Today’s Earth Day, first observed in the United States in 1970, when an estimated 20 million people took to the streets to protest the oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel, and it has since evolved into a global environmental movement.
More than 50 years later, Earth Day has also become an opportunity for consumer brands large and small to highlight their increased efforts to tackle the climate crisis, touting sustainable products to attract growing numbers of consumers. eco-conscious shoppers – more than 70% of Gen Z and millennials are more likely to see climate change as a significant issue than their previous generations, a recent YouGov Social Change Monitor survey found.
While these brands pledge to recycle more plastics, reduce their carbon footprint and improve farmer welfare, environmental activists including Plastic Pollution Coalition CEO Dianna Cohen believe many are still missing the mark. . Cohen was recently quoted as saying, “Plastic is pollution from its inception, and we can’t recycle our way out of the crisis.”
The key to at least slowing climate change from a consumer industry perspective, according to Dan Fishman, general partner of Regeneration.VC recently launched after the $45 million funding close in March, is to make the durable consumer goods available on the omnichannel.
“Direct-to-consumer is a great way to start a business,” said Fishman, who was president of recently acquired ice cream brand Coolhaus for seven years, “but I’m a big believer in omnichannel,” which helps brands maximize their impact and value.
Take the wisdom of the sustainable food sector
Regeneration.VC, co-founded by impact investor Michael Smith with a background in media and real estate, has attracted the support of several high-profile figures, including actor and film producer Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as the famous architect William McDonough.
“They both came very early in our training as strategic advisors,” Fishman noted, “and Leo has been a champion of the climate emergency, and his community is a sounding board for many activities. which have environmental benefits in the consumer sector”.
With average checks of $500,000 to $1 million and $1.5 to $3 million, respectively, for seed and Series A rounds, and half of the fund set aside for follow-on investments, the company has so far concluded six contracts focusing on sustainability and regenerative agriculture. , including Cruz Foam which uses shell waste to create an alternative to polystyrene foam, and CleanO2 which converts industrial emissions into high-value fertilizers, such as potash, for agricultural use.
Pangaia, another clothing brand made from recycled materials by Regeneration.VC, has also branched out into the food space recently with the launch of a plant-based superfood bar. “These bars aren’t just tasty,” Fishman said, “they’re incredibly healthy and clean” made with multivitamins, sprouted grains and Incredo sugar – a non-GMO technology that helps achieve the same level of sweetness while using 50% less natural cane sugar.
Such a cross-industry business model is gaining popularity in today’s consumer space where apparel manufacturers are imitating major food and beverage trends, whether plant or cell cultures, to step up their sustainability efforts: TômTex, which is developing an alternative to leather using plastic-free bio material created from waste shells of seafood and mushrooms, has just raised pre-funding. $1.7 million seed led by SOSV.
Financial returns still on the table
Regeneration.VC produces annual impact reports called REG, which stands for Regenerative Assessment Gauge, and the idea is for the company to underwrite businesses while generating returns from a financial perspective, according to Fishman.
“Obviously we want to have financial returns as a fund,” he said, “but it’s our primary responsibility to look at the impact, value it in the same way and build our team accordingly, so we can merge everything together and make the right decisions.”