Origin Story Interview W/ Andrew Behar, As You Sow

Origin Story Interview W/ Andrew Behar, As You Sow

Brighter Future

 / 

Jan 31, 2024

#BrighterFuture #entrepreneurship #Sustainability #ClimateChangeSolution #originstoryseries #seekthechange #EnvironmentalActivism #SustainabilityRevolution #ConsciousConsumers #InvestingForChange #ClimateAction

Brighter Future

We spoke with Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. His organisation has helped companies change their policies and practices to reduce material risk for all stakeholders with regard to climate, pollution, and social justice for more than thirty years. Two very visible examples of As You Sow‘s work have been their success at bringing Starbucks to stop using plastic straws, and their contribution to ending styrofoam cup use at companies like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Thank you so much for being here with us, Andrew. Do you think you could introduce As You Sow and explain the company's mission?

As You Sow is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to corporate accountability in the United States. Our mission is to assist companies in shifting their policies and practices to reduce material risks for all stakeholders on issues including climate change; toxins in the food system; ocean plastics; diversity, equity, and inclusion; racial justice; and wage equity.

To achieve this, we conduct in-depth research, evaluating a company's performance based on publicly available data in various areas like recycling policies for plastics, pesticide handling in the food system, and their commitment to racial justice. Collecting massive amounts of data, we create scorecards distinguishing leaders from laggards in each sector.

We engage with companies, especially the laggards, and show them how they score against their direct competitors to demonstrate the advantages of adopting best practices. If necessary, we escalate by filing shareholder resolutions to ask all shareholders to weigh in on these suggested changes. This allows executive teams and the board to listen to shareholder voices which leads to positive outcomes. Our efforts focus on fostering positive impacts on employees, communities, customers, supply chains, and shareholders.

Additionally, we assess and rank mutual funds based on factors such as climate change, deforestation, weapons, private prisons, and gender, allowing people to invest in alignment with their values. This helps individuals understand if their retirement funds inadvertently support harmful practices out of alignment with their personal values, educating them to be able to make more informed choices for a sustainable future.

Do you initiate contact with those companies, or do they come to you? How does the process work with this extensive list of companies you're dealing with? How does it all begin?

It works both ways. Once we publish a scorecard, many companies reach out to us and say, "Hey, you gave us a score of 22, but we believe we deserve a 24, and here's why." In response, we might explain, "We noticed you released a diversity report, but it did not detail recruitment, retention, and promotion rates. We'll consider revising your score if you make those data  publicly available on your website." We receive numerous inquiries from companies in such cases. We also send out letters to company executives to let them know a new report has been released asking them for a meeting to discuss their score and how it compares to their peers.

It is critical that the data is publicly available, otherwise it is not considered to be a material disclosure. The term "materiality" is legally significant, as it refers to any information that impacts an investor's decision to buy or sell stock. Public companies are required to disclose anything that is material. Our role involves urging companies to make these material disclosures so investors can have comparability in a standardised format. Audited financials are the most basic material disclosure, they are verified by a third party and make it easy to compare one company against its peers.

Additionally, we examine our scorecards and identify leaders who are very close to reaching a significant milestone. In these cases, we reach out to them and encourage them to take the final step that could elevate their status. By doing so, they can gain substantial positive publicity and associate their brand with positive actions.

For example, back in 2017, we focused on the issue of pesticides and carcinogens being sprayed on food crops. Glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, was sprayed on wheat, oats, and beans in the United States right before harvest, leading to significant exposure of this carcinogenic chemical in almost all of our food. In contrast, Europe had prohibited this practice due to its toxicity.

In Europe, there's a significant difference due to the “precautionary principle,” which requires proving the safety of any substance before using it on food. In contrast, the US operates on the opposite principle, allowing the public to be exposed to substances until proven harmful, often leading to delayed action even after adverse effects are observed.

Kellogg and General Mills serve as examples of companies that responded positively to concerns raised. In 2019, Kellogg pledged to eliminate glyphosate from its supply chain after discussions about the health risks associated with the chemical. General Mills also committed to adopting regenerative agriculture after experiencing  concerns about climate-induced storms and soil erosion and a lack of resilience in their supply chain.

In 2021, these companies' actions garnered positive attention from customers and investors, leading to increased market share and investment. As a result, other companies in the agriculture sector followed suit, implementing regenerative agriculture practices and reducing pesticide use. Unfortunately, we just published last year’s scorecard and both companies have not fulfilled their pledges. The in-the-field logistics are taking more time so they got lower scores and we are back to engaging with them. This work takes a great deal of tenacity.

Another example would be the agreement of major fast food chains to eliminate 3 billion styrofoam cups each year, which not only harms marine ecosystems but also reduces demand for oil and gas feedstocks. This illustrates how market forces and public demand drive positive changes in the industry. We have also worked with the largest infant formula company, Abbott Labs, to help them label Similac formula for GMOs. This is something you take for granted in Europe as GMOs must be clearly labelled. As shareholders we felt that new parents would want to know what was in the formula; it took three years of filing resolutions until they agreed to give it a try and their non-GMO product became a best-seller. As companies witness their competitors' success, they become more inclined to embrace sustainable practices to remain competitive, satisfy customers, and attract and retain talented employees.

In contrast, the extractive economy, which disregards social and environmental responsibility for profit, is gradually giving way to a new economy focused on justice and sustainability. Concepts like Milton Friedman's idea that maximising profits at any cost are being challenged in the market. Organisations including the Business Roundtable published a “new purpose of a corporation” in 2019 recognising the need to consider all stakeholders and avoid harmful practices.

The World Economic Forum described this market transition as the “fourth industrial age,” characterised by stakeholder capitalism, justice, and sustainability. Companies embracing this approach will likely thrive, and investors are increasingly drawn to such ventures for long-term growth.

The oil industry, in particular, faces challenges as the shift towards cleaner energy gains momentum and the internal combustion engine becomes obsolete. Attempts to resist change by launching anti-ESG campaigns and engaging in culture wars reflect their anxiety over the inevitable transition.

You have been working for more than a decade, and I'm curious about how the work has evolved. When you first started, how did it compare to what you’re doing now?

When I began, it often felt like a log jam. Everything was stagnant and tightly controlled by companies. We were filing our first climate change resolutions back then in 2010. One of the initiatives I launched was an energy and climate program in an area we hadn't previously worked on. Specifically, we focused on coal ash storage, which occurs when coal is burned, and the resulting ash is mixed with water and the slurry is stored in vast billion gallon ponds without any lining. This allowed toxins like mercury, lead, and cadmium to contaminate the groundwater. We also addressed fracking-related issues, where toxins were being dumped into rivers and underground aquifers. These were significant environmental health concerns that were also material risk to shareholders. By raising these new risks for open discussion at the annual general meetings we were asking the right questions and not hearing any answers.

Soon, we began to focus on climate change following a pivotal paper by Mark Campanelli at Carbon Tracker in 2012, called the Carbon Bubble. This paper analysed the balance sheets of the 100 largest oil and coal companies, revealing that if all underground reserves were extracted and burned, global temperatures would rise by six degrees Celsius, leading to catastrophic consequences. It became evident that we needed to keep at least three-quarters of these reserves underground to avoid disaster. The paper exposed a $20 trillion bubble in the oil industry.

We collaborated with Mark, and wrote a shareholder resolution based on this report. We engaged major oil companies like Exxon, Chevron, and Anadarko, pointing out that their stocks were massively overvalued if the report was accurate and these reserves could never be commercialised. This became known as “stranded assets.” This set the stage for the concept of “climate finance” and led to banks and insurance companies being asked by all of their investors to explain the risks in their loans and underwriting or “financed emissions.”

This really got started during our work on the Dakota Access Pipeline also called DAPL, in 2016. We engaged the major banks including Citi, JPMorgan, BofA, Goldamn Sachs, and Wells showing them images of indigenous tribal leaders having dogs sicced on them and being sprayed with fire hoses in sub-zero weather while defending sacred ground. These images were now associated with their brands. At first they said that they gave loans to the company building the pipeline and not to that project; soon we helped them to realise that they were complicit and needed to consider climate risk in their loan decision-making and report it to shareholders as a material disclosure. We then spread this idea to insurance companies underwriting fossil fuel extraction projects and pipelines.

Over many years we have worked with an amazing group of organisations across the world to educate companies, the press, and all shareholders on how to link finance to climate risk. Ultimately we need every company to commit to annual emissions reductions of at least 5% per year over the next decade, to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 or 2050 with transparent and accurate emissions disclosure.

The SEC's pending climate disclosure rule is a crucial step forward. It ensures that companies must provide honest and standardised information about their greenhouse gas emissions, have it validated by a third party and present it in a standardised format, just like all material information, to gain the trust of shareholders. This will enhance the reliability of data for investors and promote a more mature approach to environmental, social, and governance investing based on risk assessment.

It's important to note that there are significant efforts to hinder this progress, with anti-ESG campaigns funded by oil companies and other stakeholders who fear the truth being revealed to shareholders. Nevertheless, we remain determined to push for transparency and truth, helping companies reduce climate risk and finding a path to success in a carbon constrained future.

From your perspective, how do you envision the next 10 to 20 years unfolding?

Market forces are already at work driving a global transition from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy based on justice and sustainability. This transition will be at the scale of the industrial revolution and has the potential to create a thriving planet with humanity living in harmony. The companies that will succeed are the ones with diverse cultures, racial justice, and a commitment to stop externalising their costs and dumping in the commons. They will become integral parts of a global community. As an investor with ownership across the entire economy, it is a fiduciary duty to address the handful of companies damaging the rest of your portfolio. We are on the verge of resolving these issues. Certain industries, like oil, gas, and coal are fiercely resisting these changes even though by transitioning to become clean energy companies they could thrive and create immense value for their employees and shareholders rather than make themselves obsolete. Instead they are investing in propaganda campaigns to convince everyone that “change is impossible” while influencing politicians, overcharging their customers, and attacking their shareholders who are trying to help them. The market's voice is clear— there is no room for inertia. My optimism for the future is boundless.

Do you have children or grandchildren?

I have three sons, and two young granddaughters.

Have you had the chance to observe today's younger generation, around age 20 or so— Gen Z— and what do you think of them?

I am constantly in touch with them. We not only have a lot of Gen Zs and millennials on our staff, we also have employees almost 70, creating good age diversity. We engage in some heated conversations around achieving a pure form of capitalism in which the person who earns the money decides how it is invested and casts their own proxy vote to express their values. Right now, at a species level, we save a bit of every paycheck for the future then hand it to a fiduciary who invests it in destroying our future; we abdicate our shareholder power to people who vote with management 98% of the time. These conversations are truly insightful, particularly regarding how to inspire each person to look in the mirror and see an empowered person and then use the power of their money to create genuine impact and shape the world aligned with their values.

Apart from that, I interact with many students, guest lecturing on college campuses. It's fascinating that some of our interns have become full-time employees and are now running some of our programs. There is definitely a sense of malaise and concern about the world falling apart among younger generations. However, they are also energised and determined to take control of their future, utilising their intelligence and passion to work on the issues, manage their money and make a positive difference.

As I mentioned, we also focus on what’s inside retirement plans. We reach out to employees at companies like Amazon and Comcast through various means, such as ads on LinkedIn, to raise awareness about their retirement investments' environmental and social impacts. We use images and information about deforestation, mass incarceration, and gender inequality and show them how they are profiting from companies out of alignment with their values as they have little say on what is in their investment portfolios. We also file shareholder resolutions to question the discrepancies between corporate public commitments and the investments they force on their employees.

Our goal is to start conversations, especially among younger generations. In polls, we found that 99% of millennials who are just beginning with a 401(k) plan want to invest sustainably. Over 80 percent of women and 72 percent of the overall population also share this sentiment.

The challenge is that Wall Street structures are designed to keep people ignorant about their power as investors. Many individuals don't realise the influence they can exert through their investment choices. A significant part of our efforts involves educating people about their options and providing tools to help them understand what they own and how to use their power.

When we get people organised and empowered, real change happens. Many individuals with significant assets in 401(k) plans are a powerful force for sustainability and justice. We are talking about 100 million people with $10 trillion in these plans; another $27 trillion in pensions; and $4 trillion in the UK pension schemes. If everyone said that they want to invest in a livable planet and vote their proxies, you would see a very different world emerge rapidly. By educating them and helping them understand the impact of their investments, we aim to transition companies towards more sustainable and just practices which aligns with what investors truly desire and is more profitable.

Our work often involves showing people the uncomfortable truth about their investment portfolios. For instance, at the World Bank, I presented to some audience members who spent their careers combating cluster munitions and landmines who were unknowingly making money from companies producing these harmful weapons. Fund managers, too, often remain unaware of these problematic investments because they merely follow index funds or low-fee options without considering the underlying activities of the companies involved.

Foundations that aim to fight climate change also invest in fossil fuel companies, unaware of the discrepancy between their mission and investment choices. We have been kept in the dark about the consequences of our investments; this is changing because we are shining a bright light on it and will not stop.

Can you recall the moment in your journey when you became aware of the path towards regeneration and changing the system? When did this realisation occur for you?

I have been interested in environmentalism since I was young. My parents were also concerned about the environment, and we often discussed it at home. Later, when I had children and moved to California, I became even more active in environmental causes. When the state government announced that they would be spraying malathion, a dangerous carcinogenic chemical, from helicopters onto our residential neighbourhood to try and kill a few fruit flies on backyard fruit trees I became concerned. I started organising my neighbours and the community to protest the spraying. We were successful in stopping it, and this experience inspired me to get involved in other environmental causes.

I also had some experience working as a precinct captain on a ballot proposition in California called Big Green. I remember having three kids in a stroller during that time going door to door, explaining what Big Green was and asking people if they would be voting for it. On election day, I checked who had voted and who hadn't, then called in reminders that it was election day.

I ended up being captain in two precincts. When the election results came in, it turned out that my two precincts were the top-performing precincts in the entire state for Big Green. Even though the proposition did not pass due to a massive communications campaign by big oil, I realised that putting in that effort had tangible results.

A year or so later we moved north to a little town called Ojai. The largest waste hauler in the U.S., Waste Management, was planning to put a dump right in the mouth of the valley on top of a low-income community— which would be complete environmental racism against those people. So my wife and some new friends organised the community to fight. She became a fundraiser, and I was organising people to make phone calls. Over five years and three campaigns, we defeated Waste Management and the plans were withdrawn. In the process, we realised that one way to fight was to create a county-wide recycling and composting program so the dump was actually not needed. This served as a model and today I continue that work at As You Sow through our Circular Economy and zero waste initiative.

All of this was part of my education so that when many years later after I moved to San Francisco in 2010 and I bumped into an old friend of mine, Tom van Dyck, who founded As You Sow, I was ready. I actually met him in 1980 after graduating from NYU in media and film working in a very new field of interactive multimedia. Tom wanted to close the Indian Point nuclear reactor that was North of New York, and I made TV ads and radio spots for him. Ever since then we have been lifelong friends. He asked if I could take a look at As You Sow and write a strategic plan. I agreed and became immersed in the world of shareholder advocacy.

Once I understood the theory of change, it all made sense. I had seen firsthand that corporations are the centre of power, and when they make a decision, it ripples through millions of people’s lives, through their supply chains, their customers, their employees, their shareholders, and the communities where they operate. When Walmart implements a policy change, it's significant.

The board was impressed with the strategic plan that also introduced climate change and social justice as critical issue areas to complement the ongoing sustainability and environmental health work. They requested that I continue on as CEO. Since then, I have been actively involved in executing the plan. Over the years, it has been updated, and currently, we are in the process of developing a new one focusing on the next three to five years.

Throughout my journey, I have always been deeply committed to various social issues, such as workers' rights, gender equality, and diversity. These concerns have roots in my upbringing and the values instilled by my parents.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your work, especially in your current position?

My work makes me jump out of bed every day because there are so many challenges to tackle with my incredible team. Together, we have developed a remarkable knowledge-base that is expressed through our research, reports, corporate engagements, and financial transparency platforms. It is a joy to work alongside Danielle Fugere, our brilliant President and Chief Counsel who was recently named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential climate influencers. Her environmental law background brings strategic brilliance to every project we undertake. Conrad MacKerron, our first employee, is still with us and leads the circular economy initiative I mentioned earlier that eliminated 3 billion foam cups. I could literally name every member of our staff, as each person is a star and brings all of their mind and heart to work on these critical issues every day.

We research and publish 6-10 original reports every year. This includes a scorecard looking at 61 key performance indicators on racial justice and workplace diversity across 3000 companies; 35 KPIs on pesticides and regenerative agriculture; the same on plastics, climate, CEO Pay, and more. We recently aggregated all of this data into a database and spun out a for-profit benefit corporation called As You Know to make the data actionable in the commercial marketplace. There are now ten academic studies using our data, one published in a peer-reviewed journal and several mutual funds and SMAs that use our data as an inclusion criteria. When we engage companies it changes the conversation when they know if they get a better score they will be included in an investment portfolio.

Additionally, we collaborate with various groups, including faith-based investors like the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility or ICCR, that convenes pensions and investors of faith-based groups to use their power as shareholders. The entire shareholder advocacy community is dedicated to solving problems collectively. It's not a competitive environment; we work together towards a common goal.

One particular group that shows how this field is evolving is the student-led organisation called the Student Shareholder Engagement Network. It was started by students at Arizona State University or ASU. After their divestment efforts were met with resistance from the endowment, they decided that if the university was going to hold these companies then at least they could engage. They were given a portion of the endowment to invest, and now we have staff on their advisory committee helping them with their engagement efforts. They recently finalised a charter and now a half-dozen other universities have joined and are adopting their strategy. They have plans to expand their impact to 20 more campuses this year.

Ultimately, everything comes together into a central strategy, a unifying theme. We are guiding this new economy into existence, working meticulously on a company-by-company basis, and analysing each key performance indicator. We are facilitating a massive market transformation which is why the regressive thinkers are trying to slow it down. As I said, ten years ago, it seemed like a log jam; but our resolutions, and the ideas they carried, broke through that barrier. But we soon discovered that on the other side of the log jam was whitewater rafting.

For example, some European oil companies embraced the need for a transition plan and successfully shifted to renewable energy sources, such as offshore wind, and are thriving. On the other hand, certain US companies resisted change, stubbornly continuing with unsustainable practices despite market demands. They refused to see that they could be more successful over the long-term by becoming energy companies rather than oil and gas companies. We acknowledge that they continue to buy governmental influence to slow down the transition; we believe this unsustainable situation won't last indefinitely.

Our work requires long-term tenacity, and I can proudly say that my team is the most tenacious and resilient group I've ever known. We explore all strategic paths, and even when some lead to dead ends, we consider them successful discoveries. It's all about maintaining a culture of exploration and learning. Our work is truly fulfilling, and ever-changing.

What have been the most significant challenges you've faced while working with As You Sow?

One of the major challenges we encounter while engaging with hundreds of companies is that some respond with misleading disclosures. This happened with Exxon in 2014 and led to the New York State attorney general filing a lawsuit. Despite our efforts to help them become more competitive and improve, some companies' prevailing culture resists change. This culture is deeply ingrained in the organisation, with a hierarchical structure that promotes a cult-like mindset among employees who rise through the ranks from entry-level positions being indoctrinated with the belief that change is impossible rather than an opportunity.

It can be frustrating because we clearly understand the potential consequences and present them with compelling data and analysis. We show them that they are heading towards a cliff at 100 miles per hour. They seem intent on self-destruction and impacting others in the process. There's a sense of sadness in witnessing this situation unfold, knowing that if companies collectively embraced a broader perspective, they could progress much further and enjoy greater financial benefits for all stakeholders including their employees and their families. Imagine working at a major oil and gas company and knowing you are condemning your children to a world of climate chaos, that must be a very difficult burden to bear every day.

What were some of the best "Aha!" moments you’ve had in your career with As You Sow?

One of our first engagements was with Duke Power, which had to do with coal ash. There had been a big coal ash spill at Tennessee Valley Authority in 2008. One of the earthen dams holding a coal ash pond burst, burying the town of Kingston, Tennessee. These ponds are unlined and hold around 2,000 gallons of toxic sludge made by mixing water with coal ash. They contain mercury, lead, cadmium, and other toxic metals that seep into the water table. Also, there are thousands of these ponds all over the country wherever there is a coal-fired power plant. With the TVA, people died, and it caused havoc.

So, we looked into it and analysed other similar sites around the country. We worked with experts and created a list of coal ash ponds that were stored similarly, and Duke owned some of them. We went to Duke and expressed our concerns, stating that, as shareholders, we were worried because this kind of disaster is devastating for human life and the corporate image.

Unfortunately, they ignored us, so we escalated by filing a shareholder resolution, but still, they disregarded it. We tried once again with another shareholder resolution the next year, still no action. Then, the Dan River coal ash spill happened. We had warned Duke about the vulnerability of this particular site in our previous filings. It was like we were psychics, predicting that it would happen. Despite all our efforts, Duke was not responsive, so we had to take legal action and put the entire board on trial for criminal neglect. It was an unnecessary situation, and it became an "Aha!" moment for us— they just wouldn't listen, no matter how much evidence we presented.

We realised that we need to approach these situations from different angles. Engaging with the most affected communities is crucial— those people who would have their houses buried or suffer negative impacts from the company's actions. Customers of these companies should also be aware of potential risks as they end up footing the bill, and shareholders need to understand that such incidents can adversely affect their investments. It's about working within a bigger ecosystem to help these companies reduce material risk for all stakeholders. We constantly think about this and recently worked on a project involving Kinder Morgan, the largest pipeline company in the U.S.

Kinder Morgan had a facility in St. Louis emitting toxic emissions near the Dutchtown community on the banks of the Mississippi River, with schools, a hospital, and a nursing home. The company ignored the community's concerns, so we escalated the issue to the boardroom of Kinder Morgan, making them aware of the negative impact on their reputation. After persistence, the company finally listened and engaged in an open dialogue with the community.

Linking a board's decision-making to long-term strategy and incentivising executives to achieve those goals is crucial. Shareholders play a significant role in this process as they report to the board. We did a report showing that the link between executive compensation and emissions reduction was too small to drive real change. To effectively address such issues, the link should be at least 10% of an executive’s pay to grab and hold their attention. Ensuring this through-line from shareholder to board to executive is a challenging but essential process.

Many companies genuinely want to change and have a positive brand association. However, certain industries, like oil and gas companies, face challenges in changing their image. For example, Exxon or Chevron find it hard to escape negative perceptions associated with their brands so they spend millions on public relations rather than solving the underlying issues. The American Petroleum Institute just launched a massive propaganda campaign called “impossible to change.” The idea is to convince the general public that even though we have the technology, which it’s less expensive, and could change the trajectory of climate change, it’s, well, “impossible” to have a livable planet in the future.

Negative publicity doesn't harm some companies because they are seen as villains, like Darth Vader, and people already have low expectations of them. However, with companies like Starbucks, negative associations, such as using bovine growth hormone in milk, not offering recycling, and their green straws harming sea turtles, significantly impact their reputation. As shareholders, we focus on how the decisions made in the boardroom affect the company's brand.

For instance, when we successfully persuaded Starbucks to adopt recycling in their stores and eliminate plastic straws, it was a crucial moment when the company acknowledged the need for change. Similarly, we helped Yum! Brands, which owns popular chains like KFC, Pizza Hut, and Long John Silver's, as well as Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s to stop using styrofoam cups. This resulted in over 3 billion foam cups not being produced every year and the associated reliance on oil and gas feedstocks. Such actions help the environment and also positively impact the company's brand, attracting conscious consumers.

Consumers today, especially the younger generation, are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on a company's values and practices. For example, they may refuse to buy products from companies that do not prioritise racial justice or have sustainable practices. This behaviour influences companies' bottom line and can even impact their ability to attract and retain talented employees.

In the current job market, where skilled workers are scarce and loyalty is at a premium, potential employees also evaluate companies based on their values and practices. If a company demonstrates a commitment to worker justice, fair CEO-worker pay ratios, and sustainable policies, it becomes more attractive to job seekers. Employees who feel connected to a company's mission and values tend to be more productive, increasing overall workforce productivity.

As shareholders, we play a role in helping companies leverage these factors. By advocating for responsible practices and aligning corporate actions with societal and environmental needs, we can drive positive change and create a better future for businesses and the world.

What advice would you like to give to young and upcoming climate entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who are not just climate-driven, but in general, planet-driven, or as you say, the new generation coming?

Let me start with advice for entrepreneurs: Keep going. This transition presents numerous opportunities for new companies to emerge. Out of chaos comes opportunity. Startups, especially those focused on the truth and high-quality data and analysis, have vast potential for success. There's so much to be invented and developed.

For everybody else, remember that you hold great power. Look in the mirror and see a powerful person. Your power lies in the choices you make with your wealth. Even if you have a modest amount, like a hundred bucks in the bank, you can still make a difference. Look at how your money is invested; if it's not supporting a future you want to live in, you can move it. Even if a 401(k) plan restricts you, you can advocate for change. Gather your peers and approach your plan administrator to offer investment options aligned with your values. Check out investyourvalues.org, where you'll find a toolkit with step-by-step guidance, template letters, and more to help you in this process.

Additionally, consider the company you work for. If they lack a climate transition or racial justice plan, ask why. Engage in conversations within your company's internal communication channels, like Slack, and let your friends and colleagues know about your concerns. When these discussions happen peer-to-peer, they will eventually reach the higher-ups and shareholders, pressuring them to address these issues.

Remember that your everyday choices matter. Every purchase and decision you make on where and what to buy sends a powerful signal. Organise and talk to your friends about these issues. The power to bring about change lies within each of you. If you are deciding between two companies when you buy a pair of sneakers, look at the climate and justice scorecards on the As You Sow website. If you choose the company with the better score, post on social media that their policies influenced your decision; post to the other company that you decided to not buy their products because of their low score. It is amazing, but even ten posts like that can change the attitudes of decision makers. You have so much more power than you can possibly realise.

In conclusion, take control of your world. The combined power of individuals can mobilise trillions of dollars, and when people demand a livable planet, it will happen. Be proactive, and don't wait for others to act. The responsibility lies with all of us. Remember that the board of directors of every company reports to their shareholders. We are in charge and need to use our power.

Yes it does. Thank you very much for spending a little time with us. It's been a pleasure hearing about your successes over the years, and from all of us at Brighter Future, we wish you nothing but the best additional success in your ongoing efforts to help companies forge a cleaner, kinder path for themselves and the world.

To learn more about As You Sow, please see www.asyousow.org.

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Origin Story Interview W/ Clover Hogan, Force of Nature

Origin Story Interview W/ Bernard de Wit, Regreener

Origin Story Interview W/ Wolfgang Baum, Fairventures Worldwide gGmbH

Origin Story Interview W/ Anne Therese Gennari, The Climate Optimist

Origin Story Interview W/ Frederique De Clercq, Fred's Mayo

Origin Story Interview W/ Dimitry Gershenson, Enduring Planet

Origin Story Interview W/ David Cutler, Fortuna Cools

Origin Story Interview w/ Auriane Borremans, The Butcher's Daughter & Eatention

Origin Story Interview w/ Will Wiseman, Climatize

Origin Story Interview w/ Todd Khozein, SecondMuse

Origin Story Interview w/ Ryan Hagen, Crowdsourcing Sustainability

Origin Story Interview w/ Noor, Project CECE

Origin Story Interview w/ Shobhita Soor, Legendary Foods

Origin Story Interview W/ Yvonne Jamal, JARO Institute for Sustainability and Digitalization

Origin Story Interview w/ Paul Shapiro, The Better Meat Co.

Origin Story Interview W/ Topher White, Rainforest Connection & Squibbon

Origin Story Interview W/ Felipe Krelling, NewBio

Origin Story Interview W/ Samuel Wines, Co-Labs Australia

Origin Story Interview W/ Mirjam Walser, The Vegan Business School

Origin Story Interview W/ Walid Al Saqqaf, Rebalance Earth

Origin Story Interview W/ Ana Rosa de Lima, Meli Bees

Origin Story Interview W/ Maya Ashkenazi, Maolac

Origin Story Interview W/ Vanessa Westphal, Choosy

Origin Story Interview W/ Leah Bessa, De Novo Dairy

Origin Story Interview W/ Jasmin Shaikh, Axia Foods

Origin Story Interview W/ Roee Nir, Forsea

Origin Story Interview W/ Simone Köchli, Loopi

Origin Story Interview W/ Harald Neidhardt, Futur/io

Origin Story Interview W/ Karsten Hirsch, Plastic Fischer

Origin Story Interview W/ Antoinette Vermilye, Gallifrey Foundation

Origin Story Interview W/ Roman Laus, Mewery

Origin Story Interview W/ Louisa Burman, Sustainability & B Corp Consultant

Origin Story Interview W/ Alfredo Seidemann, Viatu

Origin Story Interview W/ Insa Mohr, Mooji Meats

Origin Story Interview W/ Björn Öste, Oatly & Good Idea Drinks

Origin Story Interview W/ Brett Thompson, Newform Foods (Formerly Mzansi Meat Co.)

Origin Story Interview W/ Liza Altena, repath

Origin Story Interview W/ Troy Carter, Earthshot Labs

Origin Story Interview W/ Alex Felipelli, Veggly

Origin Story Interview W/ Tyler Mayoras, Cool Beans

Origin Story Interview W/ Sandra Einvall, Fikat

Origin Story Interview W/ Eloy Padilla, The Fair Cottage

Origin Story Interview W/ David Garrison, Climate & Capital Connect

Origin Story Interview W/ Gaurav Vora, Renergii

Origin Story Interview W/ Sebastian Alexander Guldstoev, Continued Fasion

Origin Story Interview W/ Nuno Brito Jorge, GoParity

Origin Story Interview W/ Martin Baart, ecoligo

Origin Story Interview W/ Luca Michas, yamo

Origin Story Interview W/ Patricia Plesner, EcoHotels.com

Origin Story Interview W/ Dágon Ribeiro, Biotecland

Origin Story Interview W/ Chris Langwallner, WhatIF Foods

Origin Story Interview W/ Matteo Aghemo, Must Had

Origin Story Interview W/ Lili Dreyer, VAER

Origin Story Interview W/ Josh Brito, MakeGrowLab

Origin Story Interview W/ Jeff Kirschner, Litterati

Origin Story Interview W/ Jan G. Skjoldhammer, NoviOcean

Origin Story Interview W/ Chris Do, The Futur