Our Moral Compass

How we vet potential leads from an ethical standpoint

This year alone, we’ve turned down somewhere between $200k - $300k in potential work, because the leads didn’t meet our moral requirements for taking on new projects. The lions share of this work were projects that didn’t meet our sustainability requirements (below), but we’ve also had a couple of other leads that fell into a morally ambiguous space that we sadly had to turn down.

This has prompted us to document and improve the quality of our “Moral Compass” in the open, so that we can start interactions with others in our community, and improve the document through that conversation.

Here’s how we vet potential clients, prior to sending proposals:

Greenwashers & Cheap, Mass Produced Products

Everything that we make returns to the earth as either food or poison. A lot of products really shouldn't exist, but everyone wants to be an Instagram entrepreneur, and hustle culture runs deep in the USA. Additionally, these days sustainability sells, and that means everyone's trying to pretend their product is good for the earth (it's almost definitely not).

We won't work with:

  • Hyper-consumerist products (like fashion, cosmetics & beauty products) that can't show a valid sustainability initiative*

  • Hype or Desire driven industries that survive on short, focused bursts of (mass produced) cycles to sustain the business

  • Products that claim a level of sustainability, but obviously undermine it (like a "plastic free aluminum container" with a plastic label)

  • "Premium mediocre" products (cheap, mass produced) where the only value or innovation to the category is aesthetics or branding

*A valid sustainability initiative is...

  • A significant yearly donation commitment of % of profit to grassroots organizations, lobbyist groups, conservations

  • A commitment to conducting a carbon foot-printing analysis (LCA study), that is released to customers transparently, and making goals year over year to reduce emissions

  • Offering customers a carbon offset at the time of checkout (or doing this for them)

  • A commitment to gain a carbon neutral certification

Extremist or Hateful Politics

We're mostly lefties, but that doesn't mean we isolate ourselves with similar politically minded people. Rather, we are happy to work with anyone regardless of their political leaning, provided they are not hateful or extreme.

Some examples:

  • Individuals who've published hateful or alienating think pieces or worked for publications known to do so

  • Individuals who've held positions in hateful political groups

  • Individuals who've been banned due to social media Terms of Service

Claims of Moral Turpitude

If an individual is accused of immoral, unethical or unjust behavior, we have a zero tolerance policy, and always default to believing the victim's word. We do not attempt to make judgements around whether the accused has been reformed, nor do we wade into the details of the accusation to try and make a judgement call. It's not our place, we simply move on.

Moral Turpitude might include:

  • Claims of sexual assault, abuse, other violence or discrimination (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia)

  • Claims of nefarious behavior (like privacy violations or social engineering)

  • Claims of anti-social behavior (like online slander, hateful speech)

Dark Money or Exploitative Behavior

It can be hard to tell where clients get their funding from, but sometimes it's possible to understand that a project is being funded by an entity with ties to more evil industries.

Dark Money might have ties to:

  • Oil or fossil fuels

  • Mass resource extraction

  • Gambling

  • Organizations involved in incarceration, war, or mass surveillance

  • Industries or organizations with clear ties to slave labor or exploitative production practices

  • Products that steal from other cultures (cultural appropriation)

  • Companies or products that steal ideas from smaller companies or artists

Harmful or Addictive Substances / Behaviors

Just because a substance isn't classified as a drug doesn't mean it's ethical to sell on mass.

Some industries we wouldn't work with in this space are:

  • Exploitative / harmful products or industries (profiting off, or taking advantage of vulnerable people)

  • Nicotine & vapes

  • Addictive pharmaceuticals

  • Chemical manufacturers (Monsanto, etc)

  • Products or companies that encourage an unhealthy behavior around substances (for example, a beer funnel)

This has been many years in the making, and surely has some blindspots - but in any case - thank you for reading. We don’t have a perfect track record, but as Toby might say: lemme tell you about a little thing called Becoming Good.

If you have feedback, please comment below, or tweet at us over here.