"I love this quote," said Kamie Kennedy, chief revenue officer for the organic apparel and home goods company Pact. "'You don't need a few people doing sustainability perfectly. You need everyone doing it imperfectly.' That's really powerful."
For her, that idea (she's not sure who came up with it) illuminates a key element of sustainability for both individuals and businesses: You have to do what works for you.
If you are a working mom, for example, maybe you'd like to use cloth diapers as a greener alternative to disposables shipped to your door. But that extra time they require? You simply don't have it.
So you opt for other environmentally oriented lifestyle changes. You look for ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle that work for you. You do your best.
"If we're all making progress in our own ways," Kennedy said, "then that's a movement toward sustainability for everybody. And all those things add up."
The same applies to companies. Any enterprise will consume resources. Socially conscious enterprises continually seek to reduce their environmental footprint, but perfection will forever remain elusive.
Pact uses organic cotton for its products. Its products are Fair Trade Certified by Fair Trade USA, the same organization that certifies coffee. "We pay a premium to the factories that make our goods," Kennedy said, "and that premium is given to the workers to invest in themselves and their communities as they see fit."
The company uses a solar-powered facility to host its website. It banks with an institution that deals only with socially responsible companies. It pays the shipping if customers want to use the box their Pact purchases came in to send wearable used clothing to a charity.
And it swiftly adopts new sustainability initiatives as they arise. "What you guys do at Cloverly is a great example," Kennedy said. "Offsetting the carbon costs of shipping wasn't available a year ago. Now it is. So we said, 'Let's do it.'" (For more about Pact and Cloverly, click here.)
Pact's customers make a priority of caring not only for the planet but also for themselves. "What we've learned from our research is that people start out with organic in food," Kennedy said. "Then they move to cleaning supplies. Then they move to skin care, and then they move to apparel.
"So we're really going after people who already have adopted organic in other parts of their lives and want to extend that into other products that they consume and care about."
The carbon costs of their purchases bother them. "Shipping product just hurts our customers' souls," Kennedy said. "But that's just something that we will never get around as a business. So we look for ways to say, 'Well, we can't be perfect at that, but how can we be better?'"
Not perfect, but better. That's a pretty good philosophy of life. Or business model.
"The more that businesses do to bring awareness of sustainable options and make things easy for people, the better for everyone," Kennedy said. "I think people are good and want to be conscious consumers and will gladly opt to do those things."