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Make It Big Podcast: Sustainability Meets Commerce: Building a Brand with an Impact with Justin Wang

Welcome to The Make it Big Podcast, a bi-weekly audio series about all things ecommerce by BigCommerce.

As the creators of the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle, sustainability is in LARQ’s DNA. CEO and Co-Founder Justin Wang joins the Make it Big Podcast to discuss how to build an authentically sustainable business. From product design and supply chain standards, to taking a stance on an environmental cause, brands should consider a 360-degree approach to sustainability and its impact on both the environment and consumers.

Justin challenges brands to steer clear of greenwashing and evaluate how they can make a larger impact. Learn how LARQ is living out their commitment to sustainability by reducing 1 million single-use plastic bottles — and so much more.

All episodes of The Make it Big Podcast are now available on Spotify, Apple and Google.

The Make it Big Podcast: Episode 6

Beatriz Estay: How would you define sustainability in 2021?

Justin Wang: “I think one trend that is a common theme here is that it’s becoming more and more of a vital part of our lives, right? Whether you think about the native consequences of climate change and our impact that we have as a society, as a human society, on this Earth, not only statistically speaking –– we could talk about rising temperatures, or increasing volatility in the climate –– but also from a personal experience perspective. If you think about the wildfires in California, the power outages and the weather patterns that we had this past winter in Texas, or the crazy floods that’s happening right now in Europe and in Asia. Increasingly I think it’s just becoming more and more of an everyday impact that we see on our society today.

“I think from a business perspective, as these things become more important for society, it becomes more important for the consumer, and especially millennials and Gen Z like you mentioned before. I think for a business, sustainability in 2021 really has to be part of your DNA. You either live it, you either really live and breathe it from product to supply chain to your communications and your company mission, or you don’t.”

BE: What advice would you have for other companies who are looking to become more sustainable? 

JW: “We take a very consumer-centric approach to understanding the problems that a consumer has. And as I mentioned, we really focus on three things, which are: Accessibility on convenience. We have to make sustainability easier for the consumer to access, right? It’s not enough to lecture or to educate. We have to make sustainable products, just better products, lower friction points. Two is: It has to be safe. It has to have the efficacy of producing the best in class water. So you have to use the technology that is compatible with that. And then finally: It’s user experience. It’s a consumer product, and if you want to make an impact on how people are consuming products, then it has to taste better, so it has to have the best-in-class taste. 

“So we know these are the most important points to our consumers, and when we develop our product, we keep these things in our minds. From a product perspective, lots of really, truly understanding how the consumer behaves; why they choose to select a single-use plastic bottle even when there are so many sustainable options available today; and from that we can solve those friction points that the consumers have today in adopting a more sustainable practice.”

BE: How do you set your goals and how do you measure success over time? 

JW: “I think that’s a great question, because today there’s so much green washing, right? From your marketing, especially larger companies tend to focus on sustainability without much measurable impact. The success of our business is so tied to the success of our sustainable efforts. What we want to make sure we are doing is not only converting as many people to this new product as possible, but also measuring our success of retaining those customers, our success of keeping the customer on a more sustainable and healthier hydration journey. And what we mean by that is, once someone buys the product, or they keep using it, has it abated their plastic usage? Has it really made an impact and changed their behavior? And we do a lot of post purchase surveys. We try to really, truly understand our customer.”

BE: How easily and readily and clearly are you making your sustainable information available to your team, your customers, and your partners? How would you encourage companies to really avoid green washing? 

JW: “With sustainability, whether we’re talking about companies or individuals or society, it’s a long-term problem, and we have to take a long-term view to solve this problem, not only in our everyday lives. We have to make long-term changes as a society, at an individual level, at the company level, and I think the reward is also longer term. I know there is a natural friction with companies needing to put up quarterly numbers, or monthly numbers, especially larger companies who are public, but I think it’s short-term thinking. 

“And green washing is obviously not great, because you might be thinking as a consumer you are buying into something that is going to be sustainable, that is going to be recyclable, or something that is good for the planet, when it isn’t. 

“But I think consumers are increasingly intelligent, increasingly well-educated and smart, globally. And increasingly sustainability is becoming more and more important. So I think as a company, there might be some short-term benefits of brain-washing, but I think longer term, one, consumers are going to wise up as we get better at this, and as sustainability and environment become more and more important topic, that’s top of mind year round. 

“My advice to companies is that they should invest in longer-term solutions, because this is a longer-term problem, and then invest in themselves longer-term, because if you care about things like customer retention, if you care about things that impact longer-term customer loyalty and your pricing power and your brand, I think it’s a worthwhile investment longer-term.”

BE: I have to ask you, as the pioneer of an amazing, sustainable brand: Where do you think the future of sustainable commerce is headed? 

JW: “Sustainability is not a choice. It is not a nice to-have anymore. It’s a must-do and a must-have in our society, and how we live at an individual level, at a society level. And I think that will translate, that it will be true sustainability and true focus on sustainability around businesses is also going to be essential. 

“And that’s good. That’s where we want to be. But I think, really, that’s where it’s headed. Brands that will ultimately benefit are going to be the first adopters, the people who are going to be truly leaning into this process, because I believe consumers will look back and reward people that do that.”

For full episodes, stream The Make it Big Podcast on Spotify, Apple and Google.