Why we started Sustained
A fine question indeed!
Nothing in my or my co-founder Carl’s careers suggested an interest in sustainability, ecology or the environmental impact of human behaviour . We’ve spent a good 13 years building global telecommunications across Skype, Microsoft and Twilio. Telco has been our domain, distributed systems at scale - our forte, building world-class product engineering teams - our secret sauce.
Yet when we finally decided to start a business together we quickly understood that repeating much of the same wasn’t going to fly. We needed something new to look at. A big, real and not particularly well-solved problem to address. A massive challenge that would be terrifying to even attempt to tackle. One with impact.
Another go at video-conferencing (for all it’s faults past and current) just wasn't that! Sustainability on the other hand - was. Everything above and more.
Allow me to illustrate the challenge and the appeal with milk.
Imagine a carton of milk on your breakfast table.
How much do you know about it?
If you look carefully at the packaging and do some cursory research you’d be able to understand a country of origin, production and best before dates. What the packaging is made of and whether it can be recycled. Ingredients, nutritional value - something like that.
How much more can you know about it?
Given an abundance of time you can probably find out a lot more. You can search the web, check the news, get yourself acquainted with food industry basics and get a feel for whether that carton of milk has been produced in a resource-efficient manner and whether there’s a chance a turtle in the Pacific ocean has been affected by production of a million of these a day.
It would require you to be a multidisciplinary scholar and an industry expert to be able to reason about
- Distance that carton of milk has travelled
- Amount of diesel fuel and electricity used to farm crops to feed dairy cows
- Long-term land use effects of uninterrupted milk supply to every table in the country (The milk must flow!)
- Waste generated directly and indirectly by production, logistics and packaging
- Labour force treatment fairness at every link of the supply chain
Would any of these questions affect your choices to buy that carton of milk or prefer it over another - from a different producer?
At Sustained we think that yeah, they would.
We also think that it’s an impossible ask of you to put on the burden of domain expertise and hard research work necessary to make as simple an educated choice as buying milk for breakfast. So we decided to do it on your behalf and we promise to be as transparent and trustworthy in presenting what we’ve learned as possible. We will study up, dig out the data, and create some software to make sure we all understand the effects of what we’re producing and consuming as humanity.