"Go Green For Pink" an EMA exclusive interview
"Go Green For Pink" an Interview With EMA Corporate Board Member Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, President and CEO of Earth Friendly Products®
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Can you tell us about your Go Green for Pink Campaign?
Almost everyone has been affected in some way by breast cancer, either personally or because someone they know has been diagnosed. My mother passed away from breast cancer, so this issue is close to my heart. We’ve been a longtime partner with Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and this year we’ve expanded our partnership with the American Cancer Society with our "Go Green for Pink" campaign. This September and October we’re donating $1 to the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer programs for every 100-ounce or larger ECOS laundry detergent we sell, up to $100,000.
What’s good for our planet is also good for our health. What role do eco-friendly, plant-derived products play in mitigating health issues such as cancer?
Illnesses such as asthma, eczema, and allergies are on the rise, and we now know there are clear connections between chemicals in traditional cleaning products and chronic and acute illnesses, including cancer. That’s why we use plant-based ingredients in our products, and it’s why we’re fighting for ingredient disclosure on all cleaning products. We believe that everyone has the right to know what chemicals they’re bringing into their home, school, and workplace. We’re proud to have been a part of the coalition that helped pass California’s “Cleaning Product Right to Know” Act last year that requires ingredient disclosure for all cleaning products sold in the state. We’re hoping it will become a model for the rest of the country.
ECOS is a perfect example of how a company can be both green and profitable. What’s your message to other companies looking to go green?
After 50 years of making green products, we know that going green isn’t just good for the environment and human health, it’s good for the bottom line. More consumers want to buy from brands that share the same values that they do, and more top-quality employees want to work for companies that are making a real difference in the world. We’ve seen that the long-term benefits of investing in safer ingredients, renewable energy, and sustainable waste management greatly outweigh the upfront costs.
EMA and ECOS have partnered for many years. How important is it to have the entertainment industry shining a light on green products?
Celebrities have a unique opportunity to bring passion and energy to important issues, creating dynamic conversations that translate into real-world action. Whether it’s organizing volunteers, raising funds, or just brining much-needed awareness to issues like climate change, celebrities really can make a big difference. People trust them to choose the very best products, so when a celebrity chooses a green product, it carries a lot of weight.
Finally, there’s a lot of doom and gloom news regarding the environment these days. At EMA, we try and focus on the positive. What gives you hope for our future?
We are so inspired by Gen Z. These kids are smart and entrepreneurial, and they’re not waiting for solutions to be handed to them. They’re the future stewards of our planet, and they’re not happy with the earth they’re inheriting. We’re especially excited to see the rise of young women in leadership roles. My daughter is a Gen Z’er, and she’s one of those kids who is speaking up to make a difference. Now that they’re starting to reach voting age, I hope we’ll see a big turnout at the polls this November. That’s where the real power lies.
About Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks
Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks is the president and CEO of Earth Friendly Products®, the maker of ECOS™ environmentally friendly laundry detergent and household cleaners. Founded in 1967, Earth Friendly Products is a family-owned and -operated company with four sustainable manufacturing facilities across the U.S. and global sales in over 60 countries. Vlahakis-Hanks been internationally recognized for her influential voice in the green movement and in corporate social responsibility. Under her leadership, Earth Friendly Products achieved the unprecedented “trifecta” of sustainable manufacturing: carbon neutrality, water neutrality, and Platinum Zero Waste certification. Vlahakis-Hanks offers her employees a minimum wage of $17 per hour and family-friendly benefits such as health insurance, paid sick leave, and paid maternity and paternity leave. A graduate of UCLA and Chapman University, Vlahakis-Hanks is an active member of several boards, including the Environmental Media Association and the American Sustainable Business Council, which awarded her its 2016 Sustainable Policymakers Award for championing legislation that helps build a more sustainable economy.
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