My thoughts about Olive began as quite mixed because it outwardly appeared as a brand trying to genuinely reduce waste and emissions. Since social media and Google are selling out my data and their algorithms know I am interested in sustainability, I have been seeing ads for Olive all over Instagram, which is where my curiosity piqued. As a basically brand-spanking-new startup, launching their site just this February 2021, I am genuinely curious to see how the company plays into the market on a larger scale. Nathan Faust, the founder of Olive, is obviously a rich man (read my “Who Makes It” for details) and maybe that is why he solved a rich man’s “problem.” Off the bat, one of the first things I noticed was both the price range of Olive’s partners and the well-known lack of sustainable and just practices coming from many of these partner companies (ex. Adidas and child labor, recently Anthropologie and racism). How is Olive going to claim their company is really in the sustainability marketplace when their retailers, i.e. the places their consumers are shopping, are simply not AT ALL? How are they going to claim themselves as a sustainable brand when their version of sustainability A. is only accessible to certain zip codes and, coinciding with, B. is only partnered with financially inaccessible products? Are we really surprised though, when his original company Jet.com (http://jet.com/) was bought out by the very notoriously unsustainable Walmart for $3.3 BILLION (including $300 MILLION worth of stock paid out to Faust and other founding individuals)? The REAL problem here is a disgusting capitalist culture of consumption and instant-gratification, neither of which Olive really resolves at all. All I smell going on here is a man with a lot of money using sustainability as a market ploy to make more money. His pricey retail partners are no accident– his company relies on its share of the total order cost. I am begging for more brand inclusivity– women, BIPOC, and/or LGBTQIA+ owned– and for the exclusion of unsustainable and problematic brands. Nathan Faust is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is not the 99%, and I do not think he is not truly looking out for us or our planet because that is not how he makes money. He needs to seriously rethink what he is actually trying to do here and STOP GREENWASHING both his retail partners and Olive itself. Period.
The shipping package for Olive is made “almost entirely from recycled materials including plastic water bottles, pallets, cups, and polyester–” interestingly the keyword “almost.” Olive claims their shippers reduce waste because there is no excess packaging material, as opposed to traditional shipping packaging, which is either cardboard (recyclable) or plastic (typically not recyclable). Their biggest claims for the reduction of emissions comes from the idea that much of these emissions occur during “last mile” delivery, or the delivery’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. They also properly recycle and dispose of packaging that arrives at their own facilities, so consumers don’t have to, but also meaning the shipping waste is not always eliminated. Their overall goal claims to be to reduce the waste of supply chains as they become closer with their retail partners and overall eliminate single-use packaging. Their shippers also must be returned and can be returned along with any items from a delivery you don’t want; a label is provided and the return must be placed where your mail carrier can collect it, which sounds a bit like wishful thinking to me– especially during the pandemic.
Olive partners with 100s of retail sites that are only geared towards fashion and accessories. Some name brands you may know include Adidas, Anthropologie, Carhartt, Columbia, Free People, Goop, Hugo Boss, Hunter, Lacoste, Michael Kors, Ray-Ban, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ugg, and Urban Outfitters. Olive makes its money by taking roughly a 10 percent share of each retail order, keeping the service itself free.
With Olive’s Chrome Extension or iOS app, Olive automatically enters whatever address you have set and adds it to your consolidated delivery. Once a week, depending on your zip code, you have an “Olive Day,” mine for example would be on Saturdays, so that is the day I’d receive my delivery. As for the packaging, although it is claimed to be almost entirely made from recycled materials, there is no information available to back this up, or any information on the manufacturing processes, practices, or locations.
Olive was founded by Nathan Faust and was backed by venture capital. Faust attended Princeton University for his BE and Harvard Business School for his MBA. He went on to be the vice president at Quidsi, which ran Diapers.com (http://diapers.com/) and Soap.com (http://soap.com), then was a co-founder and COO at Jet.com, AND THEN a senior vice president AT Walmart itself. At Olive, Nathan Faust works with roughly a dozen others he worked with previously at Walmart. It figures that the ere is no information on wages or manufacturing/production labor available online.