Professional role and organization:
I'm the co-founder of Tuckerman & Co, which I started while in business school. Tuckerman is a mission-driven clothing company and our first product is a collection of dress shirts that are made from 100% organic cotton, European fabrics, and sewn here in New England where I live.
While still in school my partner and I became really interested in the apparel and textile business, which is one of the world's most polluting industries. It seemed odd to us that it's not an area that consumers think about much in terms of sustainability and we were inspired by companies like Patagonia which have really been leaders pushing for this change. We thought that there might be a business in making really high quality clothes with a clean supply chain that customers could feel good about.
We launched a little over a year ago and we've been off and running!
How do you define sustainability?
Well there are a variety of ways of thinking about sustainability, but fundamentally it's about ensuring a viable path forward that doesn't mortgage tomorrow for today. In our business we look at a variety of things: how sustainable is the product itself - from the cotton to the buttons and even boxes we ship them in? Does it last? What about the process that goes into making it - is that something we can stand behind? And of course there is financial sustainability too, ensuring that the business is on a solid footing that will allow it grow.
One of the great things that thinking about sustainability does is force you to be more thoughtful because you are taking in a wider range of concerns. And that's a challenge that I really enjoy.
How does your work relate to sustainability and how did Princeton prepare you for your role?
I think one of the biggest pieces is the one I just mentioned - being able to look at a problem or an issue from multiple points of view. A good liberal arts background is great for that, and great for thinking through problems in a more creative way. That's a huge asset if you work in business, and especially if you want to be an entrepreneur, where you are constantly solving problems and challenges that arise.
With sustainability, in particular, there are often a variety of paths one can take to try and arrive at a better outcome. One may be more technical, while others may have more to do with behavior change, etc. Being able to traverse those different options and sort through them in a thoughtful way is huge.
What advice would you offer to students seeking to focus on or incorporate sustainability in their careers?
There are really so many options these days it's amazing. Obviously there are more jobs that are explicitly sustainability-oriented but your job doesn't necessarily have to be one of those in order for you to make an impact. An example: before I was an entrepreneur I worked at a consulting firm and a bunch of us got together to take a look at the firm's energy use, which was a real eye-opener. We convinced the partners to let us sketch out a solution, and so we ended up putting in place a bunch of great firm-wide programs that people really got behind. And we did that around our day-to-day responsibilities, just because we thought it would be fun, interesting, and potentially even a little bit impactful. So as for advice I'd say that there are really no limits to the opportunities out there, it's just a question of making it happen whether it's your primary job or not!