How to Grow Your Company While Protecting the Environment
September 26, 2018
It is exciting to watch your company grow. You look around and see new faces, new products, new locations and, you hope, you see your profits growing as well. However, if you are paying attention, you also notice your utility bills rising, your garbage bins overfilling and your parking lot bursting with cars.
Motherlove Herbal Company, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, knows what it’s like to grow. More than 30 years ago, the company was dreamed up in our founder’s mountain home, and our first products were hand-poured in her kitchen. Over the years, we slowly moved out of the mountains and into town. Our staff grew from one person to three. More recently, we moved again — this time into a 16,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that houses our nearly 30 staff members. We are proud of our growth, but we also work hard to ensure that our growth doesn’t negatively affect our environment, which we have always worked diligently to protect.
From the outset, Motherlove’s founder, Kathryn Higgins, was determined to be a good steward of the environment, both in her personal life and in her company. She chose to package her body care products in glass to limit the amount of plastic in the world — a practice we continue today. She nurtured her land, and her customers, by using organic herbs and ingredients. She did everything she could to make sure that her company had a positive impact on the world.
When Kathryn was selling Motherlove products at local co-op markets, making these environmentally responsible decisions was easy enough. But when Motherlove continued to grow, we as company team members needed to put much more thought and effort into continuing her environmental stewardship. With Kathryn now retired and Motherlove products available in more than 20 countries and in major chains like Whole Foods, Target and Walgreens, we knew we would need to put official guidelines in place to protect the vision and values that Kathryn created. This led Motherlove to become a Certified B Corporation.
Since 2015, Motherlove’s staff members have taken the lead in developing practices to help the company grow responsibly. We created a “B Team,” a committee named in honor of Motherlove’s B Corp status, that focuses on sustainability efforts. Led by our sustainability coordinator, this team has put in place a number of practices that we hope will inspire other companies to make incremental improvements to ensure that their business is also a force for good.
Carbon Offsetting and Carbon Reduction
When Motherlove began, it was an easy commute for Kathryn. She woke up, walked around her property to gather herbs and returned to her kitchen to make the salves and oils. Now things are a little more complicated. Motherlove has nearly 30 people driving to work. To reduce the carbon emissions from these vehicles, Motherlove established a miles diversion program. Every three months, staff members get together and come up with a target number of miles to divert that quarter, as well as a loftier “reach goal.” When Motherlove employees carpool or bike to work, we track those miles, and at the end of the quarter, the diverted miles are totaled. If we meet our target, those who contributed are rewarded with gift cards to local businesses. If we meet our reach goal, the entire staff celebrates with a pizza party or happy hour. Since this program was created, we’ve diverted more than 13,000 miles.
Of course, commuting miles aren’t the company’s only vehicle emissions impact. Now that Motherlove is carried throughout the country, staff members are frequently on the road attending trade shows, taking meetings with other companies and visiting the stores and hospitals that carry our products. While we always look for ways to minimize travel, we also know that visiting our partners is necessary. And so we track all the miles that employees fly, for work and for personal reasons, and offset those miles at the end of the year. In 2017, Motherlove offset these travel miles, which equated to 103 tons of carbon, by making a donation to a local nonprofit, Trees, Water & People, that helps communities protect, conserve and manage their natural resources. This donation facilitated the planting of 2,026 trees.
Product manufacturing and distribution are the company’s final emissions contributors. Motherlove manufactures all of its body care products in-house and then ships them throughout the country and overseas. In 2017, we calculated that this produces approximately 75 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Motherlove counters that impact by purchasing certified carbon offsets from Carbon Credit Capital, another B Corp. We will continue to track these figures moving forward and plan to offset the carbon dioxide produced by our supplements line as well.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
This well-known adage serves as the backbone for many of our environmental practices, especially waste diversion. As a company grows, it is only natural that its waste also will increase. There are more staff members in the office, more materials being used and more waste generated. In the past three years, Motherlove’s staff has grown more than 60 percent. However, the percentage of the company’s waste that goes to the landfill has decreased.
How did we accomplish this? Every year, Motherlove’s B Team conducts a two-week audit to track the company’s waste output. The results of the past two years are shown below and, as you can see, the most recent audit revealed that only 2 percent of our waste goes to the landfill. This is well below Colorado’s state average of 19 percent and the national average of 35 percent.
The Motherlove logistics department, which manages all incoming and outgoing shipments, is key to this success in waste diversion. All the materials that come into our warehouse, such as our glass jars, are unpacked and sorted by our logistics department. These team members break down and reuse the cardboard and set aside the packing materials to reuse in outgoing shipments. When we do need to purchase additional packaging supplies, we make every effort to source from local companies and try to make the most sustainable choice. Our cardboard boxes are produced by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and our packing peanuts are cornstarch-based and fully biodegradable.
Simple changes in the office also have helped reduce waste. We eliminated napkins in the break room and now provide washable cloth napkins. The paper towels in the bathrooms are composted. All paper in the building, including product packaging, brochures and computer paper, is post-consumer recycled. Every work space is equipped with a large recycling bin, and we have smaller bins for waste and compost. A local farmer picks up our food waste, as well as the spent herbs we infuse in our salves, and uses that for pig feed and compost. Even our shredded paper gets reused — in a team member’s chicken coop.
With more staff and a bigger office come larger utility bills and the potential for more energy waste. The Motherlove staff members, and the B Team in particular, are constantly looking for ways to minimize and reduce this energy-use footprint. When we moved into our larger facility, we installed a 76kW solar array on the roof that produces twice as much energy as we consume. We send the overage back to the grid so others can also benefit from the sun. Since its deployment three years ago, the array has generated enough carbon-dioxide-free energy to equal planting 5,142 trees or taking 1,193 cars off the road. In addition, our office uses only LED lights, with motion sensors, and has Energy-Star appliances throughout. High-efficiency, low-flow toilets and sinks help conserve water.
Focus on Organics and Farming
Finally, since Motherlove’s founding, we have stressed the importance of using USDA certified organic herbs and ingredients. The benefits of organics, both for the land and the consumer, are widely known. To further this commitment to organic practices, in 2013 Motherlove acquired a 120-acre certified organic farm in northern Colorado. Now, not only do we locally grow a portion of the herbs we use in our products—reducing our transport needs and carbon footprint—we also donate thousands of pounds of organic produce to our local food bank.
Motherlove is proud to be a Certified B Corporation and to learn best practices from other B Corps around the globe. We are fortunate to have staff members and executives who are passionate about protecting the environment and who inspire others to continue to use business as a force for good. If you or your company has policies in place that protect our environment, we’d love to hear about them!