The Future of Responsible Consumption and Production is Looking S’well
Welcome to the Global Goals, Local Leaders series, where we highlight innovative American businesses that are acting as local leaders to support and promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – also called Global Goals!
Sustainable Development Goal #12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Sarah Kauss, S’well Founder and CEO
We spoke with S’well Founder and CEO, Sarah Kauss, a leader with the mission to rid the world of plastic water bottles – with style.
Read why Kauss company, S’well, supports Sustainable Development Goal #12: Responsible Consumption and Production.
“Individuals can displace 167 single-use plastic water bottles simply by using a reusable water bottle for a year.”
Please give us some background on S’well and why you decided to start a business around reusable water bottles.
Sarah Kauss: I’ve always believed in minimizing the use of plastic and have carried a reusable bottle with me since as long as I can remember. My family was the first on the block to recycle growing up, and in college at the University of Colorado, Boulder, we were given reusable cups to help efforts to minimize Styrofoam use. These moments created a deeper awareness for me, opening my eyes to simple steps we can take as individuals to create positive change.
While on a soul-searching hike with my mom in 2009, I took a sip of warm water out of my reusable bottle. I realized in that moment that, if I could create a bottle that worked harder and looked better, I might be able to do more good in the world. I started writing my business plan that weekend and S’well was born in 2010.
I am so proud of how the brand has evolved. Today, S’well is made up of over 100 employees in the US and UK, and available in 65 countries across the globe. We have two brands, S’well and S’ip by S’well, offer six forms in a variety of sizes and over 200 colors and patterns. And what we are doing with UNICEF USA is truly inspirational. Knowing that we’ve supported UNICEF in its efforts to provide more than 500,000 individuals with access to clean water in Madagascar is one of the many drivers that keeps me going, every day.
What does it mean to you to be a self-made woman? What advice do you have to budding women entrepreneurs, and how do you help women in the workplace thrive?
Kauss: Being a self-made woman can mean so many things. For me, personally, it is about making it to where you want to be and keeping your essence intact.
Entrepreneurship can be tough, so staying true to who you are and what you set out to achieve can help you power through the toughest situations.
Perseverance is critical to entrepreneurship and making the most of any situation — learning from each experience — is essential.
My advice is always to move forward without the expectation of perfection.
I learned early on that if I had talked to more people, sooner, I might have been able to get S’well off the ground faster. Don’t let perfection keep you from getting your idea out there or taking a leap on your vision for the future.
As for thriving in the workplace, I try to be accessible. It is tough as the company grows, but having an open-door policy (or no door in my case, literally) allows me to be able to interact with the team more often when I’m in the office.
Describe the importance that S’well places on sustainability and eco-conscious design.
Kauss: Sustainability is at the core of S’well. Our products not only help consumers use less single-use plastic bottles, but we are always looking for ways to be more eco-conscious through our products, programs and people.
Most recently, we unveiled new packaging where we started to transition from a cardboard tube to a simple belly band. We’ve launched programs like the Million Bottle Project with a goal of displacing 100 million plastic bottles by 2020. And our people play a huge role in our efforts.
Whether it’s partners we work with or individuals we hire, we look for people who are inspired to take action and create positive change in the world.
How is S’well changing the game in re-useable products and responsible consumption? What should consumers be looking for in the next 5 years?
Kauss: We are always looking for ways to expand our reach and impact through our products, programs and people. As part of our mission to rid the world of plastic bottles and raise awareness about the impact on the environment, we launched the Million Bottle Project – a sustainability program to promote minimizing single-use plastic bottle consumption.
Individuals can displace 167 single-use plastic water bottles simply by using a reusable water bottle for a year.
It’s a simple step toward positive change. By 2020, S’well aims to help displace 100 million plastic bottles from entering landfills, waterways and other undesirable locations through this initiative.
Additionally, S’well currently supports UNICEF USA’s W.A.S.H. program in Madagascar. Through our support, UNICEF has helped more than 500,000 people gain access to clean water, build infrastructure necessary to create and maintain clean water systems, educate families on water-borne diseases and promote national reform.
There are so many exciting things ahead for the brand. Be on the lookout for larger programs and partnerships rooted in responsible business that inspire and disrupt through action, new innovation, collaborations and more.