Last week in the Naked Truth Part I, I took an under the clothes look at our products – the good, the bad, and the ugly. As promised, I am now going to give an insider view of Atayne’s operations. Let’s kick things off with the pretty side of things.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, Atayne is a certified B Corporation. Unlike many other programs out there, this is not just a simple certification. To be certified, not only do you need to complete an extensive survey and interview, you must legally commit to operating at a higher environmental and social standard than ordinary companies. Within 1 year of completing the survey and interview process, B Corps must amend their operating agreement or corporate charter with language that requires them to consider much more than the financial aspects of a decision. Atayne must also consider:
- The social, economic, legal, or other effects of any action on current and retired employees
- Our suppliers and customers, and the communities and society in which we operate
- The effect of our operations on the environment and the economy of the state, the region and the nation
Beyond being a B Corp there are many things we do as an organization to continually reduce our impact on the environment and maximize our benefit to society. Here are a few of my favorites.
- We are always looking to reduce our material use. One area we have been very successful is with paper. I think most people would agree that it is the #1 waste item generated in an office. We have done as much as possible to reduce our requirement for paper. Simple steps such as double sided printing and reusing the blank side of junk mail has nearly eliminated the need for us to buy paper. In our 2 years of operation we have bought one 500 sheet ream of paper and we are not even a quarter of the way through it. Who says environmentalism is not good for the bottom line?
- All of our production is done in facilities in the US and Canada where workers are provided great conditions, benefits, and paid above the minimum wage. I’ve visited the factories where we our cutting & sewing is done and have witnessed first hand the great environment in which our products are made.
- We ship all of our products using the US Postal Service. The environmental benefit to this is two-fold. First, residential postal routes are set while the usual routes of UPS and FedEx might not bring a driver into a residential neighborhood. As a result, we are delivering our product on a route that will be driven regardless of whether we ship a product or not. It’s the delivery equivalent of public transportation. Second, the packaging for Priority Mail is Cradle-to-Cradle certified. This means it can be infinitely recycled. And for those who have received an international Atayne shipment, you can attest that the packaging has been well-used before, assuming we have something on hand. (Becca wonders what foreign customs officers might be thinking when they see our packaging, so she draws the recycle symbol on the outside of the mailer to indicate it’s nothing dodgy.)
- Through our trash running activities, not only do we provide an environmental benefit, we also provide a great community service. Litter is not just an eyesore; it is an environmental and community hazard. It kills land and marine animals who mistakenly ingest it; it serves as breeding grounds for disease-causing bugs and rodents; and it provides a subtle signal that a community does not care.
- Despite being a start-up and still not making a profit, we think it is important to give back as we can. In addition to volunteering our time for community and event clean-up activities, we have made small financial contributions to a variety of organizations including: Back on My Feet, the Catamount Institute, Girls on the Run, Keep California Beautiful, Kennedy’s Cord Foundation, Maine Children’s Cancer Program, and the Ronald McDonald House.
With the pretty comes the ugly, or at least the stuff we are looking to improve. Here are some of our bigger scars, and the steps we are taking to heal them.
- We like to get out and meet people at events. What better way to make friends than to get out to shake hands and kiss babies. (Naked truth: no babies kissed yet in the official course of business.) While some of our events are local, many require significant travel. We often wonder if the emissions from a cross-country flight or 1,000-mile roundtrip drive offset the benefit of a trash run at a race. We have taken a couple steps to minimize our need for travel. First, we are establishing a network of trash running groups and community organizers across the country. This allows us to continue this great activity without distant travel from Atayne HQ. Second, we are shifting our primary sales channel from events to our website. This will greatly lessen our dependence on travel to sell our products.
- Along the same vein, I really do prefer to meet people face-to-face (and am a less than enthusiastic phone talker) during the course of business. So I personally do more driving to meetings than I probably should. How I’m working on this? I drive a Honda Civic hybrid. And when I can, I will bike, walk, or take public transportation. And at some point, I would love to start doing more video meetings, when more people get the tools (like a Skype-cam).
- While the cutting and sewing of our garments occurs at a manufacturer in Canada (fabrics are produced in US), it does not meet our definition of localized manufacturing. We are now talking with a manufacturer in Allentown, PA that is providing jobs in an area that desperately needs them. Not only has the Lehigh Valley been devastated by the loss of steel related jobs, the region has lost thousands of garment industry jobs as other companies moved production overseas. We’ll continue to explore manufacturing options to reduce the miles that Atayne products tread before getting to your door.
Once again this is just a brief look at something that should be more of a conversation than a report. If you think I missed something or there are other burning questions, please feel free to comment or ask. As we continue to grow we will expand the Naked Truth to a more comprehensive discussion. Until then, we will take one step at a time in this long, naked journey we call thrive-ability (sustainability is too boring, plus do you want a relationship to be sustainable or thriving?).