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The Ins and Outs of Building a Climate-Friendly Business from Scratch

Julia Collins, founder of Planet FWD and Moonshot, shares what goes into starting a planet-friendly business from scratch.

Written by
Eve Robinson

Entrepreneurship and product innovation are the true drivers of change within the vision of a more sustainable future. There's always room for more people to work on solutions, small and large, that can change our way of life for the better. Combined efforts toward change within industries and individuals will pave the way to a brighter future for people and the planet.

At Brightly, we love to showcase new products, ideas, and entrepreneurs that make it easier for individuals to live more eco-conscious lives. In this week’s episode of Good Together, Julia Collins, founder of Planet FWD and Moonshot, shares insight into and excitement around innovation within the sustainability sector—all born of a longtime love of food.

Production, Process, and Sustainability

When building her first company, Zume Pizza, Collins turned her focus toward the production process and its environmental impact. Crucial to all of her companies is a start-to-finish attention to detail. Collins notes that considering ways to shorten the supply chain, as well as employing automation to make work safer and more sustainable for those preparing the food, are the sorts of innovation that create sustainable outcomes in every area of the food production industry.

Collins’ approach to leadership and entrepreneurship may appear a bit different from a typical CEO’s style, but that's part of what makes her work so successful. Using internal rather than external metrics to gauge success and focusing on sustainability before expedited business growth are two ways that, in Collins' opinion, businesses can remain truly sustainable and regenerative. “As a first-time founder I just felt no allegiance to the status quo,” she says. Rather, Collins opted to turn her focus toward the impact of processes without worrying too much about statistical success, the better to balance her company's evolution.

Building a Climate-Friendly Business

From bags, sacks, and wraps, to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles or jars, to high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers, plastic is undeniably prevalent in the kitchen. In 2018, 14.5 million tons of this kitchen plastic ended up in U.S. landfills.

For Collins, there have been moments when the sheer quantity of plastic products felt overwhelming and insurmountable—and from that distress came the dream of a climate-friendly offering. "It's not enough to have a product, you really need to have a brand," says Collins. And that brand needs to work hard to ask the right questions: What produce can we use that supports regenerative agriculture?; Which ingredients have the least significant environmental impact?; What can make the production process safer and more reliable?

"Farmers have so much power and so much wisdom," Collins shared. "What we try to do at Moonshot is to approach all of this with a bit of humility." Through this approach and genuine curiosity, Collins has been able to find ingredients and systems that work with the environment’s needs while developing an intimate understanding of the agriculture system that delivers products—like Moonshot's delicious crackers—into our pantries.

The Future of the Food Industry

Collins has some key takeaways and developments that any company can apply to their work:

  1. Carbon Neutral may be the most important consumer-facing badge in the next decade. As such, companies should start looking to understand their baseline footprint.
  2. Understand the environmental impact of the supply chain. For consumer companies, 90% of the environmental impact comes from the supply aspect of the company.
  3. Make company climate action and impact accessible to customers. Being transparent with your customers about where environmental impact is occurring, what it means, and how you plan to improve it supports the longevity and trustworthiness of your business.

There are exciting steps being taken in every portion of the food industry, from older generations teaching children to reuse household products, to up-and-coming food brands that are operating through a climate-conscious lens.

It takes a village to make a sustainable future, and fortunately leaders like Collins and eco-minded consumers (like you!) are working to make our shared dreams a delicious reality.