Let's Talk Levers: Sustainability

Let's Talk Levers: Sustainability

By: Emily Kane Miller

The Ethos Lever Model

The Ethos Lever Model utilizes fourteen different “Levers” by which an organization can make an impact. Each Lever serves a real opportunity to create value - but when strategically pulled together, result in a powerful and cohesive Social Impact strategy. See all 14 Levers here.

In this blog series, the Ethos team breaks down each Lever - complete with expanded definitions and real-life examples - so you can best understand how to pull the right Levers through your organization's social impact work. 


Sustainability focuses on tracking environmental impact and holding teams accountable to meaningful environmental stewardship.

Maximize SustainabilityEfforts: 

  • Community impact is environmental impact
  • Establish ESG criteria (environmental, social, governance) and examine operations 
    • What are the standards and how are they measured?
    • Once it’s clear what the metrics are, calculate a baseline where Company stands
      • Work with vendors to see if they are already measuring environmental footprint 
      • Score suppliers to the extent possible. Address any major shortfalls or consider switching suppliers if necessary 
      • Implement processes to reduce carbon footprint over time where possible (i.e. production, byproduct, travel), and track successful reduction

SustainabilityThree Real-Life Examples

1.GMAs the largest automaker in the US, GM recognizes the impact they can make as an opportunity to be able to create a world with zero- emissions. 

GM’s #EVerybodyIn campaign showcases the company’s efforts to accelerate mass adoption of EVs (electric vehicles).  They have three priorities to help advance a zero-emissions, all-electric future which are: the climate equity fund, creating EVs for everyone, and a platform that moves the world.  Their Climate Equity Fund will focus millions of dollars on ensuring that GM’s employees and the communities they call home can access electric vehicles, sustainable tech and green infrastructure solutions.

GM is working on making a better, more sustainable world which requires more than EV adoption.They’ve vowed to be carbon neutral by 2040, and promised to have 30 EVs available globally by 2025. They have begun this process by making factory ZERO which is the first fully dedicated electric assembly plant. 

Their EverybodyIn campaign demonstrates GM’s intent to lead but are inviting others to help move society forward by expanding infrastructure, advocating for progress in communities, and learning the benefits of EV ownership. GM is committed to making a change and refuses to be number two when it comes to a world with zero emissions. 

2.AspirationAspiration is an insured bank deposit program that puts money where the customers values are. They promise that savings and debit card purchases will never be used to fund oil or coal industries. 

Aspiration created the Plant Your Change feature in an effort to provide customers a way to help combat deforestation. If a customer wants to add Plant Your Change to their Aspiration card then each purchase that they make will be rounded to the nearest whole dollar. In addition, Aspiration is committed to planting one tree for each time a purchase is rounded up through a partnership with Eden Reforestation. 

A  customer will earn cash rewards for reaching tree-planting milestones. The rewards are broken down by: 

  • 30 trees planted = $5 reward
  • 100 trees planted = $10 reward
  • 500 trees planted = $25 reward
  • 1,000 trees planted = $50 reward
  • 2,500 trees planted = $100 reward
  • 5,000 trees planted = $200 reward

Plant Your Change has been responsible for planting 121 million acres of trees and almost 50 million trees. This initiative demonstrates Aspiration’s dedication to building a better world by helping people spend and invest with a conscience. 

3. Allbirds: Allbirds is a certified B Corp and eco-friendly footwear and apparel company that created a revolutionary wool fabric inspired by natural materials. They have an ongoing mantra to create better things in a better way to help the environment. 

Allbirds understands that fashion pollutes the planet but believes it is not too late to reduce the environmental impact that fashion companies are responsible for. The Allbirds Flight Plan is committed to cut their footprint in half by 2025 and near zero by 2030. Meanwhile Allbirds continues to be 100% carbon neutral and wants businesses to follow their lead. 

Their business model believes that reverse climate change through better business is possible by following a simple vision of establishing a 3 step approach to hold ourselves accountable, outlining priorities to reduce our footprint, and committing to concrete changes by 2025. Allbirds approach to make this possible is by measuring everything that contributes to their carbon footprint, reducing their impact beyond carbon neutrality, and striving for longer-term climate goals to offset all emissions. 

Allbirds understand that this is not easy or cheap work to make the world a better place, but they are committed to regenerative agriculture, renewable materials, and responsible energy. 

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