Jessica Alba’s Honest Company Shows How You Can Weave Meaning Into Environmentally-Friendly Businesses
When starting a business that wants to be socially-conscious, there always seems to be a gulf to bridge: that between commerce and conscience, between the demands of the market and the demands of your soul, and between the great idea you have and the realities of capitalism. To put it bluntly (if overstating the case), between profit and prophets.
While the reality is, of course, that you need to make sure you do both, the truth is that they don’t have to be in conflict. This was recently shown to us by eco-friendly superstar Jessica Alba, whose principles seem to be as flawless as her skin, when her Honest Company raised $70 million in front of an IPO valued at $1 billion.
Of course, lots of companies that are harmful or indifferent toward the environment and the health of their consumers and the planet make a lot of money, so that clearly isn’t the end-all be-all. But the Honest Company is a little different. It combines being wildly-successful with an incredibly-focused mission.
A good company- honestly!
The Honest Company grew out of Alba becoming a mom, and seeing a dearth of non-toxic, safe products out there for her baby. And if a globally-famous Hollywood star couldn’t obtain what she felt was best for her children, what chance did the rest of of have? Some people ignore that. Alba did something about it.
Her Honest Company was founded to make the best for babies- as they put it in their “About Us” section, “We both wanted an ideal: not only effective, but unquestionably safe, eco-friendly, beautiful, convenient, and affordable – everyone should have it. We believed every baby deserved the best we can create for them.” That’s a great goal, and while many people may have wanted this, actually doing it is a different story. Honest did, and are now wildly successful while doing great good for many families across the globe.
Why Environmentally-Friendly Products Are Succeeding
If that were the whole story, that would be great. But there are lessons here for anyone who wants to start a company that does right by the world we live in, but is scared that doing so is Quixotic and doomed to failure.
There is more call for this
Don’t be intimidated by the success of Alba. This isn’t like an internet behemoth where one company can completely dominate the market and leave no room for anyone else. Think of how many products already exist. Now think of how many are really eco-friendly. There is enormous room to innovate in this departments.
More people are recognizing eco-friendly products
This has become a major area of growth. It isn’t a vanity project- investors don’t like up around the block to indulge a pretty actress’s whims. If there wasn’t a huge and growing market for such products, no one would be successful. And the huge growth and exposure of Alba’s company will help to raise awareness for similar products- including yours.
Doing the right thing is a great strategy
For decades, there was one ranking that mattered for your company: the hidebound reviews of the Better Business Bureau, maybe augmented by the even stuffier Chamber of Commerce. That’s no longer the case. Organizations recognize and award companies for being a concerned, caring, and responsible member of the community, not just a profitable one. The Honest Company was recognized by the B-Corp for harnessing “their power and resources for the public good.” A certificate like this shows that people want more from companies, and want them to be creating environmentally-friendly products.
Finding meaning in the marketplace
We’ve always asked “what’s it all about?” Art has always tried to answer that question, whether it is Platonic dialogues or huge Burning Man pieces questioning our place in the universe, people want to know why we’re here, and want to derive meaning from life. For many seekers, finding cosmic meaning in work was a dead end. You are not your job, the fellow says.
But maybe that can change. If you are doing something you love, and has meaning, such as creating ecologically-friendly and sensual candles, and are giving back, and being a full member of a community, if you are planting a tree, and not just imagining leaves into money, you have maybe found your place.
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