Contributing Editor Jordan Schaul interviews eco-chic expert Beth Doane about her consulting firm – Andira International – and her fashion brand Rain Tees.
I have to admit that even though the term “greenwashing” was coined back in 1986 when I was in sixth grade I only recently became familiar with its usage. Call me naive, but I was unaware of just how many commercial retail entities intentionally deceive consumers into thinking that their products are environmentally friendly when they are anything but.
I hate to think of how many times I’ve been hoodwinked by disingenuous green PR. In fact, I discovered the magnitude of this blatant deception by corporate entities while preparing for a talk I’m scheduled to give next month in LA. At the gracious invitation of the President of the Green Chamber of Commerce, I will talk a bit about green initiatives in my industry like a hospital project recently completed at the Oregon Zoo (see link).
In researching the topic I learned that websites such as the Greenwashing Index, which is promoted by EnviroMedia Social Marketing and the University of Oregon exist to inform consumers about environmental marketing claims of advertisers.
Below I interview author, social entrepreneur and eco-fashion expert Beth Doane about her consulting work with companies and brands that want to create products more sustainably.
Jordan: As a consultant, I suspect you are well aware of greenwashing. Is this something you broach with clients pretty frequently?
Beth: Yes it does come up every so often and especially with companies that are new to the “green” market. Also, many people are confused as to what exactly makes a product truly eco conscious. I have always felt that to be sustainable means that you are ethical as well and that things like fair labor and fair trade are equally as important as natural and organic materials.
Jordan:Andirahas evolved into an eco-conscious marketing and business consulting firm. Can you provide some examples of how you work with clients and essentially describe what the firm does.
Beth: Andira began as an import and distribution company in 2005 and currently offers consulting, design, distribution and marketing to organizations that want to create products while remaining as eco-conscious as possible. More than ever before, consumers want to purchase products that are helping people and helping the planet. Andira helps brands make a difference while making a profit.
I wanted to share my personal experience in launching a successful eco brand and my network of connections that I have built through years of working in the industry.
We’ve worked with moms that have turned the spark of an idea into a global sensation and with major corporations with thousands of accounts who are looking to make their lines a little or a lot more green. We have a really expansive team of experts that we use on a daily basis and have managed production of apparel, high end events, branding, marketing web and press kit design, social media consulting and distribution.
Beth extracts a deposit of crude oil left illegally into the Amazon basin. She has worked on the largest environmental court case in history in Ecuador where more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste were dumped on indigenous land by a multi-national oil company. (Photo by Kellee Laser)
Jordan: You have traveled extensively to some of the biodiversity hotspots on the globe which are home to some of the most biologically rich and threatened ecosystems. It seems that these experiences have inspired you to do what you do?
Beth: Absolutely. I feel most at home in these places as well. I love spending time in Africa and South America and have worked extensively to create programs that promote reforestation. I have witnessed first hand what happens when we destroy some of our planets most biodiverse and powerful ecosystems and its devastating. I think if everyone could see how connected we all are and how threatened our earth is right now we would all live very differently.
Jordan: Tell me about Rain Tees, your apparel company. How did you launch this venture and what do see for the future of the brand?
Beth: RainTees began by donating school supplies to children living in endangered rainforests and now works with children in need all over the world.
I began production in Peru and today every RainTee is handmade in the USA and features original artwork created by children living in countries facing environmental destruction, poverty, and little or no access to education.
For every tee we sell, a tree is planted in a critically endangered area of the world through our charity partner, Trees for the Future.
Trees for the Future has planted nearly 65 million trees since 1988, and helped thousands of communities in Central America, Africa, and Asia improve their livelihoods and environment through cutting edge agroforestry and reforestation projects. Each year, these trees remove over one million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Our mission is to plant trees with tees and create art programs for children around the world. Right now we are working with non-profit partners in over 38 countries and created a pen pal program linking fans with thousands of at-risk youth in developing nations in need of emotional and educational support.
Jordan: I think if done right, celebrity endorsements go along way and I see that you have worked with celebrities on various campaigns and some wear your products. Can you talk about some examples.
Beth: Rosario Dawson and Jenna Dewan Tatum supported RainTees in a major campaign we launched last year to reforest the Brazilian Atlantic Forest and my friend and supermodel Kate Dillon loves the brand and is a supporter. Latin Superstar Debi Nova is also a close friend and incredible musician from Costa Rica and she has contributed as well. We love that we can align the brand with individuals who are passionate about the same issues we are and are often working very hard in their own industries to create change where its needed most. Kate has done some very powerful work in Africa with a non-profit she created and Debi has worked with the United Nations.
Jordan: Your companies are quite charitable. Tell us about how you give back to communities.
Beth: We plant a tree for every item we sell at RainTees and have also donated thousands of school supplies to children in need around the world. I try to deliver supplies personally whenever I can and our network continues to grow and expand every single day. Giving back is a huge part of our business model and I hope it really does inspire other companies to do the same!