Brad Black and Susan Girffin-Black co-own and run one of the last largest independently owned organic beauty companies, EO Products. EO Products creates natural body care products based on essential oils and is a company rooted in strong values around people and planet. In operation for over 25 years they have the highest of standards in their ingredients for the quality of the product and the safety of the end user.
Brad Black 0:03
Would you share all of the business decisions that you make every single day and the outcome and the impact it has on the world with your kids? Would they be proud of the actions that you make?
Benn Marine 0:20
From Dirigo Collective, this is Responsibly Different. Sharing stories of Certified B Corporations and our journey of joining them in leveraging business as a force for good.
Brad Black and Susan Griffin Black co owned and run one of the last largest independently owned organic beauty companies EO products. EO products creates natural body care products based on essential oils and is a company rooted in strong values around people and planet. In my conversation with Susan and Brad, they shared how EO products came to be, as well as their line of products under Everyone For Every Body, and how their spiritual practices have informed their work. They have a deep love and passion for their team, the work and the details in their ingredients. without much further ado, let’s jump on in. Let’s start by talking about the two of you. I’d be curious to hear a little bit about yourselves how you met and kind of how your products and everyone came to be.
Susan Griffin Black 1:29
Yeah, I think I could just start with in the in 1991. I am. I had the honor of working with the late Doug Tompkins at Esprit and he was really looking at the model of how we make things. And in that, you know, met a lot of environmentalists and, you know, and designers and industrial designers, and really started to realize it opened the portal about just interconnectivity. And also the idea that cotton was responsible and the farming and processing of cotton was responsible for so much greenhouse gas and toxicity to the people that were farming and processing. And so we were looking for alternatives. And then so through that, that was a really eye opening process. And simultaneously, Brad and I had met and started to become friends. And I went ended up going to London for a business trip. And as I was like running between, you know, Paul Smith’s and Mooji in Covent Garden, I happened into this incredible little courtyard, called Neal’s Yard, and Neal’s Yard had dairy Neal’s Yard dairy, and Neal’s Yard Apothecary wasn’t, you know, 12 o’clock, I walked in the most amazing, beautiful smell ever. It was a combination of all of the essential oils, and the herbs. And they were, you know, making medicine in the back, you would go upstairs to a homeopath or aroma therapist, and then you would come downstairs and get your prescriptions filled. So I picked up this bottle of lavender angustifolia, from France, and just like the light went on, and I knew what I wanted to do next, you know. And so I came back and ended up meeting the owner, we ended up getting the distribution license for the US. And through that we both learned a lot about essential oils, aromatherapy, herbal medicine, to crash course at UCLA and cosmetic chemistry. And Brad had a clothing company at the time, and he was down the hall from where we were, and I got a private label order from Birkenstock and we were gonna fill it by hand. And so and Brad came down and he’s like, Oh, no, you’re never gonna be able to fill 10,000 of these bottles and salts and all that. And he said, gravity feed we got to kind of jury rigged this so you can anyway, it’s like he won me and he had made gravity feed. You know, he started helping, he ended up dissolving his business. We realized you know that we have very complementary skills. And And also, we started dating. And then EO was born out of a private label project for Bloomingdale’s in 95. We also got married in 95. We had our daughter Lucy in 96. And here we are just a few short years later,
Benn Marine 5:01
That’s amazing. That’s awesome. It sounds like you all started with the kind of mission of building a company that you wanted to, to work for that was also in alignment with your values, right? Of kind of supporting the planet, and also your workers. I’m curious, where do you feel like you are on that journey now?
Brad Black 5:19
We’re still on the same journey. You know, we, we want to work for the company that we work for. And we want to really support our values, which are for the people for the planet, certainly for profits,for purpose. And as we grow a really, you know, another way to say it is life changes, sales go up last year has been tough for us COVID sales have gone down, yet the mission and how we engage in it, in a sense stays the same in terms of the core values. And, and much of what we do is how do we integrate in these ideas, strategy, priorities, initiatives? And how do you implement them in a way that feels right, that are aligned with our values and purpose. And so life constantly changes, and much about how we work together? How much the company works together, as a community here is around change. You want to support your actions in the in the values and you know, the purpose.
Susan Griffin Black 6:27
Yeah, so embracing change, you know, is such a part of life, right. And it’s a practice. And so, you know, it’s been our practice with taking all the sort of resistance and headwinds about change, and really trying to, I wouldn’t say normalize it, but really be in the flow with what’s happening now. Not what should be happening, not what we want to be happening. But what is happening, actually, right. And so in a business, especially as we’ve grown over the years, it’s, it’s tricky in terms of maintaining culture make gaining people’s expectation of how it used to be, and how it is now, you know, for the long time, yeah, we have many people that we’ve been working with for, you know, 10 years, 15 years. And so, you know, if we’ve made it this far, we certainly want to, you know, keep going. So it just is an interesting, you know, we’re definitely a learning culture, and processing culture as as much as a community,
Benn Marine 7:34
I’m curious kind of hearing about the the importance for change. I feel like that’s so true for so many businesses, for folks that might be listening, what advice might you have for them in terms of that, kind of leaning into discomfort of change? And how kind of scary it can be?
Brad Black 7:49
You know, it’s a great question, and certainly something that we’re all confronted with on a minute, certainly every hour. And, you know, I think allowing the space for to know that change is inevitable, and that it comes and that you want to kind of work through for myself, I want to work through the discomfort, the fear of not being experienced the fear of failure, in that change. And so it’s a kind of loosen up, take a deep breath, that’s a feeling an emotional part. And then another part of what about how you can confront the changes in an intellectual. So it would be transactional, that it becomes about creating initiatives, but change really confronts us with two things, the fear and the emotional response. And then like, Okay, let’s get let’s get to work,
Benn Marine 8:44
Right, like actual, how do we solve the problem at hand? That’s super real.
Susan Griffin Black 8:49
But you know, identifying the problem, I think is a big part of it process is like, are we asking the right question? And are we addressing the right problem? And so, you know, that’s been also cultivated through experience and dialogue and community
Benn Marine 9:08
That makes a lot of sense. I’m curious, what is the difference between EO products and everyone for everybody, or everybody I should say,
Susan Griffin Black 9:17
We started the EO Brand with Bloomingdale’s as a private label gig with four little skews in the holiday catalog in 95. And then we really found our home and the natural products industry, Whole Foods and EO was really has always been a collection of products that are very personal. You know, you choose your scent you choose the sort of performance and and aromatherapy sort of calling. And then our products always have just performed extremely well. We’re makers. So as EO is a personal sort of self care reflective collection of products in And you know, that was growing very organically in the natural products business over the years, everyone sort of came out of the gate as a much more younger, family oriented, value oriented. And it really was like essential oils for everyone. How do we bring the beauty, efficacy and that experience to people who may not be able to afford EO? And how do we make a better product for families, for kids for, for everyone, really, and put it in places that serve everyone.
Brad Black 10:35
You know, we took a lot of our great thinking and successes and our failures from in EO, it’s like having a second kid, you know, there’s just hot more ease in the mix. And, and so we took a lot of our great thinking and made it more accessible. And at the time we launched EO Value is something really important. So could you sell a product less expensively than EO, but had twice or three times the amount of volume. So was really an elevation. And it’s really, it was a different market as well, that we were selling to and available to a lot larger groups. So we really sell much of everyone in the mass channels. Whereas he owes a little bit more focused
Susan Griffin Black 11:21
And natural and a little bit of a different customer. Neo has a little bit bolder, more educated, sophisticated. Shops Pier One, Whole foods, Amazon, you know,
Benn Marine 11:33
That makes sense. I have to say personally, I’m I’m a huge fan of just the brand, Everyone and just kind of the message that it sends because I feel like so often, you know, our, our hygiene products end up being so gendered. Right. And so the fact that it is like gender neutral, literally, for every body is huge. I think it’s amazing. It’s great.
Susan Griffin Black 11:54
Yeah. But you know, so the idea there of inclusivity. And then when we looked at, you know, what’s on the shelves at Walmart, especially. And you know, there’s a Walmart store for 90% of Americans within 10 miles of every American 90% of Americans. So then when you think about other issues like social justice, underserved communities, the challenge became how do we make a beautiful product, for everyone, really, for everyone, you know, in terms of distribution and ingredients, and a better freedom product. So, you know, that’s it’s very woven into our mission of inclusivity.
Brad Black 12:38
And the message, like you said, Ben is like everyone, for everybody, everyone, for everyone. It’s such just so much a part of our purpose, that the, the naming of that product really was such a fabulous win for us.
Benn Marine 12:54
So it kind of begs the question, How is yo doing essential oils differently, that’s kind of the root of where you all came from? What makes your essential oils so different?
Susan Griffin Black 13:05
I think it’s a couple of things. One is, you know, we have a certain taste level that we’ve cultivated through in other industries, you know, and both of us actually came from the fashion industry. So we had a sense of what we liked, what was comfortable, what was great, what, what’s great about this, you know, and just in being in that dialogue, translated very well to, you know, do you like the way this smells? Or do you like, this smells? Is this from a farm in, you know, are we getting our lavender from France? Are we getting our lavender from Bulgaria or getting it from, you know, adulterated from somewhere else. So that learning and discerning piece of, you know, it’s like Alice Waters making a Caesar salad, you know, or, or a vinaigrette, where, you know, there’s five ingredients, and the five ingredients that she picks are very different from the five ingredients, the quality of each one, even though they could be the same five, you know, then Sizzler making a vinaigrette, right? So very much very analogous to what we do. It’s like every ingredient really counts. Every ingredient supports the synergy of the essential oil blend, because it’s better for us. And it it also aids the performance, the beauty, the experience. So then what we learned from plant base from essential oils and the supporting ingredients, when we did everyone is that we could call call out and call down. The ones that were less expensive and still beautiful. It’s just, you know, rose is $1,100 a kilo and you know, lavenders $75 dollars a kilo. So, when you start mixing, I mean, these are the real, these are the real sort of issues and reality that comes into the, into the mix.
Benn Marine 15:10
Going a little further with the aroma therapy piece, can you kind of expand on the role aroma therapy has and why it’s something that feels so important.
Susan Griffin Black 15:21
You know, we’re deeply connected to nature, by nature, we are nature. And when you smell and feel what an essential oil smells like in your body, smelling a rose, you’re smelling jasmine are walking by, you know, that night jasmine plant where all of a sudden, it’s like, Oh, my God, what smells so good. You know, it’s, it’s kind of a riveting stops you in your tracks, hence, you know, stop and smell the roses. So the thing is, the other analogy and example we use a lot is, so you know, they make incredible fake flowers these days, right? So you could be 10 feet away from two flowers next to each other one, a self grows and the other a real rose. And it may look the same from here. But as you move closer, the smell, the texture, the connection, you know, is is really important. Like we could you could like this synthetic fragrance. And that could be very pleasing. But it’s very, very superficial in terms of what it does in that pleasure realm. Oh, that’s nice, that smells good. And then, but it isn’t really doing anything other than Oh, that smells good. Whereas essential oils, like food, like water, like, you know, their plants, and they’re alive. And essential oils are very concentrated. So they they really meet us with our own biology and physiology. So you know, we could call it vibration, we could call it but it it is very high frequency because it’s like us.
Benn Marine 17:07
Can you speak a bit about how you source safe, natural, organic and sustainably farmed ingredients.
Brad Black 17:14
There’s kind of two aspects to that. One is, from a chemistry standpoint, having a staff knowledgeable, who knows how to analyze the very specific the chemical change in many of the ingredients, certainly in the essential oils, some proper some growth methods, the growing methods are acceptable, and some aren’t. Synthetic fertilizers aren’t something that’s acceptable to us, but certainly is prevalent in the industry. Relationship is another big part Susan mentioned before, but one of the differentiations that we have is EO is our attention to how something smells, again, lots of different types of lavenders. Out there, synthetic is one of them. And yet we have a very distinct lavender smell. And we’ve had that for 25 years. And so it’s very intentional around how that smell is. And then the attributes, chemically agricultural practices, organic is one of them. Non GMO is another is certainly from an analytical transactional part you can you can actually see, and then the other is going to the farm. And wow, what a wonderful experience to go to Morocco or to go to Australia or to go to Western China, or in the United States, there are many wonderful small growers of essential oil that we have relationships with. And we certainly try to support them as a small business in relationship. We both want to thrive. And then from an attribute side, we think, you know, a lot of the small growers provide a really excellent and better product in many cases.
Benn Marine 18:56
Can you speak a little bit about kind of sustainable manufacturing and how that plays into the mix of everything?
Brad Black 19:03
Yeah, you know, the first thing that comes to mind, Benn is the word sustainable, which I really struggle with, you know, Responsibly Different is a fabulous name and I love I like responsible business, responsible business practices versus sustainable because nothing, you know, we talked about change. And for us, you know, growth 20 years ago, we would never think about manufacturing, with with other third party companies. And now we’re really looking to expand our capacities by manufacturing responsibly, and much of this is about relationship. You know, we talked about ingredients, it’s about Susan’s relationship that she has with scent with a specific lavender with people. And we have a relationship with every formula that’s made with every chemist that’s on staff here that makes the formula with everyone on in our QA and QC team that looks at every ingredient, not only from a smell side, but from a chemical side, and then how our products may, and it’s all under this, you know, it’s again, it’s that process of how you mix it. And then what does that end product like? Smells very important feel is very important. We could make an organic lotion certified 100%, yet, it might be sticky. Do you want to sticky lotion? Probably not. And so it’s the fact that we do it is so informative. And given that we’re under this umbrella of people, profit, planet, it’s how we make the decisions, relationship that we have dated, we were married, we’ve been divorced for 12 years. We yet it’s, it’s, um, can you integrate this in all the decisions are many of the decisions that you make in your life? The relationship? Yeah,
Susan Griffin Black 20:59
you know, it’s not like we have a lavender grower who we love the product, but we don’t like the people. You know, there’s no, the opportunity for dissonances always there. You know, and we’re, we’re very much about integration. So that it just the why is constantly being asked changed. And, you know, to sort of updated.
Benn Marine 21:29
You kind of alluded to this a little bit earlier that there are, you know, obviously competitors out there that maybe aren’t level aren’t manufacturing at the same, perhaps level of integrity or, or quality or whatnot. What kind of changes do you think need to be made across the beauty industry?
Susan Griffin Black 21:46
We’ve been involved with Whole Foods, organic standards, and ingredient deck from, you know, for years and years, and were part of the original formation of those ideas, because we really wanted to follow food. And we thought that Whole Foods was so right, in linking organic with organic agriculture. And it wasn’t an easy fit for personal care, and certainly not color cosmetics, because they don’t use a lot of agricultural products. But we do, you know, because we use essential oils. So I think that the health and safety and especially health and safety for women, because they use so many products, and so many chemicals by 10am, and that it’s incumbent upon manufacturers to really not only think about each individual ingredient, but the rise of multiple ingredients that we don’t really know how they affect each other, and don’t really know how they meet with pollution, environmental stressors, all of it. So our idea from a practical point of view is, let’s use the safest, most gentle, effective ingredients. And so not everybody considers that the you know, some of the much bigger, you know, multi national companies is very difficult to interrupt that supply chain when you’re 11 billion in 40 countries for one product or something. So we saw that as a challenge. Because if we could stay if we were makers, and we could stay agile, then we could keep evolving in the in the sort of realm of green chemistry, it absolutely has to be safe.
Brad Black 23:42
You know, you can tweak the question a little bit, and you can say what changes need to be made within industry? To take beauty out of it. What what changes need to be made within business, within government? You know, and and I think that that’s, that’s it’s it the answers the answers the same, you know, we were making products for ourselves, for our kids, for our friends, you know, this is this is what small businesses do. You know, it’s very, it’s very local. However, we’ve really kept that as we’ve grown. And so there’s so much change that needs to be made in business. Why is why is it a profit above everything else? Would you share all of the business decisions that you make every single day and the outcome and the impact it has on the world with your kids? Would they be proud of the actions that you make? And then the answer comes back and says, Well, you know, I mean, I have to make these decisions, because well, you know, it’s up to me to put food on the table. Yet there can be many choices around how you choose to engage in your actions. And so, you know, it’s a challenge to everyone, all the listeners and to us as well, we embrace that our actions do have an impact, and how responsible are you In terms of holding that impact, or like the energy of the impact, or the idea of the impact within within you, and then does that change around how we make decisions? And so it matters to us that we use bottles that are made from recycled content? Can we do better than that? Of course, we can do better and everything that we do, you know, it’s not using synthetic fragrances versus essential oils. And the other side is, well, they’re more expensive, they’re harder. They’re harder to work with. We don’t color the products, you know, we try to pay people a living wage and give them benefits. And, and so, you know, we always say it’s like the golden rule, can you treat people the way you want to be treated? Can you create a company that you want to work for, and everyone in the business participates that way, and is still part of the leadership group here. We try to support that thinking throughout, because we’re really less a business than we are a collective of people.
Benn Marine 26:00
I love that. I love that. It’s so well said. And I think it’s a perfect segue into B Corp land you all, you know, speaking of using business as a force for good, you all, were early adopters of B Corp back in 2011, and B Corp movement and Excel 2007. How did you hear about certification and what got you involved?
Susan Griffin Black 26:25
So we were pretty resistant at first, because their poster child was a friendly competitor of ours, much bigger company Method. And though we loved the packaging piece of what they were trying to do, we always disagreed with their ingredients. And, artificial coloring. So I was like, Well, I don’t know if I can, you know, and they weren’t really part of the natural products industry yet, because so I would say we were a B Corp before B Corps. And then in meeting that community, even though we were a little slow going, because we weren’t sure if it was our community, what we realized that just having a community that was measuring, that was auditing that was looking was a great, a great step in being part of a community that’s looking at these things, and people to talk to about these things. And so once we jumped in, you know, we really jumped in and really work on improving our score and seeing what we can do better. And we, you know, participate and talk to the B Corp community, on a fairly regular, regular basis.
Brad Black 27:40
You know, it was a little bit of a sidestep, for us would be court, because as Susan said, we were already involved in it. And the science step is is can we be certified? Can we be acknowledged by an organization? That’s that’s set, we we believe in many of the same things people profit planet, yet, we define them a little bit differently. And, you know, our resistance to getting in there Is it the one of the poster child was just, you know, they just embraced their definition of what is responsible business differently than ours? And I think every business would say that they’re responsible or sustainable, hey, look, we’re saying, Well, we, you know, like, I recycle an envelope every single month. I mean, that’s extreme. I think most companies and people engage more than that yet, there’s a there’s a degree, we happen to be on a far side of accountability that we put in, in the result of our actions. It’s just not about an action. It’s how does that
Susan Griffin Black 28:41
well, yeah, plant the seeds for the future? What’s sort of the, you know, sort of karmic, if you will, implication. And then also, you know, what is? What is this measuring, actually doing for all of us, you know, it’s not a place to shame or separate or, you know, other companies. And so it’s, it’s really the inclusivity piece of it is very, is still very important. So it’s that balance of, you know, this choice and responsibility in the, in the ability to respond, you know, and then and choices and decisions are really at the essence of that, because what we become what we think and, you know, the future is very dependent on the actions that we take today.
Benn Marine 29:37
That makes sense. And I’ve heard other folks mentioned too, that, I think, sometimes it can get a little tricky where B Corp I think, should never be the end of the road, right? Because it’s really more just the beginning, for a lot of folks and the people can take that journey as far as they want.
Brad Black 29:56
Yeah, it’s really it’s a really good point, you know, and I think one of the biggest benefits, other than, you know, being in a group of like minded people, certainly we engage differently, yet, it does help to have beacons to go for to work towards. And you know, the B Corp is a variety of businesses that they do some great work in terms of promoting the triple bottom line. And that’s a fabulous benefit. And then, you know, a few times a year we look at their certification process, and we say, Okay, we’re going to be a little bit more transactional and tweak here to get a higher B Corp score. And, and I think that there’s some benefit in that we don’t agree with everything. And we’re, you know, we’re different, certainly, yet overall, it’s really such a wonderful organization, and all companies should integrate, maybe not at the fullest level, but certainly a large part of what they have to offer.
Benn Marine 30:57
That makes sense. I’m curious, do you have maybe ideas or thoughts around how the the B Corp movement or even just the B impact assessment could be stronger? Or could kind of elevate everybody?
Brad Black 31:12
You know, there’s such a difference between being a manufacturer in the evaluation and questions and, or B as compared to like being a service business? Because, you know, manufacturing, is, as we said, you know, it’s a much more resource intensive process than being a legal firm. Yeah, the same, we’re all asked the same set of questions.
Similar, yeah. And then, you know, demographics, we’re in one of the most expensive places in the world, we manufacture in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. And, you know, pay is like, a whole different thing here, then, you know, if you’re in more of a rural place, but you know, from a, from a B Corp side of things, what’s nice about the process is that it’s, it’s information, and then you create action plans around that. And I think a lot of folks noncertified probably could be certified, they may have to do you know, these other 10 things to be certified? Because, well, you just never thought about it. And you would probably do it in a way that would score fairly well. And so, but the guidelines are nice. And the certification process is, it’s, it’s a menace, yet, yet, a lot of good things are a menace.
Susan Griffin Black 32:31
I mean, you know, it’s rigorous, and you got to, like stand up, and we all have as a team have to dig in. But you know, it’s, it’s all part of it.
Brad Black 32:39
And it’s a great, it’s a great community. And, and so not only in our industry, or as a manufacturer, or natural suits, you know, B Corp people are special people. I mean, we’re like minded in some ways. And, and that’s a benefit.
Benn Marine 32:56
Yeah. What advice would you give for if there’s a business listening that’s maybe thinking about certifying or is just like, maybe just sticking their toe in the water? What advice do you have for them about kind of starting on their B Corp journey?
Susan Griffin Black 33:08
Come on, get on board, you know, I mean, you just have to start. And then, you know, if you don’t make it the first year, you learn why you can’t, or where the problem areas are. And you can get so much help and support from the community, from B Lab, from B Corp from just all of our, you know, fellow colleagues. And so it really is being part of some thing that is, it’s not perfect, but it is like minded, supportive, and collaborative.
Brad Black 33:41
You know, they try to identify very specific tasks and where results, you know, pay scale, or how much do you recycle and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, it’s necessary to certify, it needs to be something very specific, actionable, and then there is a measurable result. And that’s pretty great. And you get the list, and you just start working your way down. What it doesn’t have is that touchy feely thing. What it doesn’t have is the intention. But when we started this, there was never a B Corp. There weren’t these certifications, we became one before it started. Because it’s how we want it to engage. And that’s kind of a little bit of a warning, use it as a transactional checklist to become certified as a B Corp. Fabulous. And also we need to be impassioned, as who we are individually, as well as as a company to move forward with those things that are not yet on the list of B Corp or some things that may never make it on there.
Susan Griffin Black 34:46
Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. You like that? I do know because, you know, you don’t want people to feel discouraged about that list. You know, it’s kind of daunting. It’s like, I you know, I’m worried about cash flow? How can I worry about this too, but it does give you a roadmap. So if you start down the path, then you can see sort of where you’re where you’re going. If that’s what you want, again, you know, it’s kind of match up to the why. And, and then I think it just eases the whole thing, knowing that you’re walking in that direction. And if it takes you a year or two, that’s fine.
Brad Black 35:24
You know, I’ll give you a little cheat sheet, little insider info here. We love being a B Corp, are you concerned what I’m going to say? No, and no, no. And as to where we love being a B Corp, and we tend to score on the low side. And we could work our way up, we could be in the middle, and we could be on the top and the beast in the rating system. Yet, I want to make sure that we don’t get crazy about just engaging for a higher score, and make more room for the things that don’t have a score but have high meaning for us. And, and so we always want to be certified and we go down that path, yet not too much. Not too crazy. Because there’s, there’s enough of that, that then is we’re early, we’re we’re early adopters, we you know, we’re early in a lot of these things. And so if we’re too much in the present in terms of how to get certified now, it doesn’t give us a room to to grow and be innovative and to engage in the world as we see fit yet. Part of that might be unrecognized, or embraced.
Susan Griffin Black 36:34
Yeah, I think that that’s also when you’re a manufacturer, and you have to contend with, you know, being a zero waste manufacturer, paying people fairly benefits ratios, top to bottom, you know, it’s very different, as we know, then some other businesses and so striving for a score is less important than doing the next right thing, as long as we are, of course, maintaining our status.
Brad Black 37:04
So there could be a supplier who you really like who’s non certified organic, or maybe they use some fertilizers that you don’t want, yet you go with them anyway. And you say, You know what, I’m going to start throwing some dollars your way, I’m going to buy your product because I like the product. I like you as an organization. I like how you treat the people. And as an ad is, is we want you to slowly but surely take that fertilizer out or integrate in these different practices that then make you more B Corp like or on our case, more EO like, and so that’s a step back from a scoring standpoint, yet it’s really forward in a relationship standpoint, in a variety of ways. But it’s just you know, it’s that concept of don’t get too laser focused. It’s all about rightful action. Right?
Benn Marine 37:52
That makes sense. So not eliminating, like a potential partner or something like that, because it’s not doesn’t fit this strict box. But instead, we’re going to expand the box a little bit and support you in finding your way towards that bar. I guess does that sound right?
Brad Black 38:11
Yeah. Because? Because really, it’s like about relationship? And there’s room?
Susan Griffin Black 38:17
Well, yeah, I mean, we’ve we’ve worked with, like, I remember having to choose between this, you know, beautiful tea that’s been grown in China in the High Plains for 2500 years. But of course, they had no organic certification. Because it’s all wild crafted and cultivated there, you know, it was beautiful. And then there was another tea, like, you know, from India that was organically certified, but not nearly the, you know, flavor, color quality. You know, which one do you pick? So, these are the questions, you know, the everyday questions that we have to answer. And, you know, it’s like, Well, is it quality? Are we trying to make the most beautiful, best product that we can? Or, and, you know, so it’s like, it just comes up in in so many ways.
Benn Marine 39:12
I’m curious to speaking of that kind of holistic picture. I know. Susan, you’ve been very open about your Buddhist beliefs. I’m curious how they work themselves into EO.
Susan Griffin Black 39:22
Yeah. So I’ve been a Buddhist student for 30 years. And by Buddhist student, I mean, you know, practiced retreats teacher, devoted, you know, it’s like, you can’t take the Buddha out of me, now, you know, because it’s like steeped. So, the essence of the three poisons of Buddhism, or greed, hate and delusion, right. So when you just think about that, if you’re trying to operate a business, in the absence of or the reduction of those three things, it sets you on a very different path, because you’re up against the greed piece, which is institutionalized in our country, to the cost of kids being hungry, and all sorts of problems, you know, that have always been there. So, but we really want it diminished suffering, right? And so, when you have those tenants that you practice with, and Brad similarly has, is very devoted spiritual practitioner. And so it’s like, we really come together on what is the essence? What is the most important thing? What is the why? And what values are we ascribing to by doing this, or by doing that? So it’s very helpful.
Benn Marine 40:59
I’m curious, what’s your secret to you, if you’ve been divorced for 12 years, I’m curious, your secret to achieving such a kind of unlikely partnership with one another
Susan Griffin Black 41:09
Love. Love and, and real, like, deep, caring, and wanting the best for each other, and being part of the same family. You know, that hasn’t, that hasn’t changed.
Brad Black 41:29
You know, its relationship again, and are, you know, this, that the divorce is just like, such nasty connotations to it. And I like this to say, really, that our relationship evolved. And I would argue against anyone that divorce wasn’t a positive issue in our lives have positive events in our lives. And we care and love each other very deeply. And we, we evolved in our relationship, we’re still very connected. And we’ve evolved spiritually. And, and, and in so many different ways, the marriage thing, and the divorce thing. It’s just kind of this, like, societal religious demand of a context that they want you to participate in. You know, and you could look at that across the board, many of the things that we talked about, like synthetic fragrance, you know, are they really teaching kids in college, how to work with essential oils, where there’s a lot of the attention go to how to build out a chemical chain with synthetics, probably more of more of that,
Susan Griffin Black 42:44
Because it’s less expensive. Generally, I you know, so I would say it’s pretty much greed, hate and, you know, there’s the ignorance piece, there’s the cultural unwillingness to acknowledge interdependence as an ultimate reality. So you know, so they’re still is, as far as we’ve come, this idea that whoever has the most when they die wins, you know, so, and not regarding what it is that we’re accumulating for. And when you look at all of the problems that this is created, you know, we’re, we’re in the thick of it now, for sure,
Brad Black 43:27
You know, the spiritual practice, but you could also say, the attention to our own individual accountability that really comes out in spiritual practice enabled us to sort of evolve things, you know, in divorce, it’s such a nasty thing, and you want to lay blame, or you don’t want to take responsibility for the s-h-i-huh, that you engaged in. And so the spiritual practice is really this practice of diving deep within oneself. And in a business setting. And that’s, you know, and so it helped us in the business setting, but it also enabled us to evolve in the relationship to take ownership for our strengths, and for our areas of opportunity of growth.
Susan Griffin Black 44:11
Challenges and challenges.
Benn Marine 44:14
I love that. I’m curious, what advice would you give to anyone listening who is interested in creating a business with the goal of being a force for good?
Susan Griffin Black 44:25
It goes back to the why. You know, I had this conversation today about someone’s career path. And they’re like, Well, if I do this, then they’ll see me as a marketer, but I really want to be a, you know, Brand Manager with a umbrella of responsibility. And so, you know, they’re sort of finagling for their perfect resume. And I’m like, why, why, why are you even thinking about that? Really? Are you going to limit yourself, you know, you’ve got to work at sort of the other way from the inside out. So I think that people have to know themselves and know why. And, and then proceed. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with saying, because I want to do it for money. If you say I want to do it for money, or and I’ve heard a lot of people say, it’s a three year gig, I’m in three years, and I’m out, you know, it’s, it’s a very different point of view, and it leaves you in a very different direction. And I, it’s, we don’t have a judgement about that. But that’s not really what we’re doing here.
Brad Black 45:37
In the question about being a force for good. If I just add in one word, there totally changes how you probably receive it. And it’s being a force for the common good. How we each individually defined good, it could just be rooted in money, or it could be a variety of different ways of what benefits me good for good for Brad. However, if you just shifted slightly, and it’s less about me, and it’s more of an external thing that I aspire to, for the common good. It’s difficult in the business space, because business is really defined for individual good individual power, individual greed, individual, you name that yet, for the force for the common good, is really, I think, where the B Corp is, and really the umbrella that we try to operate from.
Susan Griffin Black 46:27
Yeah, I mean, we have the privilege of being in a position to work for the common good, you know, which, which hasn’t really been associated with business. And so the integration that we’re all talking about is, what is the highest good. And when you start to think that way, your independence, autonomy and your self is good, isn’t necessarily the highest good. And when those things align, then there’s magic.
Brad Black 47:01
You know, we want to participate in community in a positive way we want to add, we want to contribute in a positive way. And I think the workspace is where we have can have the largest level of impact. And so, as we get older, we kind of look at things a little bit differently. And how do you want what what’s your legacy? How do you want to be remembered, and in a way to sort of figure out how you want to work where you want to work, what you want to do, is he kind of got to look backwards, is how do you want to see yourself have worked, have participated. And then that’s part of the roadmap to sort of help yourself move forward versus I’m just doing a three year gig and I’ll crank it out. And again, there’s a space for that, yet, I don’t think that many of them perhaps, have been, maybe this isn’t the right thing, and you can scratch us out of the recording thing. But it’s, it’s, you know, it’s like we make a lot of mistakes, yet, the mistakes are really opportunities that then you can embrace and you can you can move forward with.
So I think that the only elephant in the room in this whole conversation is about how we’re financed. And the difference of being self financed with Angel investors at the beginning, SBA loans, you know, versus, you know, being in a model of having to grow X percent, so that you can satisfy the shareholders and the fun and the this, you know, to, to a liquidity point, that is really good for the mostly founder owner. And so, the, because we have consciously chosen to not take that money. It’s been, you know, a very different journey.
Benn Marine 48:58
I think that’s also good advice and something for folks to be cognizant of as, as they’re starting on their own journeys. I do have one more question for you. I’ve got a question from a listener. Claire asks, she wants to know how you make your product smell so good. The lavender scent is amazing. She says she uses it all the time.
Susan Griffin Black 49:17
Thanks, Claire. We love you. It’s the selection of the oil and where it comes from, in every single oil on its own, has these you know, very unique properties, like people and the combination synergizes the individual properties. So the blends really, everyone in you know, they eat to enhance each other. So it’s alchemy, you know,
Brad Black 49:44
You just want one last thing I like to say that we’re a company intentioned around actions to try to achieve certain results and, and it’s wonderful that Claire asked that question. We can really put a lot of effort in and we do put a lot of effort into making products, you can put a lot of effort in trying to communicate something yet, it’s very frequent and like in our normal conversations that someone just doesn’t understand the way you intended. And then you have to sort of take a back step. And so being in this space are, you’re saying, you know, what advice to give people who want to be a force for good, or the common good is that it’s fabulous to be to make the money, because we need to make money, you have to be attention to how it’s received. And is it received in a way that you intend, and the fact that Claire’s calling up and appreciates the scent is very big, it’s very important for us for 25 years. 26. And so it’s, it’s, it’s, it just moves it away a little bit from me individually to more external enforce, and for common good, and that have that attention on that kind of result.
Well, I just want to encourage especially the female entrepreneurs, because I think, you know, for women and for families, women having control over their own time and money. And being able to be flexible with childcare, and family is awesome. Being able to be flexible to take care of each other is a very important piece of this very important piece of the why, for us. So I just would encourage everyone to start.
Well said, you know, for me, what I love about being an entrepreneur and certainly working with Susan and all of our people here at EO is that we’re intention with our own our values and how we want to engage in business. And some things we do, we do really well, the result is fabulous, and many we fail. And the only thing that I can say in the advices is that at least we’re going down doing things that we believe in, versus failing, by doing things the way other people want us to behave.
Benn Marine 52:45
Want to thank you so much for tuning into this episode of responsibly different. I also want to give you a little update on our own journey to B Corp certification. Because I know it’s been a while since we’ve done that. As many of you may remember, we submitted our B Impact Assessment April 30 of this year, and were greeted with an automated email from B Lab, that the queue for review was eight months long. So we’re anticipating to start the review process in December. Though while we’re at a little bit of a standstill on our certification, we have continued to explore ways that we can do better coming out of our conversation with Eric Zimmerman from trip zero in the last episode, which you can check out to to hear that full conversation. We reached out to native energy in Burlington, Vermont about funding carbon offset projects, we’ve calculated that our carbon footprint annually is 81 tons of carbon each year, including our staffs, commutes, and travel, and all of those bits and pieces. So we will be getting our B Corp committee back together to review some of the projects that native energy sent our way that we are excited to invest in. And so we’re going to be selecting one of those. And I’ll certainly keep you all up to date on that process. And ultimately which project we end up choosing to help support. And they’re also really cool if you haven’t checked out native energy in regards to carbon offsets or funding carbon offset projects, that what they do is really interesting. So they actually, we actually had a conversation with them this week about how and I’m sure, hopefully someday we’ll get them on the show as well. But how a huge part of what they do is beyond just selling certified carbon offset credits, they’re actually funding projects to get started in the carbon offset. So creating projects that in years will have certified credits. But by creating these new projects, it’s having a larger impact on the planet because it’s starting something new that wouldn’t otherwise have the viability or opportunity to flourish. So really cool stuff there. Definitely check them out. I’ll make sure to throw a link to them in the show notes for sure. And if If you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts, it helps other folks just like yourself find this content. You can also head on over to responsibly different and sign up for our email newsletter. Starting this month, we’ll be sending out a monthly newsletter with a roundup of different events, we’re hearing about highlights from our content and more, you can sign up at responsibly different comm slash support. This month, we’ll also be launching our very own Patreon page, which, if you’re not familiar, Patreon is a platform for content creators and their fans to support their work and keep their work going. So by setting up our very own Patreon page, which will give paying subscribers bonus features and exclusive access to more content, and to be able to participate in our creation process, we have a lot of ideas and plans for content that we want to create with you all. And by having this Patreon page, it helps fund the work that we’re doing through responsibly different so we’re really excited for that to end to end to roll that out. So you will be hearing about that very, very soon. Next time on responsibly different turkey day is around the corner. And if you’re vegan or a vegetarian like myself, now is about the time you start thinking about exciting new meat free recipes to introduce to your family. And now also like myself if you if the thought of finding a new recipe, getting yourself to the store cooking it all of the pieces that go into that feels overwhelming. Well our next guest makes finding delicious meat free meals ready to eat easy as literal pie. That’s right, our next guest is Senior Director of sustainability for Amy’s kitchen
Unknown Speaker 56:49
beyond Amy’s I just think this whole movement has this really unique opportunity to redefine capitalism and for us that’s so exciting that you know if Amy’s you know, and really even be corpse weren’t this sort of unique group of early leaders of something new but if that’s just the way business was done in this country around the globe, we’d really have a more hopeful future and I think for us being part of that and being able to be part of that community of companies and learn from them be inspired by them help inspire that forward to other that’s some it’s just a wonderful yeah just I don’t know like minded cohort of allies on a similar place in a similar way that really it feels good.
Benn Marine 57:25
Till next time. Be responsibly different. This is a production of Dirigo Collective Claire Classon is our Project Manager. Jeremy Glass is our Writer. The music isn’t original score by our very own Kevin Oates, and I Benn Marine am your host and editor. To learn more about Dirigo Collective visit dirigocollective.com