Lou Cysewski is a Seattle EO member and co-founder and CEO of Coolperx, the world’s first carbon neutral merchandising company. She is committed to transforming the SWAG industry from a toxic polluter into a conscientious association of people and values with a strong focus on sustainability. We asked Lou about her experience. She shared the following:
Promotional products represent a nearly $ 30 billion industry that produces approximately $ 24 billion in landfill waste each year. On average, a typical SWAG is kept by its recipients for only eight months. With Coolperx, I wanted to help businesses and consumers alike break away from the cheap, useless gifts industry and opt for high quality, usable, sustainably made gifts that actually build meaningful relationships and a sense of appreciation.
We developed our proprietary and accredited “Climate Cost Index” to assess the environmental impact of all of our products – from concept to end of life – which helped us meet our environmental sustainability goals. We then made and continue to make decisions regarding our choices of product materials, packaging, shipping practices, etc. We also get back 100% of our business and sales emissions by building clean solar energy in the dirtiest parts of the US -Energy network.
The biggest and most consistent reason companies continue to make decisions that are harmful to the environment is their short-term profit orientation. The bottom line is that sustainability is more expensive up front.
However, people today demand sustainably manufactured products. According to recent studies, almost six in ten consumers are willing to change their shopping habits in order to reduce their ecological footprint.
Regarding corporate gifts, employees and customers want to feel comfortable with the items they receive, knowing that they are both conscious and good for the environment. Mutual value is imparted when companies give conscientiously. This in turn has an impact on employee engagement – and thus on performance – as well as customer acquisition and retention. All of this has a positive effect on the company’s bottom line.
So yes, sustainability is both the right thing and the smart thing in today’s society.
Businesses need to create an ecosystem where sustainable practices flow through their entire supply network and don’t stop there. It’s one thing to say no to environmentally harmful practices and another to ask business partners, vendors and suppliers at all levels of the supply chain to do the same.
Here are four key takeaways to help you achieve this goal:
Like it or not, we see gifts we receive as a reflection of how someone feels about us. They have the power to make us feel valued, recognized and valued or disregarded, snubbed and taken for granted.
As a child I began to connect the dots between the intention of the giver and the effect of the gift. My mother – a first generation Japanese American – was 19 and single when she became pregnant with me and raised me and my four siblings by very modest means. At Christmas time, my father – who grew up in and out of our lives – filled our stockings to the brim. At first it was exciting! Until I found candy I would never eat and toys I would never play with. At the time I had the feeling that my father didn’t know me and didn’t want to know me. Instead of creating a connection, these mandatory gifts damaged an already fragile relationship.
This experience left a lasting mark on me and today I teach companies to convey appreciation in a meaningful way and to integrate values through gifts and experiences.
I’ve always been drawn to calm and steady leaders who are primarily driven by services and goals, not power or money. They inspire and get the best out of those around them. That’s the kind of leader I’ve always wanted to be. The service component of leadership is also deeply personal for me.
After 9/11, I joined the army as the fourth generation to serve in the military in my family to become a medic and a nurse. Being an Army Nurse has been a small part of my story, but it has ingrained my values of serving and protecting. My goal as a manager is to build a culture of care and intentionality that is anchored around service.
As a freshly baked civilian, I focused my work on community health. I wanted to make the world better and fairer and to provide education to underserved populations. This was the beginning of my activism.
Both my time in the military and as a community worker have had a lasting impact on my life and leadership style.