20's are the new 50'swhen it comes to building some aspect of corporate and social responsibility into our personal and professional lives.
I know this first-hand since I left my job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs in my mid-20's to pursue my own socially-minded entrepreneurial venture, which took the form of VeeV, the world's first acai and eco-spirit.
My name is Courtney Reum and I chose to launch a green product within the alcohol sector, an industry whose innovation and carbon footprint is notoriously behind the times. I opted to embark on this path well before the age of 30 and I am not alone in my aspirations. I am part of a new breed of entrepreneurs from a plethora of industries who are eager to combine our green passions and business acumen at a young age and do something about it now -- rather than bequeath it to the next generation.
My blog will also spell out the challenges of doing this in an industry where "green" is just now coming into the everyday vernacular. I fear that if the industry doesn't get its act together soon on issues like green-washing vs genuine environmental practices, it could become the next bottled water-type whipping boy in the media. On the flip, there is a new generation of brands that 'do' green well -- VeeV among them (in my highly biased opinion) - and I hope to give you some food for thought when purchasing that bottle of wine or vodka next time you're at the liquor store.
At my company VeeV, we're still small enough that we can't affect change at every level but we really strive to be progressive in a space that has been very reactive towards adopting socially-responsible business practices.
It starts with our $1 per bottle sold donation off of our top-line back to the rainforest to help fund a sustainable farming partnership with Sambazon, the pioneers of acai on the non-alcoholic side and first ones to bring acai to the U.S. In addition, we're the only product made in America that gets our power from renewable energy in the distillation process and we were the first certified carbon neutral spirits company. As with most triple bottom line focused companies (planet, people, profits: a phrase developed by John Elkington and written into a great book by Andrew Savitz), the bigger initiatives tend to grab the headlines but the mindset trickles all the way down to the cars we drive, the material our desks are made from and even the 401k provider we choose. Even with all that, we are fallible (for example, use of plastic (albeit PET) on the capsule of our bottle) and have plenty of room for improvement but I think that the key is transparency. Be honest about what you are (and aren't) doing and admit where you hope to improve. We're all in this together and I think that most consumers and media are forgiving if they believe your intentions are genuine and perpetual.
If you're like me and in your late 20's or early 30's, then hopefully you believe, as I do, that "green" is our generation's cause. Not that it can't and shouldn't be the cause for teens or older people, but I believe that my age demographic is uniquely positioned to be the most impacting. We're just old enough to be established in our career paths that we are (hopefully) starting to accumulate some savings either in our personal lives and/or businesses as we enter the height of our earning power. However, we're also just young enough and, speaking honestly and firsthand, selfish enough to want make a difference for our lives and lifetimes as much or more so than those of our (future) children.
Furthermore, I think that we all grasp that our products and services are going to shift towards much more sustainability over the coming decades and we're young enough that we might as well be the leaders and ahead of the curve rather than behind it. This would be the opposite of my dad who is in his 60's and was running a company the old-fashioned way when the tech boom hit in the late 90's and thus has still never written an email in his life (I love you dad but you're a Luddite). Lastly, I think that my generation realizes that the time is now and we can't wait and make changes or take action later in life because, thinking fatalistically, life might not be the same when we hit our golden years. We're not quite as entitled as those slightly younger than myself who grew up during a period of unprecedented economic expansion, but we still feel as though we are empowered to a degree and I think it's actually had a positive manifestation of making us feel like we can (and should) do anything we set our sights on.
For savvy readers of blogs like this one on The Huffington Post, much of this is not new news but I think the key take-away is how much more prevalent stories like mine are and hopefully will continue to be. You never know when life will throw you a curveball so who's to say where I will be in 5, 10 or more years but I can safely say that I will be doing something in the sustainability space and it's refreshing to hear how many of my contemporaries I hear say that they feel the same way. In the coming weeks, I hope to give you anecdotes and maybe even a few interviews with some of my other well-respected eco-peers as well as giving you the low-down on who else are the pioneers of the alcohol space heading into the 21st century (and who just talks a good game) so stay tuned...
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