Welcome back to part two of this special project, where we recap some of the strongest moments from our guests recorded throughout the year to close out 2021! Featured in this two-part series are ten impact business leaders who are changing the course of business for the good of the planet and people everywhere.
Welcome back to part two of this special project, where we recap some of the strongest moments from our guests recorded throughout the year to close out 2021!
Featured in this two-part series are ten impact business leaders who are changing the course of business for the good of the planet and people everywhere.
First up is Laura Vicaria, CSR manager of MUD Jeans, to talk to us about circularity in the context of sustainability, and how sustainability should extend to dispel the power dynamic in the fashion industry and ensure that everyone benefits across the supply chain.
Next, we hear from Corey Kohn about how her Buddhist upbringing informs how she does business and the deeper purpose of her tech agency, Dojo4.
Another guest committed to using business as a force for good is tree farmer, Aram Terry, who explains why reforestation should be made into a business and why wood is the most sustainable building material.
Amy Hall follows with a definition of true sustainability and some insightful solutions to address fast fashion.
Finally, we welcome Eleven Radius’ Asheen Phansey and Monica Park, veterans of corporate sustainability and the fashion industry, respectively. Asheen points out the opportunity of circularity, while Monica identifies its greatest barriers and their respective solutions.
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Cory Ames 0:00
Before diving in a quick word from our sponsor, when it comes to protecting the planet Science in Business go further together. prepare for a career focused on building a more sustainable future by earning Georgetown's interdisciplinary Master of Science and Environment and Sustainability management. With a powerful combination of scientific knowledge and business principles, this 11 month program will help you create a more sustainable world get started at E s m.georgetown.edu. Welcome back yelps a part two of our multi part episode where we're featuring 10 impacts business leaders who are changing the course of business for the good of the planet in people everywhere. We're sharing the strongest moments from our guests episodes recorded throughout 2021 for the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, really, because we want to feature amplify and encourage business leaders who are setting a new bar of success. Because when we think of the most influential business leaders in history, new names and faces need to come to mind. We can't accept that business is business, and everything else is everything else. For better or for worse, everything is connected. We can't both pursue living sustainably and imbalance with the planets while also pursuing never ending economic growth. We can't commit to raising the standard of living for as many people as possible, while at the same time letting the culture of exploitative industry continue. So to be in a leadership position in the world of business, it's no longer okay to pursue the interests of profit at the expense of everything else. And it's in that position that business leaders like those we featured in part one of this episode. And now here in part two, absolutely refuse to accept to lead in business. One must be ready and willing to address the greatest challenges that our world is facing climate change inequality, social justice, and it's these business people that I'm so grateful to have connected with support in dive deep with by hosting this social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast for coming up on three years now. So as always, thanks as well to your listeners for supporting the show. I'm sure we'll have many more inspiring conversations in 2022. But now let's dive into our second part here. The final five or actually six impacts business leaders are committed to using business as a force for good and also our most popular guest episodes from the podcast of this last year. Alright show Let's dig in.
Laura Vicaria is the CSR manager for MUD jeans. MUD jeans is a circular denim certified B Corporation, based in the Netherlands, Laura in mud jeans are defining sustainability as it relates to denim production. And fittingly, Laura helps to explain concepts like circularity in this context, while also adding to the weight of its importance and impact or lack thereof.
Laura Vicaria 3:42
circularity is really again, like the opposite of a linear model where it's you know, you make or you take, make, use and throw away, it's the opposite of that it's trying to make a product so that it can be reused and reincorporated into the business over and over again, it's a really, it's really about the effective use of materials, and thinking about how you're making a product. And in that way, you are lowering the amount of new raw materials that need to be extracted from the earth, which actually, by the way, it's tends to be the biggest chunk of impact environmental impact. So if you remove that, and just start reusing your materials, you're having already a positive environmental impact, so to speak. There's that and then sustainability extends beyond that, in that it equates the social aspect. So it's about being responsible about how you're producing things for the environment, and your business model and everything but also making sure that the people that are within your supply chain also benefit from fair working conditions are paid well. And and yeah, are more partners than just you know, People that are below your supply chain, which is unfortunately, how the fashion industry works, there's a really strong power dynamic between the brand and the manufacturer. And there's a responsibility there to not have that, and really ensure that everyone benefits across the entire supply chain. So that's basically an overview of or a brief definitions of those two concepts. What does machines do? Well, as already stated in the introduction, we're a circular denim brand. And what that means is that we design with circularity in mind. So our jeans are, first of all, cross seasonal, meaning that you can wear them across multiple seasons. And we design them with, there's more or less seven fabrics, but they are all composed of between 23 and 40%, post consumer recycled cotton, and the rest is got certified organic cotton, we limit our Elliston to 2%. Because it allows us to recycle them and it stops the contamination of the fiber. And again, we don't have many buttons and rivets, we only have one type of button one type of rivet made out of stainless steel so that we can recycle them. And finally, for example, we don't have the leather patch at the back, we have removed that and it's a it's a painted on version, again to lower the amount of extra material that goes into production. But it allows us also to recycle greater part of the product. So there's that we design in that way. We also have a very short supply chain with four main supply chain partners. We are famous for our sales model, which is the lease a jeans model. Basically, this is a model where we lease our pair of jeans to our customers, and removing the environmental anxiety of owning a new product for customers. But as the instead of giving them the experience of owning a new pair of jeans, but given the responsibility to us. So once they're done using them, they send us back the jeans. And we take care of what happens to that product at the end of life. They get a discount on their on their next lease or their next purchase. But overall, we're just making sure that that pair of jeans that material that we invested in doesn't end up in a landfill or incinerated causing further environmental impact. And then the jeans that come back to us they either are part of our vintage collection, which we sell on in other events, or they are recycled. And what that means is that they are shredded into small pieces. And those small pieces, small fibers are blended back in with GOTS certified organic cotton turned into yarn, that yarn is turning fabric, and voila, mucosal, right and and through that process, we're really trying to use our materials in the most effective way. And this really ensures that we have a minimal environmental impact. And throughout this entire process, we of course make sure that no toxic chemicals are used. And we choose supply chain partners that really reflect our values. And that extends to our sustainability values, which means that we want everyone across our supply chain to benefit from those fair working conditions that I was talking about.
Cory Ames 8:32
Laura also delivered some advice on how we might approach the challenges we face with climate. Before we hear from her once more. Don't miss out on our full conversation on how Laura defines sustainable denim production through her work with MUD jeans. Alright, here she is once more.
Laura Vicaria 8:52
We all have a role to play in this climate situation that we're all facing. So as intimidating as it may feel, and as big as a problem as it may seem because it is but we all have a role to play and I think every little bit counts. So just start and read and listen to different things that make you feel inspired and motivated and empowered. Because there are a lot of stuff out there that makes you feel tiny and overwhelmed and like the world's gonna finish and and in the next day. Stay away from those really focus on the people that inspire you and just just start just started.
Cory Ames 9:33
Corey Kohn is the CEO, co founder and founding Co Op member at Dojo4 which is a member own tech agency focused on creating positive change. In this year, our goal ensemble team had the pleasure of partnering with Corey in Dojo4 on a series discussing antidote to tech, which is an initiative started by Dojo4 as a response to the great level of loneliness and isolation. That's felt throughout their industry. Corey is an extremely empathetic and deliberate business leader, someone who is on the edge of redefining the purpose and practice of business. And in our conversation together, Corey shared what some of her priorities are, in the way that she approaches her work, and how Dojo4 as an agency does business.
Corey Kohn 10:24
For me, and then also, I think, for my colleagues, those of us who have found each other and, you know, have enjoyed working with each other for years and years, is that kindness, for instance, is just like, a, it's like the foundation of how we do business, it absolutely, must feel like we're in genuinely respectful kind of relationships with our clients, with our co workers, with our competition, even all that kind of thing in order to feel like we're doing our best work. And I think, you know, that definitely threads back to some of my Buddhist upbringing around things like compassion, and, you know, mindfulness of others and our own environmental states and that kind of thing. And I think then, you know, it also relates, I really pushed this company early on to move towards being a be core. And I'd say, you can have any kind of worldview and want to do good in the world with your business. Absolutely. No question. But I think, but is, um, there's basic acknowledgement of impermanence, which is like, things are changing all the time. And like the good times, you know, one way that you could see that in businesses, the good times don't always last, right. The bad guys don't always last. So I but I, and I really had this feeling like, I really want to focus on acknowledging that, you know, like, money doesn't make you happy, for instance, like that, just to, and that, if we're going to do our best work, we have to do that in an environment of kindness.
Cory Ames 11:58
I highly recommend you check out the full conversation with Corey about how she in Dojo4 are redefining what it means to work in tech. But in the meantime, let's hear from her once more about what Corey believes will make Dojo4 a more sustainable and resilient business. Because for her, she believes it's about a much deeper purpose than just building technology. It's this deeper purpose that will be what keeps Dojo4 useful and valuable, no matter what changes in the world, in their industry. Let's hear from Corey once more.
Corey Kohn 12:36
The thing that came to me kind of I didn't listen to it real strongly at first, because it felt like maybe it was, you know, now, I think it's funny to call it idealism, because it's really just so realism, you know, but what I heard and didn't really listen to that strongly, was, the only thing that's not a bubble, is the suffering that our world is experiencing, right? Like, that is not going away. People are in pain, they are diminished by their circumstances. The environment is like being plundered, and the earth is ransacked. And we don't know how it's going, you know, all the things that drive us around wanting to make positive change. And that was like, I could feel I could feel that voice talking. And I didn't listen at first because I thought, oh, that doesn't have anything to do with me, or that's too idealistic. And then, I don't know if it was one day, or if the voice just became too loud for me that I said, No, that that's all there is basically, like, and it's and it's not idealism, it's actually commercial practicality. If I want to stay in business, and I want to continue to employ people in this local community, and you know, we also work remotely, so broader, then I have to be addressing the problems that are not going to just go away with a bubble burst. And those are the problems, climate change, social inequity, health, all these things that we're dealing with right now.
Cory Ames 14:15
Aram, Terry set off for a Peace Corps assignment to Nicaragua in 2002. He never really went home nearly 20 years and three businesses later, arm has made a life out of tree farming. First he went into business with his father starting tree farms on deforested land. Then he started my Mayasa and CO with his now wife Abril, where they make beautiful handcrafted furniture out of the wood from the tree farming business. And now finally, their squire gun, where RM builds prefabricated homes out of the wood that they harvest and in our conversation are explained to me why wood is the most sustainable building material, highly recommend you check out our full conversation. But in the meantime, here's Aram.
Aram Terry 15:05
so I think it's it's really comes down to making reforestation a business so that more people do it. And it becomes prolific. And so when I look at what taking roots doing, which we also want to do with, with small farmers, we're starting to do it this year. And you know, you also have these big institutional plantations where there's some Swiss investments here, there's some other, you know, large institutional holders who have a couple 1000 hectares of tree farms, or, you know, our small tree farms, all of them had the same problem. What do you do with the wood when it's produced, and most of them are thinking about carbon, they're thinking about sustainability. But they don't really know, wood that well. And so the basic model is, we're going to grow this wood, throw it in a container and ship it to India and 20 years. So that's, that's what you do with teak. And so that, to me is not, it could be more sustainable, you are capturing carbon, you're reforesting, you're turning something into a constant carbon sink, but you're also shipping it across the sea across the ocean, selling it at a low price, it makes the business fairly marginal. In order to export to India to have that kind of material flow, you have to be a larger player. How do you make it profitable for everybody to over simplify it, it's adding value, you have to create factories here that are designed factories, which make products which are sold that consume this reforested wood. And that's something that I think people don't realize when they start planting reforested wood and old growth wood are very different things, the diameters when we're harvesting, or doing fittings, if you're 10, or 12, you're talking about like, four to seven inch trees. So when you think about that, against, you know, a 2436 inch mature tree, the wood that comes out of it is totally different. And so if you're you want to sell that to a Chinese furniture factory, they don't want it because it's not the spec on what they're producing. So to me, it's about making a consumer for this very special wood, which is you know, can be looked at as low grade or you know, it has more knots, it has more sap it has more pith. It's a very complicated process where we have to design and market products that consume this plantation would. To me wood is the only option for building materials. And you know, you get pushback from some people saying don't use wood because you don't want to cut down trees. My point of view is use as much wood as possible because you're sinking carbon, wood is 50% carbon. So you want to as long as the wood is read is reforest it has been planted and grown. The more people are doing that the more carbons captured, the more soils are protected, soils are enriched, etc. So yeah, I mean, it's about replanting, and using wood for sure.
Cory Ames 18:12
Amy Hall was one of the earliest leaders of a more ethical and sustainable fashion movement. She spent 28 years with industry leader Eileen Fisher, where she launched the company social consciousness where she moved the company towards its B Corp certification. And she continued to evolve the brand's commitments to sustainable and ethical practices. Amy now operates her own consultancy impact forum, where she advises companies along their journey towards making a positive impact on people in the planet. And in our conversation, Amy and I covered sustainability, both in the context of inside the fashion industry and out. But before we dive into hearing from Amy, I want to advise that you check out our full conversation about sustainability in solutions to address fast fashion, to an extremely insightful conversation with someone who's clearly a veteran of the fashion industry. But in the meantime, here's Amy Hall.
Amy Hall 19:15
I think the word sustainability continues to evolve and how we use it. As a society and as an industry. I think when most people use the word sustainability or sustainable related to fashion, they're talking about the lowest possible environmental impact and the greatest amount of social value added or embedded into the product. So is that actually sustainability? I don't think so personally, because for me, sustainability implies something that can continue to to live in balance and continue to live on and balance with its surroundings. And if the apparel industry continues to do what it's doing now, when not in balance with our surroundings and with the planet and is not sustainable. So I think the way we use the word sustainability is not actually in line with what I think sustainability means to be truly sustainable, we would be only making what people need. And discarding those items at the end of their useful life in a way that doesn't negatively impact the planet in other words in a way that either allows the product to decompose or even better to actually nourish the earth and maybe provide, you know, seed or or nutrition for something new to grow.
Cory Ames 20:43
Finally, here we have Asheen Phansey and Monica Park, perhaps making our list not 10 impact business leaders but 11. These two are the co founders of 11 radius, the group that helps fashion brands build a circular fashion economy. Monica is a veteran of the fashion industry and Asheen is a veteran of corporate sustainability. They found each other's experience and skills complementary to pursuing the extremely important goal of making a circular economy a reality. But as Monica shared with me in our conversation,
Monica Park 21:19
it's also not so big and unmanageable, because we haven't really figured out how to do this yet.
Cory Ames 21:28
Monica and Asheen spoke with me at length about rethinking how we approached business in an out of fashion, and shared both the bright spots and challenges of our journey to circularity. Asheen pointed out the opportunity that exists in circularity.
Asheen Phansey 21:47
As that means that there's space there, there's opportunity. You know, I think there are more customers looking for these brands than there are brands to fulfill those needs at the moment. And I think that that's a real opportunity for brands existing or new to say, this is how we're going to do business going forward, because this is the future. And so it's really exciting to be in sort of cutting edge of that. And the second, the second comment is, we are totally in this bubble of playing with with really good circular fashion brands, I do take some leading indicators by the people that reach out to us, right, so there's a couple groups that have been interesting. One is I've had a lot of individuals, professionals reach out and say, hey, my brand, doesn't really focus on the stuff. But I've been trying internally to get them to think more about it, you know, can you point me to some resources, to some other individuals, to some connections to some examples out there that can really spur their competitive juices and help me educate my peers in my in my senior executives, to say, look, this is the future, we should be going in that direction. There's a lot of internal pressure as well, that we can't discount, particularly from younger people who are like, well, you mean, you're not doing this right? Do you ever want to sell to anyone younger the next age? You know, as we think about circularity, that's one signal. And the second signal is, I can I have been surprised by the number of larger brands that are starting to come to us larger than we intended to work with that are saying, we're interested in the circularity stuff that we see from you guys and others, can you train our designers on how to think in a circular way, because we would like them to be ready. Once the industry really starts to move in a mainstream fashion. We want them to know what they're talking about. We want them to, you know, to further some of these quiet experiments and pilots that we're doing maybe in a couple different retail outlets, or maybe, you know, in a separate line, or maybe in a smaller brand that we own. That to me is a signal when the larger players are starting to look to some of the smaller brands and folks like us to say, Can you teach us about this particular way of doing business? That's a signal to me that some of them are really starting to realize that this linear model is not going to last forever and that we might need to be ready for change.
Cory Ames 23:57
Monica explains what she sees as the number one barrier to moving towards circularity. If we look at this, from the brightest side of it, we can be grateful that our adversary is actually quite simple. Perhaps as you'll hear, evolving from a linear to circular economy is just a matter of habits. Make sure to listen to the full conversation with Monica machine on a circular fashion economy. But here once more, we have Monica back.
Monica Park 24:27
Right now where we are is it's breaking up the routine of doing it the way we've always done it that cannot be misstated as like the number one barrier to bringing in anything new because what we're bringing is really challenging how they do business already, or what the successful brands do. It doesn't mean that it's impossible, but you're up against inertia of an industry of how things are set and you're up against the behavior of the customer the inertia of like, Yeah, I know I have that stuff in my closet, but how do you get them to start thinking like, Oh, I got to trade that in Oh, there's a bunch of areas, I could just like, put it in the bag and put it out with the trash. So inertia and routine. And you know, in any behavioral design, if you study that stuff, which I'm starting to, and it's really interesting, you have to put that on the table, because that's gonna, that's going to need your clarity, your fortitude. That's why when machine and I are in this space, but even we can talk so big, but we have to bring it down for people, we have to make it feel clear, and people have to feel empowered for what they're trying to do. So the main pain point is that you're up against that you need to know that, too, which is the clarity of what is it? What is this term I keep hearing about? What does that mean? And also, to be really clear, with everybody listening from the biggest companies, the smallest, they're like, What should I do? How do I do this? What am I in for? It's these basic questions that anybody can relate to, if you are in their position, where do I start? How much is this going to cost? Who do I need to be in the room? It's like anything that's going from ambiguity, it's your it's going to be messy. So to empower people to know that that's part of it, and not to get stopped. And then to be really clear, because not everything is we always say, Oh, it's so complicated. Not everything's complicated. Some things we have figured out. Some things are simple, actually. And simpler to do. That's for people like us to help people understand which is complicated, which is simpler. And it doesn't mean complicated means impossible, it just means it's going to be a little more entailed, it's our job to help them lay everything out and say like, Okay, this this is that this is this path. This is this, maybe I can do this. This one's a little easier, like packaging, for example, we always say it's low hanging fruit. It's outside of the main core of the business. It's something that procurement team and the marketing team touch. There's so many options out there for better ways to package we talked to distribution logistic people all the time, like what are the concerns, everybody's willing to help solve these problems?
Cory Ames 26:49
Alright, y'all, that's a wrap on this multi part episode. And as well, a wrap on this year 2021. Here we shared 10 impact business leaders, our 10 most popular guests episodes, from the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcasts from 2021. It was a real pleasure putting this together, I always have a lot of fun listening back to all the conversations, hearing just some exceptional inspiring bits that I like to repackage and repurpose for y'all to hear once more. So no matter how long you've been a listener of the show, if you've been with us for now, three years since January 2019. Or if you're just getting started diving into our content focused around building a better world. I'm very grateful to have you here. I'm very grateful to be the host of the show. Be in your earbuds as often as you'll have me. So thanks once more, y'all. I do really appreciate it. Of course, if you love the show, don't hesitate to reach out. Let me know about it. My email is Cory cry at grow ensemble.com Or I'm on Twitter at Ames quarry. Always love to hear from listeners of the show. If you're from one of the 149 countries where we've registered listeners from it's always great to hear from you. Or likewise, if you work for a company, run a company or know of a company might be interested in sponsoring this social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast. We're starting to seriously consider sponsors for the 2022 year for the first time ever. So go to social entrepreneurship.fm backslash contact. That's the greatest place to fill out a form and start a conversation with us. Alright, y'all looking forward to many more inspiring conversations. A rich and substantive subject matter in 2022 Happy New Year.
MUD Jeans is the worlds first fully circular denim brand. Its objective is to to demonstrate that there is an alternative to fast fashion. Through its Lease a Jeans model the brand challenges the idea of ownership and incentivizes a world without waste. MUD jeans believes that being mindful of nature and people is a necessity. As the CSR manager, Laura Vicaria works to drive continuous improvement in MUD Jeans' sustainability and circularity objectives.
CEO, Co-founder & Founding Co-op Member
Corey Kohn has spiritual roots in Buddhism, family roots in the Rocky Mountains, an educational background in math and biology, and a professional background in documentary filmmaking. When the great recession dried up job opportunities in Corey’s chosen field, she found solace in the Rocky Mountains. She also found her next opportunity: the newly booming local tech industry. Her artistic, mathematical, and humanist nature armed her with surprisingly transferable skills to enter the tech world.
Corey co-founded and continues to lead Dojo4 as a place that reinvents assumptions about how business should be done, advocating for a more enlightened, human way of building all kinds of capital. She is also the co-creator of Antidote to Tech, a resource for technologists committed to supporting thriving natural environments and genuine human connection.
I’m a sustainability professional, and have worked in the sustainability field since around 2006. I’ve overseen chemical safety in the biotech industry, commercialized biomimetic technologies in the aerospace industry, and led my own consultancy in sustainable innovation. I serve currently as the global head of sustainable innovation for a $3B software company. I also teach sustainable entrepreneurship to MBA students as an adjunct professor at a globally ranked b-school.
I specialize in sustainable innovation topics, including biomimicry (nature-inspired design), life cycle assessment (LCA) and carbon footprinting, cradle-to-cradle or closed-loop production, and green marketing. I have degrees in chemical engineering and business, and training from the Biomimicry Institute.
Monica Park is CPO & Co-Founder of Eleven Radius, and is a veteran brand manager with expertise in take-back and resale, and war stories from scaled global manufacturing in Hong Kong.
Aram first went to Nicaragua in 2002 as U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. During his Peace Corps assignment, he formed ideas of creating a socially and environmentally sustainable business. In 2007, Aram and his father, Michael, formed the tropical forestry management company, Maderas Sostenibles, to establish tree farms on deforested land and process hurricane salvaged hardwoods. Reforestation and wood salvage evolved into furniture production when Aram met his wife, Abril Zepeda, a Nicaraguan designer and artisan from Masaya. Together they launched the furniture brand Masaya & Company.
The intention of Masaya & Co is to implement the “Seed to Seat” sustainable business model that both reforests ravaged land and offers unique and beautiful wood products from sustainably managed forests. Once restored, the devastation of clear cutting is slowly reversed and the vitality of the tropical forest is utilized to produce quality wood products and jobs.
Aram’s many business ventures also include Guayacan, a prefabricated wood home company. Throughout his work in the sustainable forestry field, Aram is creating a higher demand for forest products that are better for the climate, the local communities dependent on tropical wood, and the many animals relying on forests for habitat.
Founder, President, Advisor
Amy Hall offers over 25 years of sustainability and CSR (corporate social responsibility) experience. Frequently recognized as a sustainability pioneer, Amy launched and built EILEEN FISHER’s Social Consciousness practice, led the company through its B Corporation certification, and played an instrumental role in shepherding the company’s ambitious Vision2020 goals of reducing their carbon impact and switching to renewable materials. She is considered a leader in the global sustainable apparel and conscious business movements.
Throughout her career, Amy has coached numerous aspiring and established sustainability professionals, from recent college graduates to mid-career transitions. She has advised businesses small and large on impact strategy, circular economy, supply chain human rights, and sustainable workplace practices. Amy is also a sought-after public speaker and educator.
She currently splits her time between EILEEN FISHER and her sustainability consultancy, Impactorum LLC, where she hosts two webcasts: “Impact Matters” and “Careers With Impact.” In her spare time, she enjoys exploring New York’s Hudson Valley by kayak or on her self-built bamboo bicycle.