In this week’s episode of Conquer The Noise, Jonathan speaks with Ryan Lewis, founder and CEO of EarthHero, an online retailer that specializes in selling sustainable brands. They are a member of 1% For The Planet, are certified B Corp and are certified carbon neutral.
Ryan and Jonathan first met a couple years ago at a 1% For The Planet event. They discuss how they have been working with the organization and how EarthHero currently has around 40 brands who are 1% FTP members. Ryan talks about how they decided to be a for profit business because it allows them to grow quicker and in a more seamless way, but didn’t want to dilute the good behind our efforts so they’ve made efforts to take a holistic approach to sustainability.
EarthHero takes an approach to giving that mirrors the current needs of the world. Last year they donated to the Australian wildfires as well as the California wildfires. During COVID, they donated to a food recovery network. There’s a lot of help that the world needs and they try and align initiatives as closely as possible to the brand as well.
Ryan talks about his early childhood and his early interest in the environment. He had a natural connection to nature even though he grew up in South New Jersey. Flash forward to when he first entered the business world he noticed a lot of ways products were produced are toxic. It inspired him to create an eco friendly business so he left to start a business that channelled his passion for sustainability.
Ryan talks about how sustainable consumption is all about what happens when you decide to buy something. That moment when you take out your credit card is an important moment as it relates to reducing waste. He built EarthHero inspired by the five stages of consumption, outlined in the book, The Story Of Stuff.
One of the foundational values of EarthHero was to establish a strong culture. They wanted to set it up so employees have clarity around why they exist and how to make decisions so it wasn’t a top down. He gives everyone the ability to act autonomously at their level. His first step was coming up with the mission statement that articulates why they exist, which is to make sustainable shopping so easy that everyone does it.
“The biggest thing is if you’re thinking about starting something, you have to REALLY want to do it,” said Ryan.
EarthHero not only sells sustainable products, but they also walk the walk, using only sustainably made desks, to having a zero waste office. They collect all plastic film that comes in and take it to center for recycled materials. When picking products for the site, Ryan says there’s a lot of ways to vet products, so they had to first learn the most meaningful things a manufacturer can do to create a sustainable product. The most important thing they start with are materials and ingredients.
When it comes to their customer communication, Ryan talks about how content is focused on inspiring people to take the next step wherever they’re at in their journey. They want to catch you in that moment, show up and show the next step. The customer journey is what they focus on. Ryan believes that small day to day actions matter. In their marketing, they try to meet people where they’re hanging out. They work with social influencers with large followings to post on their channels as well as use Google.
As the conversation wraps, they talk about the community of sustainability rockstars and how they latched onto the connection of how environmental problems and social inequity intersect and influence each other. They were getting a lot of requests for minority owned brands after George Floyd was murdered. The show wraps up with Ryan and Jonathan talking about business ownership. “The biggest thing is if you’re thinking about starting something, you have to REALLY want to do it,” said Ryan. The energy at that phase is high and productive; but if you chose the wrong company or wrong problem to solve, we’re talking years and years of working on the same thing. Ryan believes part of success is lasting and getting through it. Ryan always reminds himself that he’s just a cog in the sustainability wheel. It’s not about him, he feels he’s here to serve this opportunity for people and it would be selfish and wrong to make it about him.
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