Mihela Hladin Wolfe
Putting the money where the mouth is: Patagonia’s approach as a textile (turned activist) company is unparalleled. With annual revenues over $1bn selling outdoor clothing and gear, it is a capitalist success story – but one that ultimately serves one purpose: To save our home planet.
Patagonia involves a myriad of initiatives to preserve and restore the natural environment, awarding more than $90m in cash to grassroots activists. Mihela Hladin Wolfe is Patagonia’s Director of Environmental Initiatives overseeing all initiatives in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We’re excited to share our conversation about what it means and takes to commit to finding solutions to the environmental crisis entirely.
Simon: Hi, I’m Simon, and you’re listening to The Idealists podcast where Silja and I talk to people who rewrite the story of our global economy. There’s one name in particular which is ever so tightly connected to corporate activism, often cited as a beacon for tons of entrepreneurs: Patagonia. They started out almost 50 years ago in a tin shirt in Ventura, California making better climbing and surfing gear. And while this still holds true today the scope of what the company is for sounds very idealistic at first: We’re in business to save our home planet.
Silja: But being a $1bn company they’re actually able to put their money where their mouth is. For years they’ve been donating 1% of their sales. But more importantly, Patagonia mobilizes as many people as possible to create positive change for the planet: through durable outdoor products, impressive documentaries and the support of grassroots organization.
Simon: At the very forefront of these environmental initiatives is Mihela Hladin Wolfe. She oversees and coordinates Patagonia’s actions in Europe, Middle East and Africa from their headquarters in Amsterdam. As soon as you enter the office, you can really sense that the people not only pay lip service to their mission but are all in on it.
Silja: “The cure for depression is action”. With this mantra in mind, we were curious and asked: What makes her excited about the future?
Mihela: What excites me about a future is actually I do believe that humans are very creative and I think if you add courage to that creativity, you know, we might be able to figure this one out. No matter how deep we are in the crisis today. So that kind of courage … Stepping into the new territories and stepping fully into it not being one foot in and one foot out and seeing like oh you know I don’t know maybe Extinction Rebellion will not work out. Maybe Greta will instead become silent maybe. But like fully supporting and acknowledging that “Wow, something like that hasn’t happened in my lifetime, you know, what’s going on in the streets today. What’s going on with businesses. What’s going on with the government.” It is sad, but it’s also a very exciting moment to feel that this big shift is coming.
Silja: Do you think it is a tipping point right now?
Mihela: I think we need peoples to be determined and persistent of doing mass mobilization and you know pushing the government, putting the businesses to be better. Businesses are rediscovering what our purpose is. You know putting really planet and people at the core of why we do business. So I wouldn't talk about tipping point I would talk maybe about the bigger shift that is coming, and it's always hard to know where we are. Are we in the middle or towards the end? But you know if you just think about the last year at that time there was almost nothing what we have today, right? We had like 8 million people in the streets just recently. We had the biggest rebellions with thousands and thousands of people who are willing today to get arrested for the crisis that we are in. A year ago, you sat here. None of this … We had no idea.
Simon: So that's the public reception or public image you talk about that at least now everyone is somewhat aware?
Mihela: Yeah, and same for politics, right? If you would walk in December last year into the European parliament and mentioned the Green New Deal. You would have had a blank response probably — the same with businesses. If you would start talking about the climate commitment that is, you know, five years from now I think they wouldn't have them. So I think that last year showed that a big shift is coming. A lot of things that we thought weren't possible last year is becoming possible, and it's becoming urgent too. I mean just in the last two years at Patagonia, you know, my colleagues in the US got evacuated a couple of times — not just once from the fires and now in Australia the same and in Japan because of the hurricanes. So it's really I mean the weather event, the scale of the changes around us is now kind of hard to grasp compared to a couple of years ago. So I think people started to really feel it.
Simon: Right, and if you talk about the last year: What would you say … because you are the Director of Environmental Initiatives. What are those kind of massive movements over the last year? What were the initiatives? How was the translation between the business side of Patagonia to the action side on the streets, for example?
Mihela: Well, I think it was very timely last year in December. Our founder and owner called us together in December. He's been talking about the change of the mission statement for quite a while. But you know he's never a man of really like big announcements. He just kind of goes with the flow, and when the time is right, he'd say it and then it would be like that. And you know Patagonia has been living up to the mission of building the best product, causing no unnecessary harm and then inspiring other businesses for like 30 years. And we were very comfortable with this, you know. You could take one piece of the mission statement then you know justify it and so on. And he's been talking for the last year - not this year but last year - it's not enough anymore. It's not enough to just inspiring. It's not enough just to do no unnecessary harm. We need to start seeing where we really have a positive impact on these big negative changes that are going on. And then last year in December he called us together and said: "From now on we are in business to save our home planet." That's our new mission. I don't know the solutions for it, but you'll figure it out. And that was kind of it. That was a small town hall. I was at that time in the US for some other things, and that's it. We came back all of us with that, and we were like "Puh, what does that mean we are in business to save our home planet?" But it gave us, honestly, a kick in the ass to say like "Yes, we are a great business but are we really changing the necessary things that need to be changed today in order to reverse the course we're on?" So everyone from product to marketing to finance to customer service started to ask themselves: In my world, what does this mean? And we haven't got all the answers — even a year later. But the company moved with a very different pace and also very different motivation, you know.
Silja: I mean, on the one hand, he trusts you. On the other hand, he's saying like you have to figure it out, leaving you as well. How would you say… because many companies have a mission statement, but they don't activate it. What is the secret behind Patagonia that you, as thousands of people working at the company, want to figure out what this actually means?
Mihela: Yeah, you know I think if I would work for another company and somebody would come on one sunny day and say that, you know, I would have a million questions, right? But it is true that we've been doing a lot of this in the past 40 years. So we've always been very dedicated on preserving the wild spaces, on supporting the grassroots community, the grassroots environmental organizations around the world, you know, giving a lot of money, running campaigns around the issues that would otherwise not really make it to the dinner or business table, right! So I think because this pressure is mounting from where the climate and ecological crisis is today, and then our size of the business is also growing. And you know I think it's really needed to have a critical look at it. Are we doing a lot or are we really doing the important stuff? And there is no easy answer to that, but Patagonia has always been also very experimental. So Yvon would always say you know that he runs this as an experiment and he would always encourage us is like you know: Try new stuff! And it's not going to work every time. And I think that's a nice way of so working for a company that is privately owned. Then you try things and then ask for forgiveness a little later if it doesn't work. But you are always really encouraged to do what feels right for you.
Silja: And keep learning that way.
Mihela: And keep learning, exactly! How do you learn if you never fail, you know? And that's like the whole, let's say, responsible business journey; it's a journey. There is no end date to it, you know. We all evolve and learn. And while the planet around us you know is collapsing our impact today is very much different than it was 10-20 years ago. But also in terms of the supply chains and our own footprint, we learned so much. We would go in with one or two products, and then 70-80% of our products would either support the recyclable materials or Fairtrade and so on, and that never started as like we will be 100%. We said, let's try.
Simon: This also means that a lot of risks that is asked from you to take.
Mihela: Yes, yes, of course.
Simon: And a risk is usually in a business world something you try to avoid or mitigate in some sort of way and try to go the safe, profitable way — execute that road best way possible. Is this just the founder's spirit that is still so strong and that everyone can go that route and trust someone on that kind of intuition or the strong mission?
Mihela: Well, of course philosophy is very strongly present at Patagonia, but it's the whole organizational culture that somehow was able to grow with our growth as well. And I think the harder things are coming at us, the better we are as a company. So when we decided that it's not enough to just be small and do all the experiments because other big companies would always say "Patagonia can do it because you know you are a Californian based surf company of course you can afford to do small changes." But now we are not anymore. We are a sizable business now. So the game is very different. But you cannot have all of these visions and strategies and missions if people within the company don't feel like doing it. If they feel like, let's say, we want to have this bag completely recyclable in a year. But the solution doesn't exist. You need to have people who are willing to go this extra mile you know or like bring the carbon footprint of this product down and make it fair trade and so on. So you need to have people who believe that this is the right thing to do and then they'll figure it out how to get there. And I think that actually came a lot with a connection with nature itself. People cherish it. You know, we've always been protecting the spaces. We've always been enjoying the spaces. So that's a really strong bond. Another one is that we've always been really connected to the environmental organizations, smaller one. People who like you said before would start something out of passion. They'll protect this river because they live next to it or the forest or fight against the coal mine and so on. And with us, this is not kind of a charity it's not running through a separate foundation. It's really embedded in the way we do business, and we work with these groups. They keep you on the toes all the time you know. You know what's going on out on the streets. You are not isolated because it's not just your house that is here on fire; it's the whole street. So you need to clean up your house but also take care of the rest of the streets.
Simon: If you zoom out and look at the players that are in that system. We have the companies that we talk about now. We have the consumer side; people buying products which is also overlapping but for that sake consumer side. And we have the regulators, the governments and all those institutions regulating the market. Now Patagonia, I think, is a company that says OK consumers are in power to change in their demand from other companies that they act and transform their way of doing business. Other people say OK we have to rely on regulators and doing this the global or the big way and come in with regulations that take care of that which is also happening. Others say OK the business itself has to kind of challenge it and reinvent themselves towards a more sustainable, more reliant part in the world. What is… Is there a truth to where the power lies or is this just…?
Mihela: I think we as people are trained to think linear, right? We view things like if something 'here' happens, it will lead to 'that'. But actually, life never works like this. And you know the big change is never just from one source. So it's always a collective action. And then at the end, 20-30 years from now somebody will look back and will analyze from the anthropology side, from all the sides like how did that change happen? And maybe, they'll see the pattern in like who was really leading it. I feel like that we as a business do have a very big responsibility and part of the responsibility is also not to keep things for ourselves. So that collective action among other businesses is very needed. So now we shouldn't be competing on who will solve the microplastics issue because it's too big. We should be here cooperating, and that's a very different narrative and logic for businesses. But if you look at for example benefit corporation, B Corp, right. We became a B Corp in 2011 and how this movement grew and probably a lot of… I saw you also interviewed Nathan (Nathan Gibert or B Lab Europe — Ep. 5 of The Idealists). This is a sign, right? The old system is dying right, and this is kind of a sign of a new system or a transitional system that businesses are stepping in — the same thing with the 1%. We've been giving 1% of our sales to the environmental organizations, and then we also form that organization that can do that for other businesses. So it becomes a business model. So 1% you give to the environmental organizations because you'll never be able to zero your footprint, you know, it's not possible. So that giving needs to be part of your business plan, and then you try to match with the organizations that are actually working and speaking your values. So I think this collective action among businesses but then also among customers, I feel sometimes that businesses are also underestimating their influence that they have. Because if you only look at pushing the product to people and you have to find that ideal market niche you know, I think that's such old thinking. If you feel that you have 10, 20, 30 million people out there who are looking at your brand, I mean that's the biggest political party you know. Thirty million people voted the UK out of Europe. There are brands who have twice the community today. So imagine if you help rally this community to do something good. We are just finalizing now the campaign where we said we are going to match the euro by euro for the environmental organizations and we had no idea. We put a cap on 10 million. We said we would match to 10 million. And we thought we overestimated, but in three weeks we got to 10 million. In three weeks, people have donated 10 million to small environmental organizations in the US and Europe. So I feel like there is such a big urgency out there. People feel it. People want to participate. So why wouldn't business give an opportunity?
Silja: And businesses can make it easy as well for consumers to act. I think sometimes you want to help, or you want to contribute, but you don't know where to start. I think that's also part of Patagonia that the work you do and the people do at Patagonia makes it easier for other businesses to follow but also consumers to take action.
Mihela: Yeah, I don't know. This is a little bit back and forth. This action now, for example, it's easy to donate money because like these small grassroots are the most underfunded in the whole environmental movement. But on the other side, a lot of things that we do is actually bring very complex issues in front of our audiences and discuss it with them. And not being able to say you do 1, 2, 3, 4 but it's like you need to learn. You need to learn that we will run out of wild fish because we are putting fish farms in like we do with fish farming the same we do any other animal farming on the land. Like two years ago, we had the campaign about Blue Heart and the dams, and we started to speak about what the new renewable mix is? Everyone's talking we need to get to the renewables. But are we going to dam all the rivers? And are we going to ruin all the other ecosystems? You know just to kind of make sure that our thirst for energy is not going to be damaged. And these are the topics that a lot of times, also really confused people. But I think the good part of it is that the way we do it is we do films. So we would produce high-quality films, and then we would distribute them in a way that people come together and discuss in a physical space with people who have different opinions, same opinions and so on. And I think that's what is so needed today that we actually have time to digest. Not just flipping through short messages and all the noise that is out there. So how do you push through the noise and make people stop a little bit and think? Then they can form their opinion on what they're going to do it.
Simon: And as you said, one means of doing that for Patagonia is doing movies, doing films. You were involved within Blue Heart movie a lot.
Mihela: Yes. Yes.
Simon: And there is Artificial, for example. A lot of movies that are produced and I think Yvon once said you're a movie company or a film company now.
Simon: And as long as humanity exists I think that the art of telling a story and exactly getting people into at least talking about something or also influencing them in what they talk about…
Mihela: And you asked me before where the change will come? Storytelling is a big part like which story will really bring people on, you know.
Simon: And so this is your way of activating because again moviemaking or filmmaking could also be seen as another part of the business. This is something we do for profit because it's profitable to do…
Mihela: Yeah and I think… we've been discussing that like what if that department at one point will become profitable? And then what is wrong with that? If you are actually pursuing really high-quality documentaries on the environment that nobody else would take on just because they are very complex right. And we started six years ago. The first full-featured film came out, DamNation, and it was a very unusual way for a textile company to talk about dams in the US. But you know we've been protecting rivers since the beginning. A lot of our communities are enjoying the rivers and the whole movement in the US was a bit like deflated, you know. And I think Yvon got an idea, got a director on board and it's a beautiful film. And even now I would hear from groups that work on rivers sometimes saying like "Oh my god, this film helps us bring the community together again and help us restart the conversation." The whole dam removal here for Europe started out of this which is not saying that we are so great. It's saying like that these things really matter, where you put your marketing dollars, and your creativity does matter as a brand.
Silja: And I guess that's also the responsibility of your job. I think most people would say "Wow, that's the dream company and admire what Patagonia is doing." But it also comes with a huge responsibility to have this role at this type of company having an impact.
Mihela: Yes. And we would also never like it's not our thing that we would come out as a Patagonia having this point of view alone in front of the government, in front of the other businesses. We are always trying to bring the community together. So we are looking at the issues that have been addressed already by the community but need a bigger voice because otherwise, things won't change. So that's why nobody would know today about these women who were sitting on the bridge you know in Bosnia for like eight months were beaten and everything. Nobody would know about them. But like once you discover this story they give a lot of people that they're fighting for this locally like a really huge boost that it's worth it and that at the end when all the government policies and when all you know the big promises fail these are the people who at the end protect the last stretch of forest or the last parts of the river. And speaking of responsibility and my job I will say a lot of people think this is a dream job, but I will tell you that having this job, not just this comes with responsibility also comes with you need to have a great perseverance because the amount of bad news that is out there every day you need to be able to handle it, and it's coming all the time you know.
Simon: Yeah, I mean that's the question because if you talk about environmental initiatives, you immediately think about what's wrong about the environment, right? And from my perspective, the movies, for example, could also show the other way around like what's the beauty of nature and what could be preserved as such? Right? I don't know the title of the tree movie …
Simon: Yes, Treeline! So amazing.
Simon: Captivating a story like artsy story about trees which is very …
Mihela: Yeah. And this is meeting people where they are, right? How do you invite them into the community? Not everyone wants to go and sit out on the streets. You know, not everyone is ready to give money. So how can you start grasping people and bringing them together and then giving them enough, not educational information, but yeah giving them enough content that they go home, and can't just forget about it? You know it's something that keeps thrilling and staying.
Simon: And it works, right? I know many people who went vegetarian after seeing some sort of documentary, right? It's a very simple mechanism in that way.
Mihela: Where we have a bit of different storytelling on all of this is that, usually, we've never been telling people that as long as they do something as individuals, it's enough. Like we've really tried to storytelling around that these are system changes. Yes, it's important not to eat so much meat. It's important not to buy farmed salmon, but this itself is not going to change it, right. So we have to be out there in front of the governmental offices. We have to be speaking to the businesses. We have to be speaking to the banks who are financing that. So that's a whole complexity of where this kind of root causes sit and create the scale that is today a little bit like really intimidating to look at it. Where do you start? You need to start somewhere, and then you learn that maybe that door was the wrong one to knock, and then you go to another one.
Simon: And for you, it might seem like an obvious question. But activism for you or in Patagonia is like the weapon of choice. It's like an activist company which supports activism on the streets and also funds grassroots activist organizations. Why not do it any other way? I get that you have the big leverage of a billion-dollar company and then distribute a part of it to really small activists organizations. Why is that decision to distribute that in smaller groups?
Mihela: It's been an important part of our history, from the very beginning. Like we started to fund the first small organization, it was called the Friends of Ventura River. Behind our office, there has been a river who's been dammed and damaged in all sorts of ways already in the early 20th century. And then in the mid-century when we started, so in the 1970s, another sewage pipe was about to go in and basically one student was able to prevent the whole project to happen. So that's where it started. We didn't have money at the time, so we gave him a desk and a phone, and he called himself "Friends of Ventura River" although he was just one. And I think that was kind of an inspiration for it. And then we started with you know a couple of groups and so on and today we fund more than probably 1400 groups. So also statistically like 90% of all the funding goes into the big organizations. So then you also of course fund all the administration and you know all the advocacy. That is also important, but we just found our place that has more of a narrative and feeling that we have. Like we always talk what we think. And you know we're not too careful if you read Yvon's interviews, you'll see what I mean. You know it's very direct, and that's how we want to fund to really directly. And being with these people and then also discussing with them what else is needed? Like beyond these ten thousand dollars, what else do you need? And sometimes a campaign like Blue Heart would come out when we would find 8, 9, 10 organizations with a good strategy of fighting for something that is totally under everyone's radar, and then we say OK this has a potential and go for it. Yeah.
Simon: That's also tying into the Patagonia Action Works where you are kind of the dating platform for people who want to get involved and the initiatives that are already running.
Mihela: Yeah, so for 40 years we've been funding them, and we would at the end of the year, issue an initiative's book. It became like a big phone book with all the organizations that we fund. So three years ago on the Black Friday, we had this campaign 100% for the planet where we said whatever you buy from us that day we will give into the funding for the groups. And at that time was also 10 million. So this 10 million keep following us, I guess. And it was really a huge proof to us as well: people really want to get involved. So how do we get them involved beyond just buying the jacket or not even buying our jacket? And then we started to think yes, of course you know life is going very digital and also the younger generation is much more digital than even I am. 1400 groups. What do they need? We've done a lot of serving with them. And then also with our customers like how they would act on this ladder of engagement? How would they move from just clicking the petition to like really activating their time and donating their skills and so on? And that's how this platform came about to really have all the organizations on it. They can ask for social amplification that we fund. They can ask for a skill matching from us. They can publish the event and so on. The idea is wherever you are: in Vermont, in Amsterdam, in Berlin, in Chamonix,… that you go on the platform and say like OK what's going on in the valley? You click on it, and you have the organizations we support. There are some valleys we also don't have anyone, but that's the idea. Oh, there is an event around the corner tomorrow where I can learn more about air pollution or like oh this organization needs a web design skill I can probably offer free hours of my time next week. Or yeah, I need to sign a petition or actually I can give a little bit of money here.
Silja: And how long did it take to develop this platform from idea to launch?
Mihela: I think it took more than a year and a half. It's been running in the US for two years already, and we launched here in September.
Simon: And zooming out again and having that dating app for those grassroots organizations and you have the 1% and you have…
Mihela: It is all connected.
Mihela: So the organizations we are displaying on our 1% grantees are the organizations we have a history with and we are working with. So we did an open platform for everyone, but we wanted to keep the oversight on what's going on. But yeah the main idea is like connect our customers with the grassroots environmentalists and vice versa.
Simon: Right. And do you have the feeling that you, Patagonia as a company, can overdo it in that? I'm thinking of… it's a maybe a stupid way of thinking, but if I think about Red Bull, for example, this is a company which sells an energy drink but is perceived as like everything else, right. Extreme sports, helicopter flying, music, whatever. Maybe it's a very good way or a good sign that Patagonia gets perceived as something else as an outdoor gear company. Where do you think is the right balance between we're just a total activist company transcending into something else like we started as an outdoor company? Or do you think OK this also has to be in balance somehow?
Mihela: I think that customers find the balance, right. The customers who love us for the product – only for the technical side of the product they buy the product. Then the people who we also consider our customers now who are using Patagonia Action Works just to find their groups and how to connect with them. You know they go there. So there are many sides to this. But hopefully, a lot of people would eventually come in for the mission and value and the product and would take a side in their activism too, and this is why I mean we call it activism right. But it's actually a collective action. So how can you scale this that people know that it's not just enough to identify with the brand? That you actually need to act and need to support at least the local group because otherwise, the change is not going to come. And that's very new, right. Because a long, long time, especially as we're living in the cities, everything is served to us. Maybe in Copenhagen, it is a bit different, but in a lot of countries, people are kind of thinking that somebody else will solve the problem. And up until a year ago when kids started to strike and Extinction Rebellion came out people still thought (there were of course groups who would be able to mobilize and go and close down the coal mines and do big, big mobilization). It would be one-off or two-off. Right. And now things started to really roll. And at the end when we talk to other businesses and other people, and you know they would say you (Patagonia) are doing so much, and at the end, you know what really counts is looking at the emission chart. Are we able collectively to bring them down? Because you know at the end if we are the only one doing all of this and not enough of others are joining that's not going to happen, right. And if you even see after the Paris Agreement I mean now we're just finalizing the COP 25 with pretty big, hmmm, I lost my English: big disappointment. Yes. But even after Paris, it didn't go just a little down. It just keeps on going down. So there are so many hidden things that are behind the curtain that people don't realize. They are not really working for our future. They're really working against it. And how do you uncover this curtain and show it? And then also show us some steps towards this action. I do feel that this is not a Patagonia role only. This should be a role of every business, of every government, of every civil society organization today.
Simon: In that sense, every business has to find their individual role in that. I think it wouldn't be right to proclaim every business has to become an activist company.
Mihela: No, that's not what I'm saying. But like thinking that somebody else will solve this is like… it's very important that you keep cleaning up your own business footprint. This should continue, and even here like there is still much more finance needed to really make supply chains let's say more circular, less carbon-intensive and better for people. But then there is also like on the whole societal aspect: Are all institutions really working towards bringing the emissions down or are we just kind of fooling ourselves thinking that you know a couple of beacons are going to do it? It's not. I'm afraid that this is not enough.
Silja: Do you think or do you have the impression that other companies or other people are waiting for Patagonia to do more and more and more so they can be on the sofa?
Mihela: I hope not. I think a lot of companies today are also in that race you know. But there's also the truth that a lot of them are not. And these are usually very big ones who will need to move, and sometimes the policy will move them, but that doesn't mean that we should wait for the policy because also the policy is not moving fast enough.
Simon: It's the question of speed then because you can change your business faster than you can change, you know the government deciding what is right and wrong.
Mihela: Exactly. And Yvon would always say, and he can say that as an entrepreneur, he would say every time I have done something good for the environment I made money, right. But even that wouldn't be heard. I think sometimes you know. It's a very straightforward statement that when people realize that you are doing good things, they will come right or you shouldn't be that much worried about this. But yeah of course there is always the risk that they wouldn't.
Simon: And if you look at that pendulum that may be swung in the last ten years after the financial crisis to that sort of hyper-capitalist worldview. You directly divide shareholders from stakeholders and just optimize for the shareholders' value. Again hope is a terrible word for that—but in my observation, this is now fully on that side and has to kind of swing back as it usually does within economies and all of that. But in this sense, I feel like it's not only an economic problem; it's an economic problem which also transcends into this is a societal problem and a psychology problem. And you know this gets merged in a weird way because you cannot rely on the economy going to solve on its own, right. This is the invisible hand, and it's gonna take care of it. How much positivity is there that this is not just a regular swing, but that we saw a major pendulum swing and this is going to swing back into another direction?
Mihela: Well, you know if you look historically in the last 100 years when the big moments in the society happened: we did come out sometimes as a better society and sometimes as much worse. So it's kind of hard to know what is going to happen this time. But yeah it is a much bigger and very deep-rooted problem. It's not the economy who will fix everything. And by the way, I think that where we are today, we cannot talk about fixing anymore. We need to talk about a complete restructuring of why we grow, how we grow. Why this growth paradigm is so deeply rooted in every policy, in every company, and so on. I just feel that you know you look at the science; a lot of the policymakers would say we need additional proof. And then the proof is there, and they wouldn't listen to it because it's just not convenient. So we are doing this to ourselves. It's the same with the companies, right. We need more and more research. We need more research that the customers will buy from us. We need more research that this is really urgent. Two years ago, when we would talk to businesses, sometimes business would say: Customers wouldn't care. And I would feel very offended as a customer too like how you would say that I don't care about these things? And today they're all on the street. So at least for this, we don't need proof anymore. People are upset; young people are very upset. So this is also part of the driver why I think today not having climate goals as a company is just no go anymore.
Silja: And if you look out to the future because you're in business to save the home planet which you could also say like there is a point in time where it's saved?
Mihela: Yeah, I don't know. It's a journey. But I do think that the next five years are going to be crucial ones for the businesses to fully step in and accelerate if you call it saving or reversing the course we're in. And if that doesn't happen I think then it's going to be much, much harder or it will be less optimistic that any big changes can still happen. But I think the next five years are also a great opportunity. Now we know everything. We know all the facts — no need for another scientist to tell us. You know, we are at the brink. So now we can say OK, how are we going to work without fossil fuels? How are we going to work with very limited resources? You know it's different planning.
Simon: Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, rate the show on Apple Podcasts, follow us on Spotify. Or maybe just tell someone about it. You can find all episodes on www.theidealists.co! As always, here's our last question: Who should we talk to next?
Mihela: I would suggest that you talk to Dr Bronner's team. Either to David or Axel in Germany. I think their philosophy around also this environmental activism and you know a soap company going through a lot of hard times, and then how strong they stand for these values of taking care of people and planet is very inspiring.
"I think we as people are trained to think linear, right? We think if something 'here' happens, it will lead to 'that'. But actually, life never works like this."
— Mihela Hladin Wolfe [00:12:44]
Mihela Hladin Wolfe
City of Helsinki
Mariah Mansvelt Beck
B Lab Europe
Christian Paul Kägi