Greener Beans is our first subject in our new sustainability series where we will be talking to startups focused on a greener future. We asked Josh Ford who co-founded the company with Peter Wortsman some questions.
Tell us about Greener Beans! How did it all start and what are your goals?
Greener Beans is about accelerating the shift to more sustainable food production and consumption. We help shoppers to easily identify sustainable swaps to the grocery items they buy in the supermarket.
Having worked in the food industry for many years we are concerned about the damage our food system is causing the planet. Greener Beans gives shoppers easy and convenient guidance on sustainable food, making swapping rewarding.
Co-Founder Peter shared his initial idea with me in March last year, and we formed Greener Beans in April. Since then, we have built out how we score products and validated this with industry leaders.
This year we plan to launch our online sustainable swapping platform and measure the environmental impact these swaps are making. We know it is possible to remove millions of tonnes of carbon from our food consumption, along with equivalent savings of water and other impacts. We are actively growing the team to achieve these goals, so please get in touch.
How are you engaging your employees in your sustainability efforts?
I guess you could say it’s in our DNA. Everyone involved is passionate about sustainability and believes what we are doing will have a real difference to changing our food system . We are supported by a talented group of advisors who have been instrumental in building our model and gaining traction with our stakeholders. We are fundraising and recruiting for a number of roles, and alignment to our values and cause is key to our search.
Do you set any goals for improvement and aim to make yourself more sustainable?
I found it’s important as individuals not to put too much pressure on making everything you do “perfectly sustainable” . There will always be a more sustainable way of doing things. It’s about making swaps where you can. I try to pick off easier items and make small incremental changes along the way. Recently it’s been a focus on less, but better-quality meat and fish, and repurposing old items into toys for the cat.
For Christmas this year, my wife and I did a “try something sustainable” advent calendar. We had to give each other something new to try each day, from shampoo bars to re-usable ear buds. We’ve tried a lot of new things not all of which will be here to stay, but some will.
As a business we have the opportunity of building things more consciously from the beginning, and in many ways operating a new start-up forces you to consume less. Being a tech company, our key output is digital and we are considering how we consume data, build efficiently, and the sustainability of our providers.
What tips could you give other startup businesses to promote sustainability and have sustainability at their forefront?
Just make a start somewhere easy for you. Find the low hanging fruit in your operation and identify incremental improvements. The momentum of the collective learnings will grow in time. Engage your team and listen to and reward great ideas, celebrating the achievements in the same way you would with
other goals. One suggestion that timely is being purposeful on meeting up and office space. It’s a great way to reduce impact on travel, time and resources.
What have been your biggest challenges that have come exclusively from starting a green business?
I think generally there is a degree of confusion around the topic of sustainability. These days most people believe it’s important, but are unclear on the right action to take, and are wary of potential “greenwash”. It’s an added consideration in already busy work schedules and lives, and so any solution needs to be easy and convenient. We are very conscious of this in conversations with all our stakeholders, and in the service we are building for shoppers.
The pandemic has obviously affected a lot of startups both in positive and negative ways, how have you guys dealt with it?
Greener Beans was formed during the pandemic so it’s all we have known so far. We embraced flexible remote working from the start to allow for the added life challenges. Being a smaller team, it’s been easier to stay connected, and we have learnt an added appreciation for face-to-face interactions. Online shopping has experienced significant growth this year, and consumers are becoming more conscious to sustainability. Both of these have enhanced the relevance of what we are building. I think the pandemic has made investors more cautious and at the same time broadened their consideration set of potential investments.
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