At Peet Bros., our first initiative and a bedrock of our business is to fight the use of palm oil because of its devastating impact on our world. To combat this issue, we are cutting out all palm oil and palm oil derivatives and replacing it with ingredients that people actually care about.
As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Bass of Peet Bros.
The palm oil industry has a devastating impact on the environment, contributing to global deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity loss. That’s why David Bass founded Peet Bros., the brand that puts the planet first. David started this company as part of his mission to stop the destructive palm oil industry. Along the way, he has discovered how maintaining a palm-free brand takes commitment and dedication, from manufacturing to marketing. Peet Bros. has always been and will always be a 100% palm oil free brand that is completely transparent about its ingredients, unlike other brands. Although you may not see “palm oil” in the ingredients, David has discovered that palm is hiding as emulsifiers and surfactants with generically chemical-sounding names.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Peet Bros. is built on a simple, but powerful promise — to give you more of the premium ingredients in 100% palm oil-free products you’ll love. At Peet Bros., our mission (and it’s a big one) is to end palm oil deforestation. The overuse of palm oil is causing deforestation, climate change and destroying the homes of endangered species like orangutans; in the past 10 years the orangutan population has been cut in half. Before I got into this business, I learned that almost 70% of all personal care and beauty products had palm oil as a lead ingredient and that palm oil production had quadrupled in the last 20 years and is expected to quadruple again in the next 30 years. I also saw this as a chance to make a much better product. If palm oil went way, it gave us the chance to replace it with ingredients that people actually care about, like Shea Butter and Olive Oil. What came out of that were products with significant amounts of moisturizing ingredients, up to 25x of what other products had. As a point of comparison, the leading Shea Butter Bar Soap only has about 1% Shea Butter… The Peet Bros. Shea Butter bar soaps have 25% Shea Butter. Peet Bros. is part of the solution to stop the palm oil problem. If you care about what a product does to your body, you should care about what it’s doing to your environment.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
At Peet Bros., our first initiative and a bedrock of our business is to fight the use of palm oil because of its devastating impact on our world. To combat this issue, we are cutting out all palm oil and palm oil derivatives and replacing it with ingredients that people actually care about. When is the last time you have heard anyone ask for a palm oil bar soap? … Never. So, if that is the case, why wouldn’t you look to replace it knowing full well that pal oil is bad for the environment? We are also trying to do our part to curb the addiction to plastic packaging. Where we can, we are working to eliminate plastic. An example of this would include moving into aluminum bottles and away from plastic.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Being environmentally conscious is a no brainer, at least in theory. But to actually implement these practices is really hard and it requires some tough decisions. A perfect example is when we decided to walk away from body wash and liquid haircare and just focus on bar soaps and bar format shampoo (launching later this year). It actually costs more to ship bottles of liquid because of the weight. Also, those liquid products are made up of almost 80% water… so in reality you are shipping a heavy water bottle. How does that make sense? Shifting more to bars allowed us to save on shipping costs and ultimately give people products with less waste. That gives more value to the people who buy Peet Bros. and gives us a cost savings.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
I love this question and as a dad to a little girl, I think about being a better example all the time.
- Be kind. This is not just a sentiment that is shared between people. It could be as simple as moving a misplaced bug from inside your house to outside (vs. killing it) or picking up a piece of loose trash on the sidewalk.
- Do not be afraid to speak up, be passionate, and defend what you believe: My daughter hears a lot about Peet Bros. and the issues with palm oil in our household, but that is my passion and not necessarily hers (although if she follows that path, that would be ok 😊). The best that I can do is to promote passion and for her to stand up for what she believes.
- Be different and “weird”: my daughter calls me “weird” all the time and my response is always “thank you”. I believe that if you are “weird”, then you likely have a different perspective on things. That difference is what sparks change.
- Read up and listen to others: chances are that you will become passionate about a cause by listening to others or reading something new. That is how I became passionate about the palm oil dilemma… I heard a story and then I did my research. And what I found was appalling and life changing.
- Teach ingredients understanding early. As a family, we have been very focused on what goes on and in our bodies for a long time. We always look for the local, organic option or the better for you alternative first. My daughter has a cow’s dairy allergy, so she needed to learn early on what works for her body and what doesn’t. Generally speaking, if you look for and use better ingredients, there is a greater likelihood that those same ingredients are harvested in a more ethical manor.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I think that it all depends on when and what I started. But much like the advice that I would give to my daughter or others to be engaged in sustainability practices, there were and are plenty of moments of learning for me throughout my career.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Easy answer… my wife and daughter. Not only have they been the two people who have supported me in this journey, but I also learn from them every day. They are my motivation.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Again, easy answer… drive the change to eliminate or reduce the use of palm oil. We only have one world to call home and we cannot continue destroying it.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
I am not really a quotes guys, but if I had to pick one it would be from Yoda… “Do or do not, there is no try.” Like my daughter said, I am weird 😊
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