In Honor Of Earth Day: Three Mission-Driven Companies We Love- PUBLISHED AT APOTHECAI.COM
“THERE ARE ONLY TWO WAYS TO INFLUENCE HUMAN BEHAVIOR: YOU CAN MANIPULATE IT OR YOU CAN INSPIRE IT. PEOPLE DON’T BUY WHAT YOU DO, THEY BUY WHY YOU DO IT.”— SIMON SINEK
It’s no surprise that mission-driven companies are on the rise. The widespread awareness that we’re living in a pivotal, high-stakes moment for the environment and our future has shifted global consciousness and spending patterns.
Big world problems are colliding with new generations of innovative, energetic, business-oriented and educated humanitarians. Businesses are now working alongside non-profit organizations to find solutions for human rights issues, global climate change, war, massive economic disparities within and between countries, and a status quo work-life imbalance, to name a few.
People respond to these businesses not just because they offer incredible goods and products but because they also represent a belief or value system for a better world.
Back in 2009, Simon Sinek presented a simple yet groundbreaking Ted Talk on leadership that popularized the concept of mission-driven work. After the talk went viral (it became the 3rd most-watched Ted Talk in the world), Sinek wrote a book called It Starts With Why.
During the talk and later in the book, Sinek encapsulates our personal quest for life purpose alongside the reason why mission driven companies succeed in a simple and communicable concept: A clear and lofty mission statement, the company’s Why. He suggests that most people and companies skip the Why and jump straight to the What and How. And then he demonstrates that great leaders (people and companies) are selling why they are doing what they are doing. The what and the how are actually less important. With a clear mission and vision, the business can shape shift with the demands of the world.
Small Start-Up: The Little Feminist, Oakland, CA
After experiencing success as an executive in Silicon Valley, The Little Feminist founder, Brittany Murlas, was ready to start a meaningful business. She wanted a clear WHY. On a personal quest to discover the roots of sexist and racist belief systems that were being highlighted in the daily news, Brittany discovered that, of the children’s books published each year, just 31% have female central characters, and in the last 5 years only 13% of children’s books feature a person of color.
No longer willing to accept these stark inequalities as status quo, she took action. Her inner fire and passion to make the world a better place for people of all colors and genders defined WHY she wanted to start a business. The WHAT and HOW quickly formed as a book club that focuses on diversity and gender equality. That is her starting point. With such a clear mission, her products and services can branch out into new realms—the sky’s the limit.
The WHY can be controversial, especially when the name has words like feminist in it. Once Brittany became clear about the ins and outs of her business, all she needed was a name to match her motivation. After months of inquiries and testing on social media platforms, she settled on The Little Feminist.
Her research revealed that word feminist has strong negative connotations for some, indicating a “a man-eating, stay-at-home-mom-hating, white woman.” Nevertheless, she felt strongly aligned with Miriam Webster’s definition of feminist as “a person who supports the equality of the sexes.” Rather than being swayed by truly nasty comments during her Facebook testing, she decided to face her fears. In fact, she hopes to reclaim the word feminist and put it to work in a meaningful way through her children’s book and activity subscription box.
The Little Feminist teaches 3–7-year-old girls and boys (yes, boys can be feminists too!) about diversity and gender equality, cultivating empathy and perseverance.
Learn more: The Little Feminist
Mid-Size Company: Reformation, Los Angeles, CA
If you’ve seen the documentary The True Cost you have an idea of the negative, and wide-reaching impact of the fashion industry on the environment and the people behind the clothes. Besides being one of the largest consumers of water, the fashion industry is the third most polluting in the world and often employs workers in unsafe conditions for substandard wages.
Enter Reformation. Founded in 2009 by Yael Aflalo, this clothing company is out to redefine fast fashion. Committed to sustainability from the top down, Reformation’s collections are made from rescued deadstock fabrics, repurposed vintage clothing, and plant-derived fabrics that require way less water and processing to create than traditional or cheaper (for the consumer) clothing materials.
Their factories and stores make use of wind power, LED lighting and Energy Star-rated appliances; up next at their new factory: on-site solar.
Reformation also works to track their carbon footprint. In exchange for the emissions and water used by their clothes, they give back in the form of offsets, from helping to plant forests that will naturally capture CO2, investing in clean water solutions, and purchasing landfill gas offsets. Their packaging is plastic-free and made from 100% recycled paper products; tape and hangers use bio-based and non-toxic adhesives. Garment bags are made from 30% recycled plastic and always get reused.
As for their employees, over three-quarters of the company’s management team are women or people from underrepresented demographics. Most of their hourly workers are paid more than minimum wage, and over half are paid above LA’s living wage threshold. Health benefits are available to all full-time employees, including people on the manufacturing team, the seamstresses and fabric cutters who are often overlooked.
Transparency is at the core of Reformation’s business model, and they are the first to admit that they still have a long way to go to make affordable, desirable clothing accessible to all without harming the environment in the process. It’s a commendable start, and a huge step in the right direction.
Learn more about Reformation’s commitment to sustainability.
Large Company: Patagonia, Ventura, CA
When it comes to mission-driven companies, Patagonia is a trendsetter. Founder Yvon Chouinard tapped into his creative and resourceful spirit as at a young age, improving the world of rock climbing by forging his own reusable pitons. The status-quo at the time was to leave the pitons in the rock face. His pitons became so popular he was able to start a business. From there, he partnered with other inspired outdoor enthusiasts to improve other climbing tools.
His business grew and so did the sport of rock climbing. The only problem was that his equipment was causing environmental damage, destroying the face of fragile rocks. Seeing the negative effects of a stronghold in his business did not keep Chouinard from aligning with the environment. Instead, he continued to explore alternative ideas, eventually replacing pitons with aluminum chocks that could be wedged in and out of rocks rather than hammered into the rock face. This was just the beginning of Chouinard’s environmental leadership that has defined his company as it quickly morphed into what we all know as Patagonia.
Alongside environmental activism, Patagonia is also known for taking care of its employees, claiming the motto “Let My People Surf.” Similar to the way the hard-earned environmental consciousness emerged, Chouinard’s social consciousness was rooted in a painful phase of the company that caused him to lay off 20% of his work force, including friends and family. Chouinard and Patagonia decided to learn from their misfortune and change the way they were doing business, essentially putting their people first. As a result, they intentionally slowed their growth and limited borrowing. They created a socially-conscious corporate environment.
Patagonia puts its money where its values are. Back in 1986, Patagonia began to support grassroots environmental efforts and habitat restoration by donating 10% of their profits to small groups of people working in environmental restoration, a practice that continues today. Most recently, Patagonia joined coalitions suing the US government in protest against President Donald Trump’s decision to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah.
Learn more about Patagonia and its amazing history.
Edited by Alison Baenen