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5 inspirational videos about sustainable products

Jessica Alba sustainability billionaires
Jessica Alba spoke at GreenBiz Forum about why she felt the need to start Honest Co.

Consumer products include the soaps and solutions we use in our homes, the clothes we put on our skin and the foods we consume. 

So it may seem apt that the stories behind the brands of consumer products be personal as well.

These videos from past GreenBiz events tell those stories. Five companies explain why they decided to make their products environmentally and socially sustainable. With inspirations ranging from a baby's faulty diaper to just plain old profit, the videos show that are plenty of reasons for a company to make the switch.

1. Jessica Alba sheds light on her "honest" green company

Jessica Alba was inspired to launch a company dedicated to safe, sustainable children's products when she had an allergic reaction to "baby safe" laundry detergent. Concerned about the lack of quality options for new moms, the actress joined forces with environmental scientist Christopher Gavigan to co-found The Honest Company, which offers eco-friendly products for babies and the home.

"We're not trying to be a green company. It's part of who we are. It's part of our consciousness," Alba said.

In a chat at GreenBiz Forum 2014, Alba and Gavigan discussed their company's commitment to social causes, quality design, transparency and sustainability. 

2. Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard: The company as activist

Patagonia's founder and CEO, Yvon Chouinard, spoke at the 2013 GreenBiz Forum on authenticity and responsibility in building his outdoor-equipment retail company, and how consumers can use the power of their wallets to change society.

Chouinard tells the story of how a health scare in a manufacturing plant when the company first decided to foray into making clothes served as an opportunity to radically change how Patagonia did business from that moment on.

He also rails against the way most publicly held corporations are run, and argues that the desire for perpetual and rapid growth is conducive neither to the planet’s stability nor a company’s longevity. When presented with the comparison of his legacy to Steve Jobs’, Chouinard said, "Apple doesn't want you to fix your phone, they want you to buy a new one next year. I can't relate to a company like that."

3. From crafting sustainability to crafting beer

"You can't brew beer without water,” said Pat Tiernan, the COO of Stone Brewing Company. The claim may be simple, but this appreciation of the natural resource essential to a product seems to be lost on many other companies.

Tiernan explained how the brewery reduced its water consumption and waste by optimizing the cleaning of equipment and by managing their own waste. For example, Stone sells some of its "waste" water to local municipalities in San Diego County, which can then be reused to give a boost to compost systems.

Water isn't the only waste that finds another use. "Nothing goes to landfill," Tiernan said. Even used grains are repurposed as animal feed for dairies and other agricultural purposes.

4. Cleaning up dirty manufacturing

Adam Lowry is the co-founder of Method, the consumer cleaning products and home goods company.  

At VERGE 2015 Lowry told the story of why the company decided to establish their manufacturing plant in the inner city of Chicago. “A sustainable business is a better business — a more profitable business,” explained Lowry about the choice. 

He covers a lot of ground in his presentation — from powering  the buildings with renewable energy, to a partnership with Gotham Greens for the factory's edible rooftop garden, to community engagement — all of which contribute to building a healthy and sustainable business.

5. Liz O'Neill of Levi Strauss on sustainable supply chains

Liz O'Neill, senior VP of product development and sourcing at Levi Strauss, describes how Levi's sustainability efforts are informed by an acute awareness of the company’s influence on the other players within the garment market. 

"If you're going to be a key Levi's supplier, you have to be leading on sustainability," said O'Neill.

Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, O'Neill explains why product level innovations are more difficult and costly to achieve than systems level innovation. "We can have an impact more broadly if we focus on the supplier level rather than factory level," she said.