Building a Sustainable Ecosystem for Promotional Products

Editor’s Note: This #WBEWisdom post is part of a series from members of the Host Committee for the 2019 WBENC National Conference & Business Fair, coming up June 25 - 27 in Baltimore, Maryland. Read more about the Host Committee.

By Gia Machlin, Founder & CEO of EcoPlum, Inc.


All organizations have interdependent relationships with other organizations that help drive their success. Nurturing personal relationships and forging transactional arrangements can have a tremendous impact on the growth and continuity of any company.

Ecosystems: Connect. Grow. Thrive. is the theme for this year’s Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference & Business Fair. For EcoPlum, this theme resonates and builds up in multiple layers. As a branded marketing solutions company with an earth-friendly social mission, we advise on and source sustainable promotional products, customized with a client’s logo, tagline or message. We rely on a growing network of product suppliers and business clients with deepening commitments to environmental and social responsibility. Our ecosystem is eco-friendly and as a pioneer in this space, we are building it from scratch.  

The Product Cycle Ecosystem

The best ecosystem for merchandise envisions a circular economy, where products are made from previously used materials and then repurposed into new products after use, reducing the amount of waste ending up in landfills and oceans. The manufacturing lifecycle loop economizes and minimizes inputs, recycles materials, utilizes renewable energy sources, and eliminates waste at each stage of production and deployment of products. At the end of their lifecycle, the products go back into the loop as inputs. An efficient use of resources is at the center of the manufacturing process and energy and water are recycled efficiently back into the system.


Totally Green Doesn’t Exist

There really isn’t a perfect circular economy or any such thing as a totally green product -- every product has some kind of carbon footprint. The footprint is determined by the resources and emissions required to manufacture the product, the emissions and waste it creates over its entire useful life and the biodegradability of the product upon final disposal at the end of its lifecycle. EcoPlum looks for promotional products that minimize this footprint as much as possible and helps guide organizations in their selection.  

Where are the Eco-Friendly Products? Finding Suppliers


One of the difficulties of building a sustainable promotional products business is finding environmentally oriented suppliers for all types of products that make good corporate gifts.

We seek out useful, innovative, recycled, compostable or reusable products--not cheap plastic giveaways that end up in the trash. Initially, we approached big manufacturers of promotional products, only to discover many of them dabbled in just a few eco-friendly items, but then discontinued their efforts because the market was not big enough yet.

It took some effort, but we found some excellent suppliers who are committed to sustainability, including those who design office products from reclaimed wood products, produce fleece travel blankets from recycled plastic bottles, and “upcycle” wine and liquor bottles into beautiful glassware and candles.  It has been rewarding for EcoPlum to nurture personal relationships with these companies to help build a resilient sustainability space for these unique and long-lasting premium gifts.

Transparency: Sustainability Means What to Whom?


Recognizing there is no singular meaning for sustainability, EcoPlum believes the best way to provide confidence and value to clients is to always deliver transparency in sourcing products. We have a decade of experience sourcing environmentally friendly products to build upon.

Our expertise helps us ensure that our Sustainable Swag® product line lives up to rigorous standards for ecological and social sustainability. No product meets all criteria on the sustainability spectrum.

Our product sourcing criteria includes but is not limited to USDA organic; fair trade and labor certified; reclaimed, repurposed, recycled, reusable; sustainably harvested; vegan; women-owned; Made-in-the-USA; B-Corporation; handcrafted or artisan; non-toxic; and third-party eco-labels. Our product ecosystem has transparency in its DNA and is vitally important to us and to our clients.

Earth Friendly Social Mission

As a for-profit company, EcoPlum has a strong social mission to help combat environmental issues and is committed to a triple-bottom-line strategy focused on people, planet and profit. This is our macro ecosystem—support the health and safety of people in our communities, limit the impact of climate change on our planet, and build a successful business where we can all do well and feel good!

Education and activism are a big part of our corporate culture. EcoPlum hopes to inspire, inform, and empower our clients and people we get to know with a consciousness about their daily habits, purchases and impact on the world’s limited resources.

We are on a path to transform the promotional products industry with more environmentally sound products to eliminate harmful waste and reduce the dependency on plastic, particularly single-use plastic filling up our landfills and oceans.

The Eco Ecosystem

As a part of the WBENC community, EcoPlum benefits from the personal and business relationships forged with other socially conscious WBEs. We count many amazing women-owned businesses among our suppliers and clients. We encourage all organizations  making promotional products, providing packaging and marketing materials, buying corporate gifts, producing events, or distributing branded merchandise to join us in creating this sustainable ecosystem.

Every organization should ask how its brand reflects its values and embodies its image. Does that message come through in its corporate gift-giving? Let’s then ask this question about now and about our future legacy. 

What will you leave behind?


EcoPlum is a member of the Host Committee for the 2019 WBENC National Conference & Business Fair, one of WBENC’s signature events featuring innovative educational programming, inspiring keynotes, 1:1 MatchMaker sessions, networking opportunities, and an unrivaled Business Fair.

Learn more and register.


EcoPlum® is an environmentally focused business-to-business, e-commerce, and media company. EcoPlum Business Gifts, the Sustainable Swag® division, is its primary service and sells eco-friendly promotional products to companies and organizations.

EcoPlum brands and customizes these products for its clients with their logos or messages. We also write about sustainability in the EcoPlum Business Blog with information, news and lifestyle articles for business decision-makers. The company began as an eco-friendly online boutique for consumers, then in 2016 shifted efforts to a growing demand for its unique promotional products.

Our for-profit company has a strong social mission to help combat environmental issues and is committed to a triple-bottom-line strategy focused on people, planet and profit.


Posted on June 19, 2019 and filed under WBE Wisdom, Guest Post.