065 / Business Purpose, Brazil & The Quest for the Perfect Alt-Milk

Hi Friends,

In business school, Milton Friedman’s famous 1970 essay on the "social responsibility of business" wasn’t just required reading, it was dogma — the foundation upon which the whole curriculum (nay, the whole world) was built. As a former journalist and entrepreneur with an orientation toward social change, I sat in those uncomfortable chairs under those glaring fluorescent lights and questioned why we were still being taught this nearly 50-year-old doctrine while the world was changing so rapidly and dramatically around us.

That’s why it was so powerful to read the Business Roundtable’s revised definition of the purpose of a corporation shared in this week’s 5 Links. Together with Larry Fink’s pivotal 2018 Letter to CEOs, it signals a new reality, a new foundation. Yes, I’m waiting to see how these CEOs will walk their new talk. Yes, I’m skeptical given their current approach to business. But change takes time, and it’s accelerated by moments like this — moments that, little-by-little, change the status quo.

So I’m choosing to celebrate this small win… before getting back to work. What's your reaction?

✌️ Jess


Take a peek at the latest print issue of Real Simple for an actionable set of articles on reducing your waste — and improving your life in the process. On page 122, I contributed a tip to the section on sustainable fashion. 🤗

Things are looking up.

Things are looking up.

This Week's 5 Links

🖋️ Nearly 200 CEOs Just Agreed on an Updated Definition of “The Purpose of a Corporation”Quartz

Last week the Business Roundtable, a powerful lobbying group of American CEOs, revised their definition of the purpose of a corporation, stating that companies have an obligation to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. It’s a nail-in-the-coffin for the Milton Friedman-inspired ideology that “the social responsibility of business is to increase profits”, which has dominated business schools and boardrooms since the 1970s. Responses have ranged from celebratory to skeptical, with this Bloomberg piece standing out for its reminder of the Business Roundtable’s sketchy past and present. We’re encouraged by the signal this statement sends to the business world but even more excited to see the action that will back it up. In the words of B Labs’ full-page NYT advert — let’s get to work. (3 minutes)

🌴 Brazilian Companies Continue to Degrade Amazon with ImpunityPacific Standard

After photos of the burning Amazon rainforest flooded social media and captured the world’s imagination, people were quick to blame the farmers and ranchers setting the fires and the Brazilian government enabling the destruction by weakening environmental protections. However, as this article (published back in May) highlights, multinational corporations also play a role. Companies from China, the EU and the US continue to trade beef, soy, timber and other commodities with Brazilian exporters fined for committing environmental crimes in the Amazon. The good news is that companies, like consumers, can vote with their dollars. By cutting ties with bad actors, they can “use their market power to send a signal to Brazil's leadership that the global community will not tolerate the policies of the new administration." We hope they do. (12 minutes)

👉 TAKE ACTION: If you’re looking for a way to help, consider donating to Amazon Watch, which co-produced the report referenced in the above article and supports indigenous people on the front lines of the destruction.

🥛 Oatly and the Quest for the Perfect Alt-MilkVox

In our last newsletter we shared a UN report that, among other recommendations, called for a global shift to plant-based diets as a way to address climate change. With that call to action top-of-mind, we loved this playful profile of the most popular alt-milk on the block: Oatly. Cleverly, the brand has partnered with baristas at third-wave coffee shops to get its product out there, marketing itself as the tastiest addition to your daily cappuccino instead of the healthiest or most sustainable. Its “chatty and intense” branding and transparency around sustainability is designed to make it feel like “the type of person that people want to hang out with.” If sold-out shelves are any indication, it’s working. (16 minutes)

📦 Tesco to Ban Brands That Use Excessive Plastic PackagingThe Independent

British supermarket chain Tesco will have removed 4000 tons of hard-to-recycle materials from its own-label products by the end of this year — and now it wants the brands it stocks to do the same. It’s yet another welcome move in the global fight against single-use plastics that has picked up speed in recent years. Bans on plastic items like bags and straws will soon come into effect in EU member states and cities like New York, and they are already widespread in places like India, where our strategist Amirah reports that the government’s tough stance has led to sharp reductions (example: it’s standard practice for Mumbai-area stores to pack groceries in reusable jute totes). (2 minutes)

🎧 Used Clothing Offers Fresh Hope For 2 Struggling Department StoresNPR

With "clothing recycling" on track to be a top search trend this year, it's clear that secondhand shopping is becoming mainstream. And now, department stores J.C. Penney and Macy’s have announced partnerships with resale site ThredUP to start selling used clothing in their locations. Not only are these partnerships expected to draw more millennial consumers to stores, but they’re also part of the retailers’ larger efforts to embrace circular solutions that allow clothes to stay in use for as long as possible. (audio; 4 minutes)

MOST CLICKED FROM LAST ISSUE // Job at Who Gives A Crap — We hope you found the job description as funny as we did! Scroll down for this week’s jobs listing.

Social Impact Jobs

Early Career

Allbirds — Associate, Product Strategy & Merchandising (San Francisco)

Cora — Senior Associate, Digital & Community (San Francisco)

Grove Collaborative — Email Marketing Associate (San Francisco)

Kin&Co — Team Assistant (London)

Macmillan — Fall Sustainability Intern (New York)

Maersk — Sustainability Data Analyst (Copenhagen)

REBA — Graduate Intern, Communications and Media (Washington, DC Area)

Rothy’s — Product Manager (San Francisco)

Skoll Foundation — Production Coordinator (Palo Alto, California)

The Nature Conservancy — Program Assistant (Washington, DC Area)


Accenture — Communications Manager, Corporate Citizenship (London)

Amazon — Sr. Product Manager, Private Label Sustainability (Seattle) contact directly 

Circ — Sustainability Manager (Berlin)

Cisco — Sustainability and Circular Economy Program Manager (San Jose, California)

Corporate Citizenship — Associate Director (New York)

ELEVATE — Business Development Manager, Analytics (New York)

Fair Trade USA — Trade Certification Manager, Apparel and Home Goods (Oakland, California)

Flipkart — Associate Director, Sustainability (Bangalore, India)

Higg Co. — Product Marketing Manager (Remote)

McPherson Strategies — Account Manager (Chicago, New York, or Remote)

Keurig Dr. Pepper — Sustainability Specialist (Burlington, Massachusetts or Plano, Texas)

One Degree — Product Manager (San Francisco)

Pandora — Senior Manager, Sustainability (Bangkok, Thailand)

Philips — Senior Manager, Sustainability (Shanghai) 

PIE Strategy Ltd. — Senior Sustainability Analyst (Hong Kong)

PwC — Sustainability & Climate Change Manager (Singapore)

The Climate Group — Policy Manager, Climate Diplomacy (London)

VMWare — Program Manager, Sustainability (Heredia, Costa Rica)


Business & Human Rights Resource Centre — Head of Corporate Responsibility (London)

Cineplex — Head of Sustainability (Toronto)

Envia — Director, Sustainability and Climate Initiatives (Bethesda, Maryland)

Fitch Ratings — Head of Corporate Social Responsibility (London)

Henkel — Sustainability Manager (Amsterdam)

Rare — Vice President, U.S. Climate Change (Arlington, Virginia)

Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council — CEO (Washington, DC Area)

The North Face — Director, Global Sustainability (Denver, Colorado)

Walmart — Senior Manager, CSR (Beijing) 

Yoox Net-A-Porter Group — Head of Sustainability (Milan, Italy)

Do you have an opening at your organization? Click here to learn about submitting a “Hot Job Alert”.

Impacted by this    Instagram post    from meat-loving celebrity chef Eddie Huang on why he’s giving up beef:“There really isnt time to waste. Some things have to start today.”

Impacted by this Instagram post from meat-loving celebrity chef Eddie Huang on why he’s giving up beef:“There really isnt time to waste. Some things have to start today.”