Fabian Pfortmüller on How to Apply Sustainable Design to Build an Ecofriendly Brand

In Chapter 13 of 19 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller shares how his company Holstee applies sustainable design to build ecofriendly products.  He prioritizes values and sincerity to create positive impact across people, planet, and product.  He contrasts traditional definitions of "green business" with the Holstee focus on sustainable design, including products created by India-based NGO companies.  Pfortmüller is co-founder of Sandbox Network (www.sandbox-network.com).  He also co-founded an innovation think tank, Incubaker (www.incubaker.com), and is part of the group's first spin-off, Holstee (www.holstee.com), an apparel brand for people who would like to wear their passion.  Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its School of General Studies. 


Erik Michielsen: Given what you do at Holstee running a marketplace for sustainable products, what does it mean to be green?

Fabian Pfortmüller: We think about that a lot and we actually don’t call ourselves a green company because it’s a very fuzzy term, what does it really mean to be green? Nowadays every single big company has something on it’s logo that says ‘We’re green’ or ‘We care about the environment’. I believe to be truly green or to be sustainable is to be genuine and to really - you as a brand not just say like ‘Oh, we going to recycle some stuff’ but to be really caring about those values.

The way we treat it in Holstee is that we say whatever we do needs to have a positive impact on all stake holders involved and we summarized it in people, planet, product: the people who work on it, the planet that kind of gets the resource and the product itself needs to be something that’s not going to fall apart after five days or so, that needs to be sustainable as well and… in terms of is that green or not, we have a lot of products which are not recycle material, so they’re not green in the classical sense but they were done with an NGO that hires some of the poorest women in India and gives them like jobs and treats them well and gives them fair wages, we think that’s just as important.