Millennials are the most sustainability-conscious generation to date, willing to pay more for goods produced with fair trade and environmental and social consideration as a backbone of the company producing them. Economic growth in recent years has shown the benefit to corporations who consider their carbon footprint in the course of doing business. Today, we spotlight three companies who put the environment and fair treatment of workers on the same pedestal with profit and growth.
Lush Handmade Cosmetics weaves their ethos on sustainability into everything they do, from minimizing packaging (or having none at all) to sourcing essential oils for their products from something called dynamic farms, and purchasing plastics from Ocean Legacy, a non-profit foundation cleaning trash out of the Pacific in the Northwestern US. Lush uses these plastics for what little packaging they do put their products in.
When Lush head buyer and perfumer Simone Constantine found out the hard way how “faster and cheaper” demands from manufacturers led to chemical additives and earth-damaging farming practices, she vowed to find a new solution. She traveled the world, looking for a better way. In Ghana, she encountered a farmer who had experimented with farming techniques on the principle that “forests don’t need fertilizer.” Instead of a single crop in neat rows, he planted as many as fifteen species of plant, all symbiotic and helpful to one another. When a field goes fallow, farmers leave it be, letting nature take over to renew the fertility of the land. Dynamic farming is the same principle, only done with intention and crops that can be harvested for use in Lush products.
An example of this is the moringa tree. Considered a “super food” for humans and the land in which it grows, its leaves are used as a supplement, and its seeds are pressed for oils used in lotions, creams, and soaps. These trees also support black pepper vines, which are also harvested for consumption. The relationship of the two plants is beneficial to each, and results in the same land yielding two distinct crops, both of which support the farmer and the beauty industry. A similar type of conscientious farming is done for their supply of rosewood oil, an essential oil from a tree endangered in the Amazon through deforestation. By purchasing a 14,800 acre concession in the Amazon, Lush found a way to leave their area of the rainforest standing while still harvesting the rosewood oil they need for their products.
Lush prominently proclaims their sustainability efforts in all their marketing. Each pot of product customers buy has a sticker proclaiming the name of the person who produced it, when it was produced, and when it’s best used by. Their products don’t contain a long list of chemicals, and aside from sustainable farming and packaging, Lush goes out of their way to manufacture their wares without cruelty to animals and sell them in a way consumers can be proud to be a part of by donating to local and worldwide organizations that share their values through the Charity Pot Program.
However, no brand is entirely perfect, and Lush has come under fire for using parabens (a chemical preservative) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) among other chemicals in their products. Lush has even released an SLS article and a paraben article to explain their use in products Lush manufactures. The company states in both articles they carry products in every category that don’t contain either of these chemicals, so consumers who are aware of the controversy can educate themselves about exactly which products they trust and which to avoid.
This eyewear company began because a broke college student saw a problem and set out to fix it. The problem? Glasses are too expensive. When one of their friends lost his glasses on a backpacking trip and couldn’t afford to replace them, resulting in going without glasses at all in his first semester of grad school, they asked the question, “Why are glasses so expensive?”
The answer turned out to be surprising and infuriating. The eyewear industry is dominated by a single company that keeps prices high while raking in huge profits and giving glasses wearers few options otherwise.
So Warby Parker was born to circumvent existing methods of producing fashionable eyewear at accessible prices. They produce all their eyewear in-house and sell it for a fraction of the price of other eyewear companies.
But that’s not all. Warby Parker believes everyone has the right to see, and with 15% of the world’s population lacking access to glasses, leaving those billion people unable to work or learn, they set out to do something about it. Warby Parker partnered with VisionSpring and other non-profits, and implemented a program that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair gets donated to someone in need. To date, they’ve given over 4 million pairs of glasses.
Warby Parker trains men and women with basic skills to administer eye exams and sell glasses at super-affordable prices, giving those men and women a stable income with which to care for their families and enrich their local economies. For every single pair of glasses donated, the wearer’s productivity increases by 15%, and results in a 20% increase in monthly income. In addition, they also give vision care and glasses to school-age children. Teachers are often the first ones to notice vision impairment in their students, and by providing glasses, Warby Parker keeps their education on track. Their good work is spread across the developing world, and is now in more than 50 countries.
This fashion forward company’s mission is to make “effortless silhouettes that celebrate the feminine figure” while sourcing their materials as sustainably as possible. Not only socially conscious about what constitutes a “perfect fit” with clothing for women short and tall, big and small, Reformation cares about manufacturing from sustainable sources. They use materials from rescued deadstock fabrics and repurposed vintage clothing. Another way they achieve their goals is to use Tencel™, manufactured from eucalyptus trees. These trees grow fast on low-grade land, taking only half an acre to produce one ton of Tencel™ fiber. Cotton requires 5x that amount of high-grade farmland, and is done with the use of pesticides and insecticides, which Tencel™ does not require. Tencel™ also uses 80% less water to process the wood pulp than cotton. Reformation also sources viscose, another man-made fiber from renewable plant material, only from companies that are proven not to harm endangered forests in the making of their products.
Reformation also upcycles old clothes and fabric waste into Recover yarns. In 2016, Recover yarns upcycled 2.8 million kilograms of textile waste, releasing no harmful chemicals into the environment during manufacturing to produce yarns free of hazardous substances.
Because textiles make up 6% of the trash entering US landfills every year, Reformation’s buying of deadstock and over-ordered fabric diverts some of these materials from landfills into closets across the country. According to the company, remanufactured clothing can save more than 13,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year. That’s huge.
Not only are they conscious of their manufacturing processes and the impacts they have on the planet, but the company offers advice to consumers that not only helps the environment, it can make the clothes last longer. They share tips such as washing in cold water, line drying instead of machine drying, and putting denim in bags in the freezer. This kills bacteria and eliminates odors, and keeps your jeans in better shape. They also offer an in depth explanation of green dry cleaning services.
These companies aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to clean up our planet. They’re doing so much to leave the planet better than they found it, it’s easy for environmentally and socially conscious consumers to spend their money with them. The result is a superior product shoppers can feel good about, and a message to the corporate world that more now than ever, the green of money isn’t the only green to matter.