While 78% of Americans believe that businesses are obligated to be environmentally responsible, 65% of CEOs said they were unsure how to make a positive climate impact. An even greater number of CEOs admitted to greenwashing—that their surface initiatives weren’t necessarily genuine.
The good news is that there are many examples of inclusive climate action businesses and investors to learn from. In this article, we look at 20 companies and investment firms to see what lessons founders and business owners can apply to their organizations.
20 Inclusive Climate Action Businesses
Patagonia Outdoor clothing and gear brand Patagonia began its mission to create quality products in clean factories in 1973. As the company grew, it continued to develop its quality assessment of its factories and suppliers. Today, Patagonia centers not only on fair labor practices but also on ethically sourced materials. According to the company’s progress reports, 75,000 workers benefit from their fair trade program, 85% of products are made in a fair trade certified factory, and 2,000 farmers take part in their Regenerative Organic Certified program. Key takeaways: Sustainability isn’t all about recycling and organic materials. Efforts to support fair labor practices and local communities enable both your company and workers to make a bigger impact.
Mastercard Inclusion Center The Mastercard Inclusion Center is a leader in scalable social impact. To date, its Impact Fund has helped 5M people reach financial security, supported 25M small businesses, and assisted more than 850 organizations in using data science to improve their inclusive practices. Many of their initiatives are based on connecting individuals and businesses to essential networks. This can look like establishing reliable electricity or connecting investors and mentors to business leaders. Key takeaways: Mastercard’s Inclusion Center is so successful because it takes a holistic approach to sustainability and climate action. Through investing in others and creating critical infrastructure, it’s possible to close gaps in equality and bring more people into the discussion on sustainability.
Schneider Electric Based in Europe, Schneider Electric is on a mission to provide clean energy solutions to individuals and businesses alike. This company has a 180-year history of innovation and continues this tradition by developing digital and electronic solutions for a more sustainable world. This global company publishes regular reports to update stockholders, customers, and partners about their progress toward sustainable business practices, diversity, and inclusion. To measure success, Schneider Electric uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Key takeaways: No matter the size of your business, you can use some of the same strategies as Schneider Electric. For example, you can use the SDG measurements to set objectives, rely on local and sustainable suppliers, and maintain an annual sustainability or diversity report.
Brambles Brambles focuses on the circular economy by providing sustainable logistics and product reuse. One of the most challenging operational aspects of any business is to develop a sustainable and ethical supply chain. This supply chain doesn’t just include climate impact but also economic development and decent work. Key takeaways: Brambles uses its mission to highlight its longevity and impact to shareholders and investors. As you develop your own ethical supply chain, you can use your progress to gain momentum in your industry.
Brookfield Renewable Brookfield Renewable is an asset under management (AUM) organization that invests solely in sustainable solutions, from renewable energy to sustainable infrastructure and real estate. But they also have a mission to tangibly support employees of all backgrounds through DEI initiatives. This organization hosts specific networks for women, LGBTQ, and racially diverse professionals. It also reflects its commitment to inclusion within its operations. Currently, 57% of the Brookfield Asset Management Ltd. board directors are women, and 43% of all employees are people of color (POC). Key takeaways: If you plan to include DEI initiatives in your business plan, ensure that you have a way to support these individuals. Creating internal networks for diverse employees to mentor each other or connect, as well as creating a promotion plan to include diverse professionals at every level of your business, is essential.
Hive Brands Hive Brands seeks to redefine grocery shopping in terms of sustainability. For its planet-positive impact strategy, Hive Brands has five principles: Environmentally-friendly ingredients, zero-waste packaging, low carbon footprint, products that put community first, and high-quality products. Through abiding by these principles, Hive Brands has achieved 100% carbon neural shipments, 98% recyclable or compostable product packaging, and offset 363,454 lbs of carbon to date. Key takeaways: Shipping and delivery are often some of the most damaging practices when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Switching to zero-waste packaging or recycled materials, even before you consider product changes, can drastically lower your carbon footprint.
Honest Honest is a health and beauty brand that emphasizes safe and sustainable ingredients, manufacturing, testing, packaging, and production. For this organization, transparency is key. Every product is labeled with its ingredients to inspire trust and highlight their commitment to safety. They also have a list of chemicals and materials they won’t use. This NO list ensures that Honest can easily vet manufacturers and streamline operations. Key takeaways: Most sustainable initiatives are focused on what a company will do, as opposed to what they won’t. Having your own NO list can provide a template for operations to avoid and make it easier to determine healthier or more ethical options.
Ocean+main This Los Angeles-based apparel business models its entire operations on sustainability and ethical consumption. Since 2015, Ocean+main has eliminated single-use plastics from manufacturing and shipping, used 100% FSC-certified packaging, produces clothes with natural fabrics, and employs limited runs to reduce overconsumption and excess stock. Key takeaways: Fast fashion and traditional business models recommend buying in bulk to cut costs. But this creates a significant amount of waste.
EcoWebHosting Every business needs a website…so why not choose an environmental web host? EcoWebHosting is located in the UK but hosts websites from across the globe. And for each website hosted on its platform, the team works with partners to plant trees. The team also works remotely and uses 100% green energy to run its servers. As of April 2023, EcoWebHosting has planted 177,440 trees and offset 8,110 tonnes of CO2. For scale, that’s the equivalent of over 24.3km squared of saved sea ice or almost 66,000 barrels of unused oil. Key takeaways: Planting trees isn’t the most immediate way to solve climate change. But even the little things are a good place to start. And over time, these small actions can snowball into something bigger
Kammok Kammok is a certified B Corps and climate-neutral adventure gear company committed to positive change. In addition to creating high-quality gear through upcycling and recycling, their factories ensure safe and clean working conditions and offer living wages. They are also a part of the 1% for the Planet network that encourages businesses to give 1% of their revenue to non-profits. Key takeaways: Creating or joining sustainability networks provides businesses with a number of benefits, such as meeting potential partners or investors and learning how to better offset their carbon footprint.
Numi Organic tea brand Numi seeks to prioritize climate action as a part of its operations. Towards this goal, the company labels its products with their carbon footprint, works with tea estates using regenerative practices, supports carbon offset organizations, and uses plant-based packaging. In addition, Numi works with the Climate Collaborative to engage policymakers and push climate initiatives to the forefront. Currently, 99.5% of the brand's products are certified organic, they are considered carbon neutral and have impacted 14,370 people through fair trade and labor programs. Key takeaways: Numi thoroughly tracks its impact–which is key to any sustainability initiative. Having a clear method of defining your organization’s impact enables you to be sure you are meeting goals and that all aspects of your organization are aligned.
All the Brilliants Ethically sourcing stones for jewelry has been a critical topic in the industry. All the Brilliants is a shining example of a successful, ethically sourced jewelry business. If the materials aren’t new and conflict-free, they are recycled or fairmined. To do this, the business includes artisanal and small-scale mining organizations as part of its operations. The result is not only an effective climate impact but also support for local communities. Key takeaways: Using recycled materials for your products is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. However, working with local suppliers can empower workers and transform communities. Both approaches are avenues for creating a sustainable future—the question is which works best for your business.
Ecoslay Ecoslay is a hair products business that leverages the power of partnerships to create a sustainable, climate-positive brand. One of the unique partnerships it has is with the Truly Living Well Center for Urban Agriculture. This network enables Ecoslay to use locally grown ingredients for their products and reduce their emissions. Key takeaways: One of the greatest tools any business has is its network. Partnerships can empower your operations to run efficiently without sacrificing sustainability initiatives.
Shoko Based out of Athens, Greece, Shoko is an ethical fashion brand that emphasizes the importance of local suppliers and zero waste. This brand works exclusively with suppliers in Athens itself to reduce unnecessary carbon emissions, commits to selling only handmade products, supports fair wages, and ensures ethical working conditions. They also provide seeds for basil and tomato plants on every product and donate to cat rescue initiatives—a cause the founders are passionate about. Key takeaways: Consider adding something extra to help customers take more actions towards sustainability. That can be in the form of Shoko’s plant tags or donating a portion of your proceeds to local causes.
Jiminy's Jiminy’s is committed to creating sustainable dog treats without sacrificing pet health. To do so, they have replaced animal protein with cricket protein in their pet food. How does this help fight climate action? Cats and dogs are responsible for up to 30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the United States alone. Cricket-based protein not only offers better nutrition, but it significantly reduces the negative impact on land and water. For example, when comparing two 5-ounce bags, one with Jiminy’s treats and the other with traditional pet food, you save 200 gallons of water. They also produce 7.4x less carbon emissions than regular treats. Key takeaways: Jiminy’s approach to their operations was to find a sustainable, cost-effective alternative to current products. Sustainability in business can be simply tweaking ingredients to lessen climate impact. And, as with Jiminy’s, these initiatives may produce long-term cost savings, too.
Venture Capital and Angel Investment Firms
Bhuva’s Impact Global (BIG) Bhuva Shakti is a sustainability advisor and Angel investor. With over 25 years of experience in technology, risk management, and digital transformation, Bhuva empowers businesses with DEI and SDG initiatives. Key takeaways: Individual professionals can use their expertise to help others along the way.
Counteract Counteract is a venture capital firm specializing in funding organizations aiming to draw down carbon. This firm supports entrepreneurs with capital, mentorship, and a network of partners. Key takeaways: There are a vast number of approaches and solutions to combating climate change. Choosing a specific niche can help you make a bigger impact in one area.
Kinnevik Kinnevik is one of Europe’s top growth investors, and they have a strong portfolio in healthcare, software, marketplaces, and climate technology. As with many companies, this investment firm publishes a regular climate progress report. Through their investments, they have been able to exceed their target of 7% year-over-year carbon emission decrease and their intensity was 14%. They have also invested in women entrepreneurs and companies with a DEI strategy. Key takeaways: Investing in the right partnerships can affect industries and promote wide scale change.
Backstage Capital One of the biggest challenges for diverse entrepreneurs is tapping into capital. Backstage Capital aims to solve this problem by investing in underrepresented founders, including women, people of color, and LGBT leaders. However, as with a private investment firm, capital is limited. That’s why Backstage Capital produces a significant amount of content, including articles and podcasts, to help founders learn more about funding and business success. Key takeaways: It’s impossible to invest in every potential idea. But through education resources, you can provide support to those who aren’t the right fit but have strong ideas.
Kapor Capital This Oakland-based venture capital firm invests in numerous sectors and specializes in supporting underrepresented groups. With over 170 companies in its portfolio, 62% of Kapor Capital’s founders are from underrepresented POC and/or women. And while they invest in various industries, they laser focus on areas that bring a positive impact, such as remote work, economic inclusion, value-based health tech, wildfire solutions, and ethical AI technology. Key takeaways: A primary criterion for choosing investments for Kapor capital is whether or not a pitched solution solves devastating problems for vulnerable communities. For other investors and businesses, it’s easy to see how investing in your community and looking at significant problems can help you determine a solution.
Learn from experts in sustainable business
If you’re looking for more advice or insights into making your business or startup more sustainable, it helps to work with someone who has been through it before.
One way to connect with sustainable and inclusive business leaders is through Emerald Summit. At this virtual, one-day conference, you can take part in interactive workshops, work with financial wellness coaches, and ask our speakers your questions.
Save your seat today and register for the Summit.