Earth Collective’s ‘Interview with the Collective’ series is a collection of interviews with likeminded souls from around the globe, who are working towards a better future for the planet and people in it. This week, Nathalia Grisard, Founder and Director of GNGR Bees tells us how coming face to face with a humpback whale inspired her journey to sustainable living, and a planet-positive business.
What was your catalyst for diving into the world of sustainability?
Absolutely! Rather than it being binary, I can point to several points of my life where I feel as though I have experienced a new level of consciousness.
I will share with you the most recent of these. In 2017, I joined a dive with a whale conservation team around the beautiful coral atolls of Tonga, in the South Pacific, where I had the great privilege to swim with a family of humpback whales (that experience in itself would be a whole other story to write about. But least to say, it was the most profound and emotional experience I have ever had).
From the moment I locked eyes with the mother of the calf, I could see into her soul – and I knew she was also looking back at mine. I got the palpable sense that there was something in her that was calling to me. Knowing that this experience was not unique to me, made me feel a sense of comfort, because if you speak to anyone who has been diving with whales, they will tell you the same.
To refer to whales as intelligent beings is to understate the depth of empathy, sentience and connection that is much a part of them as it is with the best of human kind (or maybe more). In that moment, I knew that whales are what we could only strive to be.
Fast forward some months later when I am back in London, I saw footage of a whale that had starved to death as a result of having ingested plastic. Although I had come across such stories and images in the past, having shared that experience in Tonga, this took on a whole new level of profound sadness.
One of the things that struck me was seeing the waste from brands and products I recognised – it brought home how connected what I do as a consumer is with the death of this majestic being.
This incident (along with many others) was what ignited both the passion and the want for me to do more for the planet.
Tell us about your business journey so far – what got you to where you are today with GNGR Bees?
I created GNGR Bees because I wanted to make a statement to businesses and corporations everywhere that business can be driven by purpose. It isn’t just a matter of putting purpose before profit (speak to any entrepreneur that is truly passionate about what they do and they will all tell you that profit is not even part of the conversation).
So, in defining our purpose, I wanted to put some markers on what we wanted to achieve. And they were these things:
- reclaiming, recycling, repurposing materials
- partnering with small social enterprises
- producing ethically and fairly exceeding labour standards
- donating and reinvesting profits back into our community partners
- creating and supporting environmental projects that align with our ethos
- interrogating every step in the value chain and finding a better, cleaner way to do it
(i.e. it is not enough to say “this was made from plastic bottles”. We have to ask: “Who made it? Who packaged it? How was it made? Where did it come from? How did this come to be in my hands?” etc.)
What has been your proudest achievement to date for GNGR Bees?
We have achieved a lot of great things in this first year.
We funded conservation and generation projects in Australia, the Amazon and the Pacific.
We have supported communities through the COVID pandemic (Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Peru & Brazil).
We have funded our own projects and have partnered up with some incredible organisations such as the Born Free Foundation, for whom we have created a special collection where 100% of profits go into supporting three wildlife conservation projects: Ethiopian wolves, Moon Bears and Pangolins.
As wonderful as all these achievements are, I think our proudest achievement so far has been to create a GNGR Bees community, which is full of people who are equally passionate about supporting these projects and who themselves take initiatives similar to ours.
What do you think is the biggest threat to our planet and the people in it today?
Me. You. Each person that is reading this. Until each of us genuinely takes personal responsibility for having caused these problems, we won’t take genuine, personal responsibility to resolving these problems. It is too easy to blame governments, corporations and past generations. It is only when we point the finger at ourselves first that we can hope for change.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Usually a big sloppy lick from Ella Delilah Lavender Bubblegum (my youngest golden retriever).
Who/what has been the biggest influence in your life?
My husband, undoubtedly. He has an incredible power to recognise and spread kindness and always offers a new perspective to anything in life. I have tremendous admiration for the person he is and an enormous amount of gratitude for all the lessons he has taught me along the way.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
I am a podcaster and love listening to Robert Cobbold’s “Conscious Evolution” and recommend it to anyone I come across.
What does the word ‘community’ mean to you?
The entire bio system of which we all belong to. Not just people but all living things and phenomena that make up the complexed, integrated system that is our planet.
What are your five top tips for people who are working towards a more sustainable lifestyle, particularly when it comes to ethical fashion?
- Ask yourself: “Do I need this?” If so, “Can I buy it second-hand?”, if you can’t “What brand will I support?”
- Don’t let perfection paralyse you. There is no perfect answer that includes consumption and so any effort towards creating a better habit is already a step forward.
- Many brands do many things and none of them are perfect. Choose brands that are transparent about their own shortcomings, are always looking for ways to improve (and won’t let profits and margins stop them from doing so) and that best aligns with your own values and support it however you can.
- Surround yourself with both people you can learn from and people you can teach. Get the conversation started and don’t be afraid of differing in opinion – that is how we all learn new things.
- Be curious! Read and research any subjects you find remotely interesting. Knowledge is always your best friend.
Where are you heading to next in your journey?
Our journey is planned in advance, but our path changes daily. We are always looking at how we can improve what we are currently doing based on rigorous analysis and science and feedback we receive from our community.
We try diversifying and supporting projects from many different areas at GNGR Bees. I invite you to get involved in our community, make your voices heard on what you’d like to see next and join us on this journey.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
Everything you do matters and affects something or someone. Whilst the idea of climate change and sustainable living can be very daunting, don’t let it overwhelm you: you don’t need to be perfect (is there even such a thing?) just support what you feel called to support and that on its own will have a positive impact.
Nathalia Grisard is the Founder and Director of GNGR Bees
Nathalia is the founder and director of honest activewear brand GNGR Bees, where she works with social enterprises and charities around the world in order to bring a solution to the problem we have with consumption and waste today. Nathalia loves helping communities, being involved in events and actively changing the world around her to be a better, inspiring place.