Ep. 9: Sustainability 2.0 with Danielle Jezienicki, Founder of Impact FWD

In this installment, Keith sits down with Danielle Jezienicki, Founder of Impact FWD, a consulting practice specializing in sustainability and impact. Danielle brings a wealth of experience, having previously served as the Vice President of Sustainability for Grove Collaborative, a pioneer in plastic-neutral retail. During this insightful conversation, Danielle shares her remarkable journey from an MBA program to leading sustainability programs at renowned brands like Williams Sonoma and Grove. Together, they delve into the intricacies of sustainability in the consumer packaged goods industry, addressing pressing issues such as the plastic crisis and discussing the transition from Sustainability 1.0 to Sustainability 2.0. 

And, be sure to see the curated product recommendations Danielle shared after the conversation, published below.

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Danielle’s curated product suggestions for a more sustainable household

Here are some recommended products that help you reduce your plastic footprint at home and in your routine:  


Keith Anderson: Welcome to Decarbonizing Commerce, where we explore what’s new, interesting, and actionable at the intersection of climate innovation and commerce. I’m your host, Keith Anderson, and together we’ll meet entrepreneurs and innovators reinventing retail, e commerce, and consumer products through the lenses of low carbon and commercial viability.

Hey folks, I hope you’ve got a cup of coffee for today’s episode. My guest is Danielle Jezienicki, founder of her new consulting practice, Impact FWD, where she supports investors and brands as a fractional head of impact and sustainability. Before starting Impact FWD, Danielle was vice president of sustainability for Grove Collaborative, the world’s first plastic neutral retailer.

There she built their sustainability program and the industry’s first plastic intensity metric. Channeled all measurement and was managing all ESG disclosure through the company’s IPO. Before that, she was Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Williams Sonoma. And in our discussion, we cover Danielle’s journey to starting her own consultancy and what her experience has been from her MBA through the Williams Sonoma and Grove experiences, and we talk about in a CPG company, how to prioritize your sustainability efforts and initiatives, we go pretty deep on the plastic crisis and where the industry is falling short in many areas.

We talk about phases of sustainability and how she views Sustainability 2.0 as something distinct from Sustainability 1.0. And we even spend a minute or two on the COP28 Summit that’s happening now. Strap yourselves in. This is a fun one. Let’s meet Danielle Jezienicki of Impact FWD.

Danielle, great to see you. Welcome to the Decarbonizing Commerce Podcast.

Danielle Jezienicki: Thank you so much for having me and great to see you too.

Keith Anderson: Well, we often start the discussion just by learning a little bit more about, the guest’s career and what brought you to where you are and since you’ve got a recent career transition, I think that’s a really interesting place to start.

Danielle Jezienicki: Yeah. Great. So, you know, kind of walking through a little bit of history. I think like many people you interview or in sustainability, it is a little bit of a lifelong passion. It was kind of what you were always going to do. The question was how you got yourself into it. And that’s definitely my story.

I started my career, I mean, really started my career as a ski instructor and then,

Keith Anderson: Where were, where were you as ski instructor?

Danielle Jezienicki: I was an instructor in Park City, Utah, after college.


Keith Anderson: I’m from Colorado. That’s why I had to ask.

Danielle Jezienicki: Oh, okay. Yeah, well, you know, the funny thing is I grew up in New York City, and I just, loved the outdoors, loved outdoor activities, and didn’t have a ton of access to that growing up.

So, as soon as college ended, I wanted to go on this kind of adventure and try something really different, as every one of my classmates, you know, went into investment banking pre recession. So, started that off and I actually think it was really a formative experience in that I realized how much I liked, you know, kind of meeting people who didn’t go to the same schools and same, you know, kind of path growing up.

Spending more time outdoors and, you know, kind of really connecting to, you know, this bigger picture of meaningful work. You know, so from there I did go back to New York and was unfulfilled and and then I eventually moved out to California to, to really, I think, balance those two things. And in California, I worked, I started my career in corporate communications, which was really excellent training, just understanding, you know, market moving situations.

And, just, I mean, I think it’s just a crash course in business to tell you, you know, to summarize a lot of, like literally overnights in the office. So started in corporate communications, refined that focus to investor relations, worked with clean tech companies out of this passion for sustainability and kind of figuring out what a career path that would tie to sustainability looked like, and in working with pre IPO companies, clean tech and, and traditional tech, I realized there wasn’t really much of a distinction between the two in that you can have a semiconductor company that is much more energy efficient and, if you put it in a set top box of every, you know, every cable set top box in the us, you’re gonna save a lot more energy than an electric car battery company that is, you know, using a coal-fired grid.

So, you know, by digging into Cleantech kind of realized. There was a lot more to learn, there was, you know, a lot more nuance. You had to really think in systems, and, and that distinction was something that really interested me. So, I went back to get my MBA in Sustainable Management. I did the program at Presidio and got great advice from a mentor saying, you know, MBAs are kind of a dime a dozen.

If you want to do sustainability, go get some experience and, you know, put your money where your mouth is. And so that program at Presidio was wonderful for me. It was very experiential, really hands on, because there’s only so much about sustainability that you can understand in a classroom. So you have that classroom focus, but in my time at Presidio, I got to work with phenomenal companies, BlackRock, News Corporation, Acumen Fund, and really refined my focus on impact investing, you know, in, in kind of pursuit of that question of why do we not talk about sustainability when we talk about long term value?

And that’s really what I think I was you know, the most curious about like what really led me to, to, you know, and, and still continues to drive my passion for the topic is like, how do we really integrate sustainability with long term value? And so worked in impact investing for four years after grad school and worked as an impact analyst.

So, so really dug into what does impact look like in different asset classes, in different categories. And from there, wanting to get that hands on experience, you know, I think in a lot of ways, it’s easier to be an investor and ask questions of why aren’t you doing this? Or how come you haven’t set a science based target?

But, you know, I did understand the nuance that, you know, there are operational challenges that I didn’t understand yet. So that’s where I spent the last eight years or so working in corporate sustainability for phenomenal companies. First at Williams Sonoma, managing sustainability for the West Coast Brands, so the Pottery Barn Brands, and the Williams Sonoma Brands, a few others.

And then you know, Williams Sonoma, really values aligned company, global supply chain of, you know, tens of thousands of vendors, no shortage of challenges related to material sustainability, and that was a phenomenal experience. And actually, you know, I didn’t plan to leave Williams Sonoma, but the opportunity came up to join Grove Collaborative as the first head of sustainability and build a program out, you know, kind of from scratch to some extent for a mission driven, values aligned company and B Corporation.

So in 2019, I joined Grove Collaborative. As the first head of sustainability and built the program out, managed everything, you know, through the IPO and beyond, and, just left a couple of months ago to start my own consulting practice, which I’ve named Impact FWD, just kind of looking ahead to the future, answering that question of sustainability and long term value, and now I’m working as a consultant, working with a blend of investors and brands as a fractional head of sustainability, or on a project basis, really helping implement sustainability.

So, anyway, I share that long winded story because everyone in sustainability has this kind of like circuitous path, and I always give this advice of like, you know, you don’t have to take, like there’s, we put so much pressure on ourselves to take like the perfect job and the perfect job. And I kind of think of it as like, what do I want to learn next?

And like, that’s really been my focus. So I hope I haven’t lost all your listeners yet.

Keith Anderson: No, it’s a much better introduction than I could have done. So thank you. And, you’ve used the word sustainability three or four times already, and, it’s, it’s heard me here a lot. How are you defining it in your new practice and how do you think about it?

Danielle Jezienicki: Yeah, I think of it as, when I think about sustainability, I think it’s really, you know, this concept of materiality and externalities, like just taking a proper account of what is coming in and going out. So whatever resources you’re using, where are they coming from? What happens to them at the end of life?

You know, I think kind of a more realistic accounting for the environments and people touched by everything we do. So that’s kind of how I think about it, but it’s a good question because it really does, we do kind of throw it around so much and, you know, I have started thinking more about like, you know, I, I purposefully didn’t include sustainability in the title of, you know, in the name of my consulting practice.

And I focused on impact because I think that’s really what we need to kind of orient ourselves towards is impact and regeneration and just thinking about, you know, what it is that we’re trying to achieve. Not this like blanket term for feeling like, oh, we’ve done sustainability, we’re done, but rather, you know, really kind of, let’s be more specific.

Keith Anderson: Well, and that’s, that’s part of why I was curious about it. You, you used another word that I see more and more regenerative and I’m starting to see people debate. So is that a successor to sustainability? Or is it just a related concept, but part of why I’m interested in the vocabulary is sustainability is a discipline.

It’s a function that a growing number of companies seems to me that a lot of what is likely to be necessary over the next few decades is, that function extending its purview across to your earlier point. Operational parts of a business and really embedding itself in different parts of the business.

Danielle Jezienicki: Yeah, no, I think so. And I think that’s what we’re shifting towards. And I think a lot of the policy changes that we’ve seen lately will help us get there. When you start talking about integrating climate related risk factors, all of a sudden sustainability isn’t like, what charitable nonprofits, you know, like, what is our charitable giving?

But it’s really about like, okay, where are our physical assets? Like where, where’s our supply chain? What are our risk factors? And I think through that lens, we start to understand that what we’ve called sustainability is really a term that explains material, non financial risk and opportunities, right?

And so like, I get so frustrated. I actually like, cannot listen to this garbage debate about like ESG, this and that, and even on like educated. People, like people you expect to understand the topic. I heard like a pod, you know, whatever, I won’t like point fingers, but I heard like an educated person on a podcast being like, Oh, this ESG thing is these ESG stocks think they don’t need to be governed.

And it’s like, what are you talking about? Literally, we’re talking about material, non financial risk factors and how to measure them. And it’s so frustrating to me as someone, you know, kind of in this space, that all we’re talking about is like accurately measuring our risks and our opportunities and things that we just traditionally haven’t shown up on a balance sheet, right? Like, do you have a factory on a Florida coastline? And how close is it to the ocean? Like, you know, like the, sure, call it sustainability or don’t, but like, at the end of the day, those are dollars and like, you know, so it’s, it’s kind of head scratching as to why we’re debating these things.

But anyway, here we are.

Keith Anderson: Well, I, I think you’re right that the more you see it pop up in financial disclosures and earnings calls, the harder it’s going to be to misinterpret it. Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart’s head of sustainability, said something at a Goldman conference in September that I’ve been sharing with anybody that will listen, she was just talking about supply chain and how they’re already seeing issues with yield and surety of supply and when you have a retailer like Walmart starting to talk about it in terms like those, I do think it starts to anchor people that may not otherwise pay attention to what this really means.

Danielle Jezienicki: Yeah, exactly. And it really connects the dots, I think, between the financial, you know, and what we’ve traditionally kind of bucketed under ESG. And I don’t think we have the language and the tools to totally kind of appreciate the shift of that change. Like, you know, when those horrible floods happened in Pakistan a long time ago, I just remember thinking, like, I wonder how this will affect all the textile retailers and how do they communicate something like that?

Because when you start thinking about a global supply chain, you know, in your company and textiles, a lot of cotton comes from there. So it’s, you know, connecting these extreme weather events to the global supply chain. I mean, it only takes one event for people to connect the dots. And unfortunately, these are pretty catastrophic, catastrophic events.

But I just don’t, you know, I think that’s what’s emerging now. And that’s where the policy hopefully will be helpful in helping us build tools out to kind of more accurately measure that risk. But yeah, I mean, I think it’s interesting. And I think for people who have kind of been in this space for a long time.

It is encouraging to see things moving so quickly finally, you know, even if that’s unfortunately the result of, you know, catastrophe and, and necessity, but you know, we have to get here. So, I don’t know. I guess we knew this. I don’t mean to be like super dark. I don’t want to be like, I told you, you know, the world, I told you climate related catastrophe was coming.

But, yeah, anyway.

Keith Anderson: I imagine it’s hard for anybody that’s been paying attention not to feel that way sometimes.

Danielle Jezienicki: Yes, absolutely. Yeah.

Keith Anderson: Now, when you say that it’s moving so quickly, are you talking about the actual changing temperatures and extreme weather? Are you talking about the way industry and, and business is moving faster? Because you mentioned the regulation.

Danielle Jezienicki: I, I met businesses actually in legislation and just kind of the way, even five years ago, the way you saw companies kind of thinking about sustainability reporting compared to now, I think there’s been a real sea change in terms of like pressure to disclose and, you know, kind of meet global standards in the EU and the US.

But obviously I do think extreme weather has played a part into that and kind of lighting a fire under everyone. Of being like, oh, actually, you know, this is happening now. We really do need to take this a little more seriously. But, you know, I say that, and then like, we have COP going on right now, led by, I mean, what, what was it that like the fossil fuel, what, there

Keith Anderson: There’s no, there’s no science, supporting a case for phasing out fossil fuels.

Danielle Jezienicki: Right,

Keith Anderson: As I understand it, he’s walked it back a couple times, but I don’t know what you expect when you have a fossil guy presiding over COP.

Danielle Jezienicki: I mean, I would expect better PR preparation, like just like sticking to the talking points. That’s pretty egregious. I don’t know. Like, you know, you would just think they would pretend to be like playing nice with the climate people, but, I guess good for him for being explicit.

Keith Anderson: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that, the role of, that industry and the transition I think is such a huge topic that I’m almost wary of opening that can of worms because, It’s a huge one.

Danielle Jezienicki: Mm hmm.

Keith Anderson: Well, you’ve, you’ve been in the sustainability function at companies in fairly diverse categories at Williams Sonoma and Grove.

How did you think about, or how do you think about really establishing a function, defining a strategy, prioritizing where to make an impact based on not just category, but maybe other factors that I’m not even asking about?

Danielle Jezienicki: Yeah. You know, I think my approach is generally to assume I’m the least educated person in the room because you come to a company like Williams Sonoma, you know, I mentioned like the depths of the supply chain. If you think about all the categories, like we were talking about, like Easter baskets for kids all the way to textiles, furniture, you know, I mean, you can’t imagine just the number of products that comes out of a company like that.

And so, sure, I lead sustainability, but I’m never going to be an expert in all of these categories, right? Same thing with Grove. Like, Grove creates its own products that, you know, largely household essentials focused on cleaning, but it’s also a marketplace for third party brands. Everything from pet to diapers to, you know, hair care, everything.

So, my approach is always that concept of, like, let me bring everyone together, all these experts together and try to understand what is this concept of materiality. Like, what is the most important, you know, kind of organizing factor, for this group? And I think it’s, you know, similar, similar process, William Sonoma, Grove.

I mean, the general concept is, bring these experts together, have them explain to you, like, what are the nuances? Because I, I think what doesn’t work in sustainability as a leader. Is to come in to a company where people have been doing things and say, okay, now we’re going to do this. Like, I’m not interested in what, you know, why this hasn’t worked or what’s been tried before, but we need to decarbonize and so we’re going to do X, Y, and Z.

So, you know, I kind of try to take a backwards approach to that and like, tell me about your business. Tell me about the challenges. What have you tried? What are your goals? You know, like walk me through the process because I think a lot of times you do have a lot of motivated people who have tried to make changes and they’ve hit obstacles.

And so your job as a sustainability leader is to help them dismantle those obstacles, to make the business case for doing that, to escalate things to leadership, to set goals and kind of help them dismantle those barriers. You know, so my approach to sustainability has been focused on that and tying that concept of, you know, kind of removing barriers to the most material sustainability issues in the business.

And so I think like that’s where I come in and can offer some expertise of saying like, okay. William Sonoma, we make, you know, all these home essentials. I mean, obviously the goals predated me. So my responsibility was organizing the teams around the largest material inputs of, of wood and cotton.

And so it’s, you know, thinking about the supply chain and how to get better traceability and, and create tools so that people can, you know, do their jobs and integrate sustainability within those jobs. And so similarly at Grove, I think the challenge was. Yeah, a little bit different actually, because like Grove, Grove is, for those familiar, it’s a B Corp, it’s a mission driven company.

The whole reason that Grove exists is to offer sustainable products. So in some, you know, it’s kind of a funny challenge to come into because you’re like, oh, we’re already doing it, right? Like we have sustainability. And that was the mindset when I joined. And plastic was a big topic. And obviously, for the CPG space, plastic, you know, single use plastic is.

So I think that was kind of like the biggest issue and that was on everyone’s radar at Grove, but, I don’t think, I think where I was able to lend some influence is when I joined Grove, they wanted to be plastic neutral. So to collect one pound of plastic for every pound that we shipped out to customers.

And my feedback was, you know, that’s nice. What are you going to do? How are you just going to keep shipping plastic? Like you’ve already acknowledged plastic is a problem. We can’t just keep shipping it and say like, oh, we’re going to pay someone else to pick it up. So, you know, I pushed pretty hard and, and was able to make progress on having growth set some real goals around plastic and acknowledging that for that industry, plastic is the single biggest challenge, you know, in terms of aligning the business, the business case with sustainability.

So I think when you come to any business, what you want to do is decouple the negative impacts of the business from growth. So, and, you know, and ideally connect the positive impacts to growth so that as a company grows and succeeds, you have additional positive impacts. And so when you apply that lens to Growth Collaborative, a company that’s providing home essentials to people, what you want is for people not to be shipping more plastic, even if they’re collecting it.

That’s, you know, what I call, like, sustainability 1.0, right? Like, we do bad, but we pick it up. Okay, good. That’s better than not picking it up. Sustainability 2.0 is Okay, well, how do we just do better to begin with? How do we design ourselves, you know, like design into the solution? And what that looks like, I think, is, you know, not sending a box full of stuff that goes into the recycle bin, even if it is going to get recycled.

So, you know, it’s more of like the concentrated formats and the innovations and the plastic free this and the refillable, reusable. You know, kind of moving into that circular business model. And so I don’t even remember what your original question was, but anyway, that’s, you

Keith Anderson: It doesn’t really matter because you’ve touched on, I think, a couple of topics that I’m certain are of interest to our audience, and maybe we can just expand on them. You mentioned that in CPG, plastic is probably the biggest issue. Can you just talk a bit about why?

Danielle Jezienicki: Sure. I mean, yeah, I can spend the rest of the podcast talking about why, so, you know, this ties, I think, back to the, what the fossil fuel, I mean. You know, let’s just back it up and so that people have context on this. The fossil fuel companies have recognized that the world is decarbonizing. And so their growth and their survival is linked to new revenue streams, right?

And what those revenue streams are is plastic. So plastic, you know, whether or not it’s a bottle or yoga pants comes from fossil fuel. You know, it’s fossil fuel derived. So there is a lot of pressure to continue production of plastic at the pace. And, and actually much higher than the pace. So like, these companies need to kind of make up for lost revenue as people switch to electric cars and, and, you know, devices become more efficient.

These companies need new revenue streams and what that looks like is, is new plastic facilities. And so, the CPG industry, where that comes in. So the CPG industry, I think a lot of its growth has, has been Really based on the premise of this, cheap and seemingly disposable material. I mean, it’s an incredible material. It’s light. It’s easy to transport. It’s flexible. You can make it look, you know, a million different formats. And, you know, so it’s an incredible material. The problem is it doesn’t go away. So plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of microplastic. And those pieces are quite literally everywhere on the planet.

You know, from the deepest parts of the ocean to the atmosphere, I mean microplastics are literally in air, water, soil, plants, human placentas, breast milk, like there isn’t, you know, kind of a space on earth untouched by plastic. And if we allow these fossil fuel companies to keep on the trajectory that they’d like to be on, that’s going to get exponentially worse.

And, and I think for people who really, you know, are informed on this. It’s already like horrible. So, you know, I don’t want to be but we should be alarmist. Right. And so CPG companies are right in the middle of this same challenge of like their continued growth is based on this model of like, we’re going to sell you.

We’re essentially what we’re selling you is clean hair. And you’ve been conditioned that, no pun intended, you’ve been conditioned. To understand that every product that you bring into your house comes in a plastic bottle and you use it. And when you’re done with it, you put it in your recycle bin and through some magical process, it will turn into another shampoo bottle.

The reality is there’s two myths there. One is that clean hair doesn’t require plastic, right? Like it’s, it’s a concept, that is like a marketing concept. And I think that there’s a lot of exciting innovation there. And that consumers are understanding that they signed up for clean hair. They didn’t sign up for packaging.

That last 500 years in a landfill, right? So, like, nobody asked for that, and so that’s one challenge, I think, for the CPG companies is innovating out of that. And then the second one, oh, is this wish cycle? I mean, sure, you can put your, depending on where you live, you can put your cleaned out bottle in your recycle bin, and if it is, you know, type 5 plastic, maybe it will get recycled, it’ll make it two more times into new bottles of some kind, and in a best case scenario, it will turn into a speed bump.

But realistically, plastic, you know, most plastic doesn’t get recycled, only 9 percent in the U. S., I think we’re now down to 5%, and most of that is PET, which is like plastic water bottles. And even if plastic does get recycled, it can only be recycled one, you know, two or three times max because of the chemical composition of plastic.

It starts to break down and become unusable. So there really is no end of life for plastic that’s positive. And you know, which kind of drives me nuts, like all these brands that are like, buy yoga pants made of plastic bottles. And it’s like, actually, that’s worse because plastic bottles are the one thing getting recycled.

And now you’re putting them into yoga pants, which are going to shed microplastics every time you wash them, and then they’re going to go to a land I mean, it’s like, we’re not chopping our way out of this problem, right?

So, CPG companies are right in the middle of this. They use plastic to package everything.

They’ve set goals, around recycled plastic that, are unrealistic. One, because they pretend that they can continue to use plastic, and that’s fine, because they’re going to use recycled plastic. And the second is that there isn’t enough recycled plastic for these massive companies to meet their, recycled plastic goals.

So like Coke, Pepsi, you know, you name your CPG company, all of them have goals around transitioning to recycled bottles. There literally is not enough recycled content for them to all meet those challenges. They’ve all set the same timeline. the recycling infrastructure that we have in this country and elsewhere does not support the volume that they need to transition their business.

And you know, that’s number one. And number two is, it’s still a problem, like, recycled plastic is just one step away from all of the problems that, you know, virgin plastic had, it just has a better beginning of life. So, you know, I think plastic and CPGs is a really nasty problem that, you know, we’re starting to acknowledge, like, we don’t, you know, we don’t want to use plastic, but in so many ways, it’s just become so difficult to avoid.

Like, even myself, I have little kids. I mean, I try my best, you know, but, like everyone else, like I really just, I like really strongly believe this cannot be a problem that you put onto consumers. This has to come from the brand level, these innovations. And I think the brands, larger brands, you know, have not been honest about acknowledging the scope of that problem.

And that’s honestly a big reason I went into consulting is I’m really tired of the sustainability 1.0, you know, kind of pretending to be 2.0. Like recycled plastic goals are not real sustainability goals. They’re pretend goals that you say to your investors. You know, whatever. I mean, it’s, it’s just like not a real solution.

Keith Anderson: I’m noticing in a lot of the reports that I read, the infrastructure, the lack of infrastructure is one of the big, explanations for why, I mean, almost none of these targets have been hit, on either the retailer or the brand side. And there seems

Danielle Jezienicki: in the beginning of that. Yeah.

Keith Anderson: to be a ton of, hope being directed at advanced or chemical recycling, which I’m guessing you have thoughts on?

Danielle Jezienicki: Uh

It’s also not a solution. I mean, you know, I’m not an expert on it. I understand from what I do understand it is problematic and is being seen as a silver bullet solution that enables the continued use of plastic. I just don’t think there is a solution that should allow us to keep using plastic the way we are, you know, chemical recycling included. It’s an industry driven solution, put it that way.

Keith Anderson: What do you think of bioplastics?

Danielle Jezienicki: Same thing, they’re really problematic from a recycling standpoint. They’re better from the beginning of life because there’s less fossil fuel, but they’re more problematic for recycling and they don’t biodegrade. I mean, this whole concept of biodegradability, for something to be composted or biodegraded, it needs certain conditions. Oxygen, water, air. And those don’t exist in a landfill, so when you have bioplastics or pretend biodegradable solutions, only 2 percent of households in the U. S. have access to municipal composting, and I have it here in San Francisco, if you look out on trash night, not every house has their green bin out, so like, of that 2%, I would guess it’s a lot lower than actually compost, so I think biodegradability is another one of these things where like, we’re pretending we have a solution, it’s not a solution because nothing is actually going to biodegrade in a landfill, and a lot of people I think are surprised by that.

But there just is no solution that involves plastic and I know, I’m not saying we should never use plastic, but I think the role plastic needs to play is in durable, refillable, reusable goods. So, you know, higher quality plastics like HDPE, things like that, made recycled products, made in a format that is meant to be reused, right?

And so you have to, recycling is part of it, but it’s really more of like, you know, like, just thinking it from a modular perspective, like, how are we actually refilling, reusing products? Like, not in a recycling way, but just like changing the paradigm of like, sure, we can use plastic, but the point isn’t to throw it away.

Like, let’s take advantage of its qualities. The fact that it never goes away, and it will stay in its format forever, like, let’s take advantage of that. That makes a great refillable product, right? So, how do we create systems? Like, rather than banging our head against the wall with recycling, which we need to do, I’m not saying we don’t, I just don’t think we should be throwing all our energy around, like, let’s make it recycled.

Let’s make it bioplastic. The problem is single use. Nothing single use. Single use aluminum is also problematic. Like, single use is the problem. And I think the CPG industry is a really, you know, it’s a, it’s a real reckoning, right? Because the CPG industry, like, wants you to buy things that are single use because you’ll buy more of them.

And that’s really, like, the growth of the whole industry has kind of been built on that. So

from a sustainability standpoint, I would say, like, we kind of need to flip that. And I think there’s tremendous opportunity there. I don’t think it’s, it means everyone’s going to shop at co ops. I think we need to just flip our thinking a little bit.

And I would love to see retailers take, you know, a real stance there. Not like a, oh yeah, it’s page 87 of our sustainability report stance.

Keith Anderson: Well, to their credit, they’re also running a two store pilot that’ll be shut down after a few months.

Danielle Jezienicki: Oh yeah. I’ve been in those. Yep. Exactly. It’s really.

Keith Anderson: I don’t know.

Danielle Jezienicki: That wasn’t advertised in one location and, you know, again, page 86 of the sustainability report. Yeah.

Keith Anderson: Other than Grove, or if Grove is the best inspiration free to talk about it, but are there case studies or examples that you view as really, Inspirational in terms of designing plastic out, rethinking about how to decouple the growth of the business with that form of doing bad. I mean, as you just said, something I’ve been sort of going category by category, thinking about the applications, you know, between expandable consumption categories versus, you know, lower frequency, less expandable. In expandable consumption categories, so much of the business model is about how do we create demand where there may not have been demand, and there are some categories where I see a viable, prosperous future where they’re not only changing things like packaging, but they’re fundamentally changing the nature of how people engage with that category and so I’m curious if there are examples, even at a category level, that you think are really good food for thought as people think about what Sustainability 2.0 might look like.

Danielle Jezienicki: Yeah I think category by category is exactly right because there are nuances in each category that really matter and you have to meet consumers where they are. You really, I think if you try to push people too far, you kind of lose the masses and that’s a problem. So I think Grove has a ton of great examples.

So I think that’s, in terms of like, you know, I’m trying to think, I mean, the thing, I mean, I think Grove is definitely a good step forward, right? You’ve got your refillable products, everything is generally in aluminium which is the most recyclable material in the most places in the US. So I think that’s a good start.

If you look across the platform of brands that Grove carries, there’s a lot of like really cool innovations. I mean, I was a Grove customer long before I worked there and, I think it’s like, I can’t imagine for people who understand how to use Grove, I think it is like irreplaceable, you know, because like, I’ll go on and find, like, I can get compostable diapers, but then, you know, I have the earth baby service here in San Francisco, which is now rediaper, but anyway, compostable diapers, which is, I’ll make a plug, like the number one thing that parents can do to, you know, kind of minimize their impact is diapers, like another case.

And also, Oh my gosh. Okay. Well, I get so overwhelmed because there’s so much information when you start like looking around your house of things you want to share with people. But anyway, chemical safety really comes into this also. Like, if you start thinking about, you know, the health of your children, like you really don’t want all these plastics in, you know, kind of sensitive parts of their body.

So this is a really important topic for parents. I encourage you to look at EWG and, and some of the research on diapers. Okay. But

Keith Anderson: What’s EWG?

Danielle Jezienicki: Oh, Environmental Working Group. Sorry. They do, I think, like the best research out there for consumer products to connect them to chemical safety, which is another kind of peripherally linked topic of plastics.

It’s like the chemicals you absorb by using Okay. So, you know, kind of thinking category by category. This is like such a hard question for me to answer because, I am so passionate, obviously, about sustainability in the home space. And so rather than trying to answer every category, what I will say is the advice I usually give people is you have to look at your own habits, right?

And, and look at your recycle bin and try to understand like, where am I using plastic? Where am I using waste? And solve problems based on that. You know, and I think like when I, so when I think about like my use of growth, so many great products, right? Like refillable soaps and you know, concentrated cleaning products, like things you use every day.

The Swedish disc cloth replaces like millions of paper towels. So you’ve got like kind of cleaning and home essentials. And I love what Grove is doing there. You know, and then when I think about other categories, for example, I think Nike does a cool job of reusing, you know, plastic into Flyknit, they, they come up a lot as like, just having innovated, I think, sustainability into the design process in a way that I think other brands haven’t, you know, because I think a lot of brands.

We’ll design something and then at the end, like the last step, it’s like, okay, well, how do we source organic cotton or how do we kind of check a box for sustainability? Whereas I think Nike has flipped that and really integrated sustainability into every step of design. And that’s a really difficult thing to do.

And I really applaud them for it. I don’t think they get enough credit for the work that they do to design products with sustainability in mind, with recycled materials in mind. You know, and also, you know, I love kind of the social impact work and everything else they do. So credit is due to them there, you know, rather than, I think there’s handfuls of kind of pockets of cool things happening in different areas, but in general, the thing that makes me the most excited are the areas that haven’t set out to be sustainable businesses.

So like the RealReal, the Poshmark, you know, of the world, those kinds of things where you have, I mean, I’m, I’m an addicted Poshmark user, I try to buy, I set a goal for myself to buy 85 percent or 75, upwards of 75 percent of what I buy needs to be pre existing. So whether it’s like used or like just exists already, like it’s not new.

And so what, what makes me excited about consumer products is you have these marketplaces where people are so passionate about circular economy and reuse and resale, and they didn’t come to it to be sustainable, right? Like. People at The RealReal are looking for a deal. They’re like luxury fashion people looking for like a good deal.

People on Poshmark are just like, you know, a lot of these, like I got one product, which was like, you know, thank you for supporting like my, you know, Christian home and da, da, da, da, da. It was like, this is not your traditional sustainability messaging, but I love that it brings together people from just totally different backgrounds who are, you know, maybe like a stay at home mom, like finding a business by selling stuff online.

So what is most exciting to me are those innovations that haven’t set out to kind of be a sustainability problem that haven’t like set out to market themselves as sustainability. But like have done that. So like one kind of counter example, a company, you know, I think about a lot is Rothy’s that uses plastic bottles and makes them into shoes.

It’s a good start. And I think the problem is that people then buy Rothy’s and they’re like, Oh yeah, I wear sustainable shoes. And it’s like, okay, well you wash them in the washing machine. And so you shed microplastics. And then. They don’t have, like, no one sends them back. So then you just put them in a landfill.

So, like, these kind of halfway solutions, I think, are incremental steps towards where we need to be going. And I applaud brands that are doing that and at least using recycled materials to make new products. And I don’t mean to talk badly about Rothy’s. I think they’re a great, they’re, they’re well along the way and well past where most companies are.

But we’re missing that critical part of, like, closing that loop. So, in a very long winded way, I’m saying I love the companies that have closed the loop without intending to. Like you know, the circular, you know, you know, then I think another challenge we come into is, with this topic of resale is that all, all brands are now have their resale platforms, right?

And it’s like buried on the website and there’s 10 sad items on there. But you know, I think for the brands who are still in business to sell you stuff, as you said, like expandable consumption. I’ve not seen one brand take a meaningful stance on resale of like, we, like a revenue goal, basically like we want to see 10 percent of our revenue come from our resale business this year and 20 percent next year.

And, you know, dah, dah, dah, dah, like all of these brands, all of these innovations are not meant to replace the traditional part of the business. And so I think that’s really the problem, that we’re facing right now is like, yeah, sure. There’s cool things happening. They haven’t replaced the business, like the practical business.

Keith Anderson: Hey folks, this is the part of the show where we say thank you and see you soon to the general audience, plus and higher tier members of decarbonize.co. Stay tuned for the rest of the episode.

Thanks for listening. I’m Keith Anderson, the executive producer and host of Decarbonizing Commerce. Sonic Futures handles audio, music, and video production. If you enjoyed the show, we’d really appreciate it if you took a moment to subscribe and leave a review or share it with a colleague. For the full episode and more member exclusive insight and analysis, join the Decarbonizing Commerce community at Decarbonize. co. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you on the next episode of Decarbonizing Commerce.

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