate wrappers and a observe 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 completely recyclable. I nonetheless puzzled, “Why did Betty say that?”

My staff and I dug deeper. It didn’t take lengthy to make an attention-grabbing 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 could be completely 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!”

One of the best leaders hear greater than they converse. Typically meaning listening to prospects, 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 may really feel extra motivated to assist and take part within the huge objective you are attempting to realize.

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

My journey tackling sustainability jogs my memory that we’ve a alternative once we have 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 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 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 as we speak’s main entrepreneurs, try EO on Inc. and extra articles from the EO weblog