Consumers often comment on the sustainability practices — whether good or bad — of the companies they frequent. But actually getting this feedback to these businesses is another story. Enter Remark – a Denver-based app the puts the power to enact change directly into the hands of the public. “I think the most harmful fallacy our planet faces is that individuals can’t make a difference,” said Beth Birchfield, chief sustainability officer at Remark and a Colorado native.
“In less than a minute, users can send their sustainability feedback to CEO’s or business owners — encouraging the good and discouraging the bad,” explained Jess Lybeck, Remark’s CEO and founder. “For those that are feeling anxious about the climate and waste crisis, Remark provides an outlet to actually DO something about their concerns.” Both Lybeck and Birchfield started their careers in other fields, but have now found themselves passionate about their work within the sustainability sphere.
After years of working as an urban designer and entrepreneur, Lybeck began to educate herself about the environment — but she didn’t always care. “In fact, I remember a time 15 years ago when I saw the Greenpeace solicitors on a street corner and thinking to myself ‘I feel bad for people who care so much,’” she said. “I was so very much focused on my fledgling career, friends, etc.”
After watching documentaries and reading relevant books and articles, Lybeck’s eyes were gradually opened and new habits started to form. “And most importantly, I started noticing the impact I can have as a consumer by changing my habits and demanding better from the businesses I support,” she added. After getting increasingly frustrated and anxious about the subject, Lybeck began to contact businesses with her sustainability feedback. She let them know about things like her disdain for styrofoam takeout containers or unnecessary packaging for online orders.
“And surprisingly, the CEO’s and owners got back to me, promising to do better,” she said. “My entrepreneurial gears started churning…I thought, what is we could send thousands or millions of emails to businesses around the world?” Remark reports that countless businesses are responding personally to the app, including mega-corporations like “Costco, Walmart, Albertson’s, and Chipotle.”
How It Works
Rather than jumping through the hoops of finding contacts and drafting countless emails, Remark does the work for you. App users can search for a business, provide feedback and the team does the rest. Remark makes money by creating connections between these businesses and resources to help them sustainably. “For example, if a business that needs alternative packaging is connected with a sustainable manufacturer then Remark earns a small referral fee from the manufacturer,” explained Lybeck. They’re also considered to be a Public Benefit Corporation, a “legal entity that merges social impact with a for-profit corporation. I truly believe that to solve the problems we face as a society, we need to merge profit and impact.”
Small and Tight-Knit
Just five employees make up the Remark team, despite the company having wide-spread impact. In 2019 Lybeck, along with app developers Don McKinnon and Jeff Bruson, co-founded the company. At the time, an SMS bot was powering the company to pass feedback onto companies. “That ran for over a year and we sent almost 800 emails with that simple system,” Lybeck said.
Simultaneously, they were building the app they have today and brought Birchfield and COO Alison Clarke onboard. Since launching for iOS and Android in January 2021, they’ve sent over 2,000 emails encouraging sustainable action.
A Success Story
To show some real-world impact, Birchfield provided an anecdote:
“One user sent feedback to a grocery store about wrapping their coconuts in plastic. The CEO of the grocery store passed it along to their VP of produce and within a month, they stopped wrapping their coconuts in plastic at all their locations, saving thousands of pieces of plastic from the landfill and saving the grocery store money on labor and materials.”
Birchfield added that the group at Remark is the best team she’s ever worked with. “It’s honestly hard to pick a favorite part of my job because I can truthfully say that I love everyone I work with and I love what I do. But if I had to pick a favorite part I would have to say seeing these business owners realize they can actually be more profitable while being sustainable, and seeing how excited our users get that their feedback made a difference is something I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of.”
Remark is available for download on the app store, and you can follow along with the team on Instagram.
All photos courtesy of Remark.