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Doing the Earth One Better

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Despite being a leader in the conscious consumer movement for decades and c-suite executive for several leading sustainable brands, it was only recently that John Replogle took the leap of faith on the journey of entrepreneurship.  It takes a special person to embrace the uncertainty and risk of launching a sustainable enterprise whether it’s a young rookie or a seasoned executive.  Amidst the twists and turns of his career, no matter the scale of the company, the common thread for Replogle has always been his commitment to sustainability.

A Mission from the Beginning

Influenced by his environmentally minded brother, Replogle was drawn to sustainability and a green lifestyle from an early age.  He dreamed of dedicating his career to sustainability, but like many a young man was, in a sense, sidetracked by alcohol. After earning his MBA, graduating Harvard Business School, Replogle landed a job with Guinness Brewery. He eventually worked his way up to the position of President of Guinness Bass Import Co. in the US and UK, but soon received a self-defined wake-up call. Replogle describes how while during his time at Guinness, he had been working on a personal mission statement with his life coach. Life was going well for Replogle; he had an influential corporate position and was doing community service in sustainability on the weekends, but he felt as if his weekend service was acting as atonement for his weekly time at the corporate alcohol giant.  Although the slogan of Guinness is that “Guinness is good for you”, it wasn’t quenching a deeper need for Replogle. One day, he was driving with his daughters in the backseat when he looked back into their young, innocent faces, and something clicked. His life path was transformed in that moment.  He knew right then that he was not traveling down a path of meaning for himself and contribution to the planet, and that he had to use his power in business to make a change for the sake of the next generation, for his daughters.

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Soon after this turning point, Replogle left Guiness and started at Unilever, where he served as general manager of the skin care division and was the leading driver for the Dove Real Beauty Campaign and the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, both projects to promote diversity and body positivity, especially for women. After three years at Unilever, which he describes as a great foundational company for his journey in sustainability and positive change, Replogle was hired in 2006 as the CEO of Burt’s Bees, where sustainability was all the buzz and integral to the company mission.  He says that in his time there he felt he was truly beginning to pursue his purpose as he spearheaded initiatives like Burt’s Bees’ goal of being a zero waste manufacturer by 2010. The company was the first manufacturer in North Carolina to successfully do so.

The last step of Replogle’s journey prior to joining the ranks of original entrepreneurship was leaving Burt’s Bees and joining Seventh Generation cleaning products as CEO. Seventh Generation is a certified B Corporation, meaning it meets the highest environmental and public transparency standards, and balances profit with a higher purpose. All cleaning products are primarily plant-based and use recycled packaging, and the corporation advocates for workers’ rights and other social issues.

Replogle valued his time at Seventh Generation but felt like there was still more he should be doing, as all the sustainable cleaning products in the world are only a small part of the solution to healing a sick planet.  Despite all of his high-powered corporate jobs that made important contributions to his customers, Replogle felt he had not yet fully found his purpose of inspiring positive change for people and the planet.

New Endeavors

Therefore, Replogle used his relationships and experience to sell Seventh Generation to Unilever, promote his successor to CEO, and start a company of his own. Along with four other partners, Replogle launched One Better Ventures while still maintaining advising ties with Burt’s Bees and Seventh Generation, anf Replogle still Chairs the Social Mission Board for Seventh Generation. One Better Ventures’ mission is to advise, invest in, and help operate purpose-driven B Corporations that give back to the earth in different ways. Some of these smaller companies include Leesa Sleep, a mattress company that donates a bed for every 10 sold, Gaia Herbs, an herbal remedy company running an organic farm that gives back to its community, and Second Nature, a sustainable air filtration company.

Second Nature is a rapidly growing company that promotes a healthy home environment and wellness through innovative products and service, and it provides a good example of how One Better Ventures works with a client.  As early advisors, One Better Ventures helped Second Nature’s founders set strategy and build their organization for sustainable growth. Replogle and the One Better Ventures team became capital partners, making an investment in Second Nature to fuel further growth, and they continue to work with the executive team to shape key initiatives and long-term vision.

Reflecting on the Journey

In all of his endeavors, Replogle says that one of the most difficult parts of his journey has been having to sometimes say no, and that he can only take in so many projects at a time. Although every sustainable small business is important, One Better Ventures does not have the resources to invest in all of them at once. He describes how prioritizing time and efforts on various projects can become quite difficult, and it is still something that he struggles with in his daily work. Additionally, as a family man, Replogle wants to spend as much time as he can with his wife and daughters, and he says how it can become difficult to balance his work and family life; however, he always strives to spend as much time as possible at home as his daughters continue to grow up.

Replogle describes the most rewarding parts of his career are seeing his work have a positive impact on people and the environment, watching his employees and clients grow and succeed, and continuing to pioneer a new way to think about sustainable business practices. His efforts in sustainability throughout his business career have also made an impact at home. The Replogles have begun beekeeping and also growing an organic vegetable garden fed by their own compost. Their house is powered by photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, complete with Tesla Powerwalls that store excess solar energy for later use, and Replogle owns one of the first Tesla electric vehicle models.

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Part of the One Better Ventures team with their spouses at one of their client’s, Leesa Sleep, (partnered with The Green Chair Project) giving events for their 1 for 10 donation program—donate 1 bed for every 10 beds sold. 150 donated mattresses were delivered that day. [Photos via John Replogle]

When asked about what he sees for the future of One Better Ventures, Replogle remarks that the company is still new, as it is only about 4 years old, and there is still much room left to grow. Although they plan to continue to invest in companies, Replogle hopes that the company will adopt an advisory focus as its main contribution to small business. Replogle and his partners want to use their success in coaching companies to scale both their clients’ bottom lines and their positive impacts on the world. He also hopes to begin teaming up with more private equity firms as well to leverage capital towards social entrepreneurial endeavors with the potential for growth.  

In full circle reflection, Mr. Replogle and I also discussed what advice he would have for his younger self and also for those considering embarking on the journey of sustainable entrepreneurship. He regrets that he did not take more risks in his younger years within the business realm. He describes how he was too focused on putting the pieces of what he wanted to accomplish in place instead of just getting out there earlier and putting his ideas into action. He wishes he had listened to his instincts and started his own business sooner, and therefore advises other young entrepreneurs to trust their intuition. 

Despite his regret of not following his heart earlier, Replogle is proud of his accomplishments today. He serves as a shining example of how corporate business can enact positive environmental and social change, it’s just a matter of taking risks and following a goal of positive change to see positive impacts.  I am inspired by Mr. Replogle’s commitment to a better world, and I have the vision that one day all corporations can reflect the ethic and commitment of One Better Ventures. That hope can come true, and I feel the baton is being passed to my generation. We must be willing to take risks for what we believe in and trust that it’s not too late for our planet if we act now; it’s not too late to preserve our future one better venture at a time.

Sarah Followill
Author: Sarah Followill

Sarah is a junior at UNC majoring in Environmental Studies and pursuing minors in GIS and Studio Art. She is particularly interested in pursuing sustainability in architecture and city planning. Sarah is also an athlete on the UNC D1 Fencing Team and spends a fair amount of her time training to compete. She is excited by the opportunities that HoW will provide to learn about the business side of sustainability firsthand from entrepreneurs, and she hopes to use that knowledge in the future as well as sharing it with others through her writing.

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