Shipping with Purpose: A Q&A with our new Director of Sustainability!

It’s easy to say you put Earth first, but following through on that promise is what matters. That’s why Sendle created a Directory of Sustainability position: to keep us accountable and doing more as we move forward. Meet Veena Harbaugh, who we’re so excited to have aboard.


First of all, congratulations, how is it going so far?

It’s great. Just yesterday was exactly seven weeks in, but it feels quite a bit longer than that just because we’ve already gotten to do some pretty substantial work. Coming to Sendle, I wanted to work for a B Corp, and definitely a visionary B Corp. A business that really has impact--at its core--and I saw that within Sendle. And then the opportunity to work with a committed team and innovative leaders. There’s a lot of pent up passion around the idea: What more can we be doing?

So we’ve really jumped in and already launched our Invest in the Earth campaign. We’ve also been working on our impact strategy and how we can take it to the next level for the next 3-5 years. That’s really what you want, right? You don’t want to have to fight to be on the agenda or a business priority; you want that built-in buy-in and enthusiasm from the team. 

So it’s going really well coming into a place that’s very, genuinely excited about our current sustainability efforts and then how we can take it to the next level.

Veena Harbaugh Sendle Director of Sustainability

Veena Harbaugh, Sendle Director of Sustainability

 

You came to Sendle from B Lab, can you tell us about your previous job and its impact on your outlook?

I was at B Lab for about four and a half years and my last role was running marketing and communications for the US and Canada. The best thing about it was getting to work with the businesses on the leading edge. I think something that would surprise people around the certification is that it’s much more than individual companies getting the assessment and then having their performance verified. It’s a really rigorous process. 

It was about a community of businesses that were really coming together and saying, “How can we collectively work to make a significant change on the environment, specifically on climate justice, racial equity, and policies to make better business the norm?”

 

Was the environment always your thing?

I’ve always been tuned in to the world around me, ever since I was a kid. I’ve always been empathetic to the fact that people are suffering and lives are not as good as they need to be, across the board. And then learning more about our food systems, our transportation systems, all of this being set up in ways that make no environmental sense.

 

You’re Sendle’s first Director of Sustainability, so you have as much say as anyone about what that position entails. What are your expectations for...yourself?

I think coming into a company that has a deep commitment, it’s really about unlocking that potential further, in a couple of ways. One, as a B Corp, figuring out how we can use that framework to really improve across the different stakeholder groups. So within our team, what are the improvements we can make around new policies that can help people have a better experience within the environment, especially as we grow as a company?

But we really want to go far beyond that. Sendle’s vision is to influence. Not just to be a good company but to influence the entire shipping network to be 100% carbon neutral, which is very audacious. The environmental impact of eCommerce is rising, and will continue to. How do we make that sustainable? That’s a major challenge.

I think a lot of other companies don't have that buy-in at the start, so being a player that does, what is our role in spurring other companies to change with us? 

And then on the social side, we're serving small businesses. We talk about it more often in terms of the local economy, like when you support a local business, those dollars stay in the local economy. We know intuitively that you're supporting an individual person or business that's been using that to support their family, which is different than purchasing from a multinational corporation that's trying to maximize their profits. 

What I expect for myself as a sustainability director, is just to help facilitate as much change as possible in both of those spheres.

 

Sendle’s mission is shipping that's good for the world. How do you make that mission part of your daily work life?

Daily? I mean, I have the fun job. That is all that I do. I feel really fortunate in that way, that my responsibility is every day to work on that from the environmental side of, “how do we make this as environmentally sustainable as possible?” And then on the social side, how are we best benefiting the Sendle team, Sendle partners, and customers? And then the small businesses that we serve. I'm lucky that’s what I'm accountable for and I need to work on daily.

 

What would you tell small businesses who want to make a big impact, environmentally speaking?

I know it's really hard being, say, a maker and selling your products on Etsy. So much heart and soul goes into creating that product and oftentimes they're handmade, and sourced with local materials. So for a lot of them: just keep doing what you're doing! Because when you're making the decision to use materials that are local, and sustainable, and trying to grow a business, especially if you've faced barriers as a woman or person of color, that’s huge. I celebrate what they’re doing. I think it’s big.

Then with some of that isolation where you feel like, “I'm a small business. Does this matter? Is this consequential? Does anybody care?” I think what's proving out is that customers do care and that they're switching to buying direct from businesses because they know people are tuning in to, “If I want a product, I'm going to give more to that maker or small business if I purchase from them directly, versus meeting my needs at a big box store.”

And so I think their responsibility within all of this is owning their part, which is making the most sustainable, wonderful products and services that they can. And then also demanding the companies that they work with, like Sendle, to do the best that they can with their part. What are the other goods and services that they use? Is their bank a company that’s supporting the community?

 

Enough about work. What do you like to do for fun? Any movie or TV recommendations?

I'm really into camping. We made two relatively popular “COVID decisions”. We got a puppy and also a camper. We’ve been out camping 70 nights over the last year. Being based in Northern California, just getting out there. That's the most fun to me. And then also on the side I do a flower arranging and event business with one of my best friends, so far it’s just more of a fun project to do together than a true business.

Veena Harbaugh Sendle Director of Sustainability

And I'm also really into crossword puzzles, and bingo. As for TV and movies, I'm kind of due for a new good TV show. I've been really into comedy podcasts over the pandemic. That's what's kind of helped me just fill that social void a little bit. My favorites are Couples Therapy, I Said No Gifts, and Mike Birbiglia’s podcast. Those would be the things that I'd be most excited if people checked out.

While you’re checking out podcasts, here’s Veena on Evolve CPG from August!

And if you want to be a part of a growing team that's on a mission, check out our careers page

 

Ship sustainably with Sendle

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