One of the advantages of using DrumRole is that I do the hard work of finding companies that balance profit and purpose for you.
Which leads to the question: how do I decide which companies to include?
It’s an important question - and an area I’ll be transparent on.
Because it’s hard.
Many companies are making grand promises. But all too often, they have a track record of failing to deliver.
Like Coca-Cola’s pledge to use at least 50% recycled material in their packaging by 2030. Which sounds promising - except it’s not their first promise. In 2009 Coca-Cola said they would have 25% recycled materials in their plastic by 2015. But in 2020, they were using only 9.7% recycled plastic.
It’s also hard to objectively compare companies because there are no reporting or auditing standards. And new companies don’t even have a record to track or report.
To try and overcome these challenges, I use the following three general principles to select companies for DrumRole.
Red lines are activities that exclude a company from being on DrumRole:
- Being in the business of weapons, espionage, tobacco or fossil fuels.
- Exploiting workers or suppliers (like Uber and other companies relying on gig workers).
- Undermining Democracy, society or the safety of individuals (like Facebook or Parler).
There are already organisations that review and assess companies in detail before giving them accreditation. I plan to leverage these where I can.
Currently, I use B Corps, as they “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability”.
But while certification is a helpful guide, the cost can prevent smaller companies from applying. So I won’t exclude a company just because they don’t have a certification.
Is it central to what they do?
Generally, I include companies with a core mission to promote sustainability and equality. Some of these are clear, like green energy. Others less so, as the business model drives the benefit.
Lemonade is a good example. Normally insurance companies profit by not paying out claims. But Lemonade takes a flat fee, so they don’t benefit if a claim isn’t paid. And better still, any money left over after paying claims and taking their fee is donated to charities.
But two areas I’ve struggled with are consumption and carbon credits.
A note on consumption
Perhaps the easiest way to reduce our environmental impact is to use fewer things. This can be done by sharing, making items last longer, or reducing waste. But many companies encourage us to buy more. Does the damage of promoting over-consumption outweigh any benefit from a company making sustainable products?
It’s a tough one, and I don’t have a good answer yet. Consumption isn’t inherently bad. If a company sells a lot of bicycles, which replace cars on our roads, it’s a good thing. As is eating more plant-based foods. Where it gets murky is when people are encouraged to buy more things. Like using bulk buying discounts. Or poorly made products that need replacing sooner.
For the moment, I’ll do it on a case-by-case basis.
The challenge of carbon credits
Carbon credits seem like they should be a good thing. They’re a way for people and companies to support projects removing carbon from the atmosphere.
But two things muddy the waters:
- The quality of the projects
- How the credits are sold (and the behaviour they drive)
All carbon credits are not equal. There are no standards to measure the underlying projects - so a project regenerating a forest can appear equal to one paying a farmer not to cut down trees.
Why does this matter?
Because we need to invest in projects that take more carbon out of the air. Not to take credit for what is already being done.
It’s a similar problem with how some carbon credits are sold.
To limit climate change, we also need to reduce the carbon we produce. Yet many carbon credits are sold as a way to “sustainably” keep doing what you’re doing. Companies and people don’t need to change their behaviour - just buy some credits to offset it.
It may reduce guilt, but it doesn’t help the climate.
While some of these companies may have good intentions, I won’t include any companies selling either bad carbon credits, or credits to offset bad behaviour (like frequent air travel).
A few other things you need to know
There are a few other reasons a company may not be on DrumRole. These are due to practical issues rather than whether they’re good companies.
I’m the only one working on DrumRole, so there are many companies I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet. Also, I’ve limited the companies to:
- Having jobs in the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
- Being remote and working in the European time-zones.
- Doing most of their business in English.
I hope to expand on these areas in the future, but prefer to narrow my focus for now.
As I’m sure you can tell, my method isn’t perfect. I’ll be updating and improving it as I learn - and will keep this article up to date so you can know what is going on behind the scenes.
And if you have any suggestions, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you - your feedback will help make DrumRole better.