The best stories start at the beginning, so welcome to the beginning of ours.
I want you to fall in love with what we do - like I have.
I want you to claim it as your own - like I have.
I want it to help you find purpose - like it has for me.
I want you to use it for your own personal battles, to stir up good trouble and purposeful rebellion. Today we lean on your support to make our impact, but hopefully tomorrow you will lean on us to make yours to change things for the better, for good.
But before we can do any of this, I need you to trust me. And before that, I need to earn it.
So I'm starting at the beginning, I’m starting with me, Bryn. An aspiring member of the perennial millennial mob tired of generational negligence. Tired of environmental apathy. Tired of greenwash PR. Tired of Neverland targets that transcend our lifetimes. I’m tired of all of it, but I'm not tired enough to sit still - and neither should you be.
I decided to take a chance and go on a little adventure with a group of people I now know as my fellow agitators. An adventure in business and purpose without compromise. Led by courage and a grounded a progressive and responsible philosophy, bereft of gerontocratic structure.
We have; Tiger Savage, with a name and attitude that isn’t afraid to breathe the creative fire needed to get us noticed. Andy Hill, whose design rigour and sustainable expertise created our above & beyond MVP that leads the field in anti-landfill, anti-single-use-waste and beyond. We also have Simon McCandlish, ex Boots honcho that jumped ship to join the flint of this growing wildfire we’re trying to start. And of course, we have Will King. The high octane, incorrigible energy behind a&b. The individual who connected the dots and brought us altogether in this green ensemble.
But enough about us. More about a&b. More about why you’re here.
Simply boring. When did saving the world get so boring? Why is sustainable, responsible business boring and niche? Why did something we ALL have a vested interest in protecting, transform into a nihilistic guerilla march into the abyss?
The degradation of our natural world is literally the greatest threat to our existence (sorry Covid) and yet we struggle to engage with it at a unified global level. The science is done, the non-believers have been excommunicated and the kids are ready for change. If there was any common enemy to unify us, surely this pale blue dot was it. Nope?
Speaking freely, it feels like no-one really gives a fuck. No-one except for a few inspiring girls and boys who put people like me to shame. And where are our leaders in all of this? Where are the one’s preserving our green freedom and future?
As much as it pains me (and it does), the most impact and progress I’ve witnessed has come from business, NGOs or even celebrity endeavours. David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg to name but a few - even Leo has done his bit for wildlife. But what about businesses that do more? Ben & Jerry’s activism, Patagonia’ conservation or Tony’s Chocoloney child slavery abolition (lesser known, but equally as brave with a true legacy to be proud of). As sad as it sounds, business and celebrity is all we’ve got. They are accelerating the pace of positive (and in a lot of other cases, negative) change. Business is revealing its power to change the world in a more inclusive and ethical manner.
I used to think that these institutions held the keys to society, now I know that couldn’t be further from the truth. They follow and wait. It’s culture that leads the way and the closer businesses can get to supporting and accelerating that culture, the bigger their following and impact will be.
Now we often get it wrong, no doubt. but, occasionally, when we get it right - it’s pretty special.
My personal favourite is Tony’s and their story here. Watch it. Then you’ll see what we’re talking about. If Tony’s can go toe to toe with unethical, unlawful and down right abhorrent practices in chocolate, think what we could do in other industries… Find the problem. Be the cure. And that’s what got us here. The desire to throw an ethical grenade in an industry in need of a mandate for change. If you could throw an ethical grenade in the industries that offended you (unethical or unsustainable), with the help of a big enough following, you could create real change and with it, a new standard for doing business.
But before I could pull the pin in my own story, I got a text…
June 2020. *WhatsApp*
‘Will King here, hear you’re looking for a challenge. I think we can change FMCG. All of it.’’
Not the kind of message I'm accustomed to receiving, but my curiosity was pricked. Some back and forth and a few calls later and I was in. I’m not exactly sure what I was in, but in it I was.
Bang… FMCG. Bang... Packaging & materials.*
*It didn’t take very long for the brains behind above & beyond’s product line Andy Hill and Will King to work that one out and thankfully, they did. But they weren’t the first, as we observed an industry split into two warring camps:*
- Behemoth multinationals that were too slow and large to change in any meaningful timeline but had an enormous impact (if you could just shift the needle an inch).
- Green and ethical upstarts who were fast, but too small to have any real impact (and more often than not, all looked like each other; tree hugging, eco-warriors that never engaged the mainstream and feared, would remain upstarts forever (mission fail).
*Note, there was also a tide of green washers and fraudulent eco-businesses, but the less we say about these, the better.
We couldn’t find anything out there that spoke to everyday people.
Too much positive short-term and detrimental long-term.
Too many houses of cards.
But one thing did stand out. This time, the good ones could genuinely finish first.
… Enter a&b
a&b. Short for above & beyond, but you can call us/it/them what you like. Our a&b story and soul was created through this chance encounter of redemptionists, rebels and responsible adults crazy enough to do something about a problem that was only getting worse - household waste. Landfill and single-use waste is bad, you know that. It needs to stop. So we’re trying to stop it, that’s it. That’s the tweet.
That’s also the end of part one. Stay subscribed for part two where we talk direct-to-community, NFTs and stirring up some good trouble.