Three Ways to Meet the Triple Bottom Line: Honest Tea Founder Speaks to EO NJ on Social Responsibility and Entrepreneurship

Seth Goldman, co-founder of the organic company Honest Tea, met with the New Jersey chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization last week. He explained how an entrepreneur with a small business can have a dramatic impact on his/her community, environment and staff through better social practices.

Although Goldman thinks of himself as an activist, he recognizes that one of the most effective ways to help consumers use products that are good for them, good for global workers and good for the planet is through a successful product.

“Sustainability is a business opportunity,” he said.

Never Stop Moving

Goldman says the idea for Honest Tea came to him after a run around the reservoir in Central Park. Everyone knows that persistence and innovation are key for starting your own business. Goldman and Honest Tea were on a mission to take it to the next level, trying to bridge the gap between nonprofit responsibility and for-profit business.

Goldman encouraged entrepreneurs to ask themselves: “If it’s not better, how can it be better?”

Don’t Be Afraid of Strange Bedfellows

Goldman acknowledges that The Coca-Cola Company, which owns Honest Tea, contrasts sharply with the low-calorie, organic mission of his product. He defends this decision, though, by insisting that a large brand can help Honest Tea be distributed in places and in ways it otherwise couldn’t, like mainstream grocery stores and fast food restaurants. He hopes it will help democratize his premium organic product. “It’s a step,” Goldman said. “Everything’s a step.”

A good way to keep good investors, Goldman said, is transparency. Honest Tea didn’t lie to their shareholders that they weren’t going after just profits, but social responsibilities as well. “And our product made money,” he added.

Think Big and Think Small

Whether you have two workers or 200, you should never count out your impact. “I have yet to meet a business that couldn’t be more socially conscious,” Goldman said. “How can you say you’re unimportant?”

Goldman encouraged entrepreneurs to look at everything about their business. For example, how you treat your workers affects how they interact with their families. When Honest Kids, the pouch-style juice drink for kids, made the small shift from organic cane sugar to organic white grape juice, their sales picked up even more. A little change can mean a lot.