Sustainability 2.0: Be Green Packaging and the Triple Bottom Line

Author’s Note:  This article is the product of a series of conversations that took place throughout July & August 2011 with Ron Blitzer, Robert Richman, and Eva Van Wingerden.  It covers topics such as sustainability, philanthropy, the triple bottom line philosophy, and how these subjects relate to the company’s forthcoming manufacturing plant in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

By Justin Faerman

The phenomena that define this era in history– climate change, globalization, the continual growth of the internet—prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that indeed all things on this planet are interconnected.  Nature weaves a rich tapestry of life that, when uninterrupted by human influence, maintains perfect balance, thriving and adapting indefinitely.  Businesses wishing to do just that – thrive and adapt – are beginning to mimic the interconnectedness of nature by considering all the ways in which their actions affect not only their bottom line, but society and the environment as a whole.  This approach to business, known as the triple bottom line philosophy, is fostering a new generation of companies that consider people and the planet of equal importance as profitability.

As a founding principle of the company, Be Green Packaging, LLC.’s current business model has been shaped in thought and practice by adherence to the triple bottom line philosophy.  “Embracing the environment and social equity in addition to profitability is part of our overarching goal of being a truly holistic, sustainable enterprise,” said Ron Blitzer, CEO, of the company’s ideals.  “Our ongoing contributions to international microcredit NGO’s such as the Whole Planet Foundation and various other charitable bodies is a concrete example of the importance we place on the larger societal context of our business.”

The company also maintains annual financial contributions to the Community Environmental Council and the Organic Center, two non-governmental organizations dedicated to furthering the ideals of the environmental and organic food movements, respectively.  Additionally, the company donates its line of compostable and recyclable plant based food packaging to organizations such as the Organic Soup Kitchen, Art from Scrap, and various local schools and universities, among others, on an ongoing basis.

“We like to support businesses and organizations which we feel are working towards positive social change,” commented Eva Van Wingerden, Director of Eco-Social Initiatives, on the company’s outreach efforts.  “These groups are more often than not operating on a shoestring budget and we try to help them out in whatever way we can.  Due to the nature of our business, it often makes the most sense to simply donate our product.”

In addition to its social outreach efforts, the company has acquired a comprehensive list of independent, 3rd party eco-certifications from some of the world’s most progressive environmental organizations.  “We can sit here all day and talk about how great our products are, but unless there is hard scientific data to back it up, it’s essentially just hype.  That is why we go to the lengths we do to get all of our products tested and certified by independent organizations.” stated Blitzer of the company’s efforts.

Be Green currently holds certifications from the Cradle to Cradlecm Products Innovation Institute, Western Michigan University’s Recycling Program, the Biodegradable Product’s Institute, the Non-GMO Project, and the USDA BioPreferred Program, among others.  The company also successfully completed its first AIB audit, which is a comprehensive review of the health and safety of its primary food contact manufacturing facility.

“Although we commonly view these eco-certifications as commitments to the environment, in truth, there are major social aspects to them as well.  At the end of the day, we are all dependent on healthy, functioning ecosystems, so protecting those through strict environmental policies also means we are indirectly supporting the future of the communities who rely on those ecosystem services for their livelihood.”  said Robert Richman, Chairman and President of Manufacturing at Be Green.   “Because we use annually renewable, wild-harvested plants as the basis of our products, we create ongoing industries around the harvesting of our pulp materials that create long-term, sustainable jobs.”

Be Green is currently in the process of bringing a swath of green jobs to Ridgeland, South Carolina, where it is developing the nations first plant fiber packaging manufacturing facility.  “We are committed to supporting the local community in Jasper county.  We realize that this area has been hit hard by the recession and that its residents are looking to us a source of hope for the future,” stated Blitzer when asked about the company’s goals in the area.  “It is a big responsibility and we are going to do everything within our power to provide as many jobs as possible and bring continued growth to the region.”  Ron went on to stress that although Be Green is seriously committed to the area, that residents should not expect things to change over night.  “Integrating ourselves into the area is a process that will evolve as our business in the area matures and grows.  We know everyone is very excited about our presence in the community.  We only ask that you have patience with us as these things take time to develop.”

Clearly, the triple bottom line philosophy is working well for the company.   With manufacturing operations on two continents and a growing list of clients that include notable companies such as P&G and Whole Foods Market, business is thriving.  “Our commitment to progressive environmental and social ideals has been critical to our success.” commented Blitzer.  “I hope that our business model serves to demonstrate that it is possible to embrace the principles of sustainability without compromising profitability.”