Rob Greenfield’s Commitment to Financial and Corporate Transparency
So many of our leaders and role models today are influenced deeply by money and corporations. So many of our politicians put corporate interests over what’s best for the people they are elected to serve. Celebrities are paid vast sums of money to sell their fans on stuff they don’t really need. Social media “influencers” have pages that are as much about products as they are about their life or what their page claims to be about.
We live in a world where we are constantly inundated with ads to buy, buy, buy. We are told that we’ll be happier with more stuff. We’ll be happier with luxurious items. Love, sex, and success will come to us if we can attain a certain image through material items.
This is all something I refuse to contribute to. I stand against this.
I want to show people that happiness comes from within. That products won’t buy us happiness. That we are all complete, just as we are.
I want to be a leader who is not swayed by corporations. I want to be a leader who does not make my decisions based on financial or material gain. I want to be a good leader who says and does everything because it is the right thing to do.
I refuse to chip away at my ethics and morals for money. I won’t let companies gain access to the people who follow me simply because I want something they have.
One of the greatest tools available to keep me accountable is a commitment to personal transparency. By making each financial relationship that I have with companies public, I force myself to do what is right. I have no ability to hide my actions.
I also want to serve as an example to politicians, celebrities, CEOs, and any people of power. I want to show how to practice financial transparency, and I hope to inspire others to do so as well.
I simply want to live an honest, ethical, and transparent life.
In this blog, I list every company that I’ve had a financial relationship to since I started walking this path in 2013. From this day forward, I will add any company that I start a financial relationship with to this list.
I commit to adhering to a set of ethics when it comes to working with companies. I will not accept money from companies in exchange for something that I should not offer them. This isn’t exactly a black and white issue that I can lay down exact guidelines for. However, I will practice complete transparency so that I can’t hide anything. As an example, I was offered $14,000 for a campaign with Ford. I did believe I could have a very positive impact with that money being donated to a nonprofit. But ultimately, I decided not to work with Ford as they are not in alignment with my mission and could not promote them in good conscious. I turn down a vast majority of financial opportunities because they must be aligned for me to accept them, and a majority are not. The opportunities I do take with companies will be taken only if it can be done in a way that serves the greater interest of people and does not compromise my ethics.
Here is an idea of what I’m looking for when I decide whether to work with a company:
First and foremost, what is the mission of the company? Is their mission in alignment with mine? Can we work together to make our surroundings more environmentally sustainably and socially just?
What does the company do with their funds? Do they support initiatives that improve the world? Or does their money go into places that I don’t support?
Does the company have a high level of environmental standards in their operation? This includes everything from the materials they use, to the factories that produce their stuff, to packaging, etc.
Does the company provides a product or service that truly aids people in living a more sustainable and healthy life. I’m not a fool for greenwashing.
Does the company have a high level of social values through the range of their business from who creates their stuff, to the communities where the factories are, to fair pay, etc.? Slave labor, child labor, unfair pay, etc. are obviously not acceptable for example, but that’s the very bottom level of the standard of what company I would work with. Do the people who work at the company get valued and treated well? Are the people who work there happy with the company?
Does the company have skeletons in their closet? Do they have a shady past?
Does the company push consumerism over meeting needs that people really have?
Does the company help me to live a sustainable life and demonstrate to others how they can as well?
This list is not exhaustive, but a good idea of what I take into account when looking at a company.
A few other notes before the list of companies:
I have vowed to donate 100% of my media income to nonprofits for life. So, when it comes to my TV shows, books, etc., I do not enter those for a personal financial gain at all. I do not accept any payment and instead they donate the money directly to nonprofits.
I have been working for the last seven years to de-monetize my life, and I have been mostly successful on this mission. I have committed to making very little money (no more than the federal poverty threshold per year) and having a very small financial net worth (currently I have about $1,200 to my name and my possessions are financially valued at less than $5,000). I’ve intentionally designed my life to be as minimally involved with money as I can. Much of my life is based around relationships and exchanges rather than money.
You’ll see that I try to get imperfect items such as misprints, returned items, refurbished items, etc. This is because I try not to get brand new items and utilize items that would otherwise go unused.
I have made a commitment to only work with companies that I believe in and think the world could use more of. So besides listing what the exchange was, I have also listed why I decided to make the exchange. The idea is to only work with companies who I would organically tell my friends about, even if they didn’t supply me with anything in return. By adhering to this philosophy first and foremost, I’m able to make the right decision based on my ethics, rather than based on financial or material gain. I’ve received likely hundreds of emails offering me free stuff, or payment to promote stuff, that didn’t align with my mission. I’ve probably only taken 5% or less of opportunities offered. To this date, I have personally never been paid to promote a product or service.
Note: I won’t list relationships that had a financial involvement of less than $50 because I don’t think there is really a need to.
Live Like Ally Foundation gave a grant of approximately $30,000 to Happy Healthy and Free to partner on a handful of environmental projects. You can see them here. They offered to pay me $15/hour to direct this work. I capped it after $5,000, even though I did a lot more work. This is all work that I really wanted to do, and getting paid to do it was a blessing because I could focus my energy on this rather than public speaking.
Life Without Plastic supplied me with different items to live a plastic-free, zero-waste life and teach others about some tools. Examples include completely biodegradable toothbrushes and dental floss, biodegradable tape, reusable containers, and a charcoal water filter.
Retail value of $200 or less. Some of what they supplied me was used products and returns.
I will share some of these products on social media because I believe that people will be able to benefit from them in living a more sustainable life.
I made a video about Life Without Plastic earlier in the year before this exchange. I’ve become friends with the founders of the company, and we support each other’s missions.
Abeego supplied me with beeswax food wraps.
Retail value of less than $100. They sent me their mis-cuts that couldn’t be sold.
I will make a post on social media about this because this is a great way to reduce disposable plastic use.
ONNO supplied me with about 8 t-shirts.
Retail value of $240, however I asked for used shirts and they supplied me with ones they used for models and couldn’t sell.
There is no formal agreement, just to organically promote their t-shirts.
I am switching over to all-natural fiber clothes and away from plastic clothes (polyester, nylon, etc.). I think this is an important step in living a more sustainable life. I searched all over the internet and ONNO is one of the most ethical and sustainable (while still being affordable) clothing companies I could find.
Berkey supplied me with a water filter.
Retail value of $240. It was a “scratch and dent” unit.
The agreement is to organically promote them through using it at my tiny house and to make a post on social media.
Berkey is one of the most sustainable and affordable quality water filters on the market. I had one of their filters at my tiny house in San Diego that I had purchased and had been telling people about them for a few years already. I reached out to them to say that I was already organically spreading the word about them and would love it if they could supply me with a Berkey for my new place. They said yes. I would have purchased one if they said no and would still be telling people about them.
(Update: Donated filter to Sustainable Kashi November 2019)
HomeBioGas supplied me with a food waste biodigester.
Retail value $650. They were supposed to be bringing me a used system, but they ended up bringing a new one.
There was no formal agreement of exchange, but the idea is that I will produce a video about it and that people will learn about it through visiting my tiny house and seeing it in my videos. This biodigester turns food waste in cooking fuel, and I think it will be an amazing tool in inspiring people to live more sustainably.
(Update: Donated biodigester to Sustainable Kashi November 2019)
Fortified Bike supplied me with a bicycle and a few accessories.
Retail value about $560.
They sent me a returned bicycle.
They wrote to me one day and asked if I’d like a bike. They didn’t ask for anything in return. I needed a bike because I was auctioning my bamboo bike. This company doesn’t adhere to any environmental ethics that I know of, but they are a small bike company, and they are trying to get more people riding bikes. It’s not a 100% match, but a decent match. If I had to promote them I wouldn’t have said yes.
Piteba Press supplied me with an oil press.
Retail value around $130.
I will make post on social media about them in return. This is a tool that I’m going to use to make coconut oil, nut butter, etc. It’s a great tool for living more self-sufficiently.
(Update: Donated press to Conscious Space November 2019)
GoSun donated $400 to Happy Healthy and Free and later in 2018 supplied me with a solar stove.
Retail value $700. They supplied me with a refurbished unit.
I produced a video about them because I think this is a great way to inspire others to switch to alternative energy and get people thinking about alternatives to the fossil fuel industry. The $400 donated to Happy Healthy and Free was used to produce more nonprofit videos.
(Update: Donated stove to Sustainable Kashi November 2019)
Goal Zero donated $1,000. There was no exchange, they were simply supporting the project. BBTV donated $4,000. They are a media company that I have worked with to produce a video series called People are Good. I don’t remember exactly why they donated the $4,000. I think they just supported me and wanted to be a part of the project.
Note: Some people have asked whether any company paid to have their product in my trash suit. The answer is no. Their were a lot of visible brands in the trash suit because I was living the average American life and consuming like the average American. That’s what was on display.
Xero Shoes supplied me with a pair of shoes and sandals.
Retail value of approximately $150.
The agreement was loose and that I would write a review, I believe.
Endless Sun Solar supplied me with a solar panel and battery for my tiny house.
Retail value was probably around $500.
The agreement was that I’d do a video review of the solar panel.
The Grayl supplied me with a water filter. I think they sent me two.
Retail value under $100.
I don’t recall there being an agreement. Likely organic promotion just by using it.
I believe the Patagonia in San Diego supplied me with a few items of clothing for my Share My Way Home trip.
Retail value probably around $200 or less.
No agreement. Patagonia supports a lot of awesome initiatives without expecting anything in particular. Patagonia is my favorite large company on the planet. I’ve been a customer and fan of theirs long before they ever supported me. I will continue to support them regardless of any relationship I have with them. They are doing more for the environment than 99% of large companies in the USA.
About eleven companies sponsored my second bike ride across the USA- The Goodfluence Tour. They were all product sponsors. No financial contributions were made. I don’t remember the exact sponsorship value but have made estimates below.
Patagonia in San Diego, California sponsored me with about $900 worth of clothes.
The return for these companies was listing them as sponsors and organic promotion of their products through social media and media.
About eleven companies sponsored my first bike ride across the USA- Off the Grid Across the USA. They were all product sponsors. No financial contributions were made. I don’t remember the exact sponsorship value but have made estimates below.
Dr. Bronner’s, neat-os, Dinkum Systems, and Bokashi Earth sponsored me with $100 or less in products.
Kala Brand Music, Drips Water, and PowerPot sponsored me with between $100 and $250 in products.
Goal Zero sponsored me with somewhere in the ballpark of $750 to $1,000 in products I believe.
Bamboosero sponsored me with a bamboo bicycle. The value of this was around $2,000. As part of the agreement, I raised $2,000 through my bike ride for the worldbike nonprofit to help bring bicycles to people in Africa to supply sustainable transportation and entrepreneurial opportunities.
The return for these companies was listing them as sponsors and organic promotion of their products through social media and media.
A few other notes:
Happy Healthy and Free, or HHF, is the nonprofit that I started in 2014 as a tool for affecting positive change. You can learn more about it here.
A majority of the funds have been spent on video production, Trash Me campaign, Green Riders, fruit tree planting, bikes for kids, programs including Community Fruit Trees and Free Seed Project and paying independent contractors for miscellaneous work.
This a summary of gross receipts based on 199N filings:
(The fiscal year for Happy Healthy and Free is July 1st to June 30th)
As of June 2019 Happy Healthy and Free is no longer active. The nonprofit was closed in good standing, and done to simplify my work. Instead I will be partnering with other nonprofits to carry out my work.
I will create a more detailed public record of Happy Healthy and Free finances in the near future. I have been meaning to do it for quite a while and have not done it sheerly as a matter of time.
I do public speaking first and foremost as a tool to affect positive change. But it’s also a great tool in raising funds. Money raised from public speaking can be directed in multiple ways:
A payment to me. The small amount of money that I do personally make comes primarily from public speaking.
A donation to Happy Healthy and Free to be used for environmental projects.
A donation to a nonprofit.
Happy Healthy and Free video production relation to businesses
Onya donated $400 after HHF produced a video titled It’s Time to Ditch Plastic Produce Bags. This donation was made to support HHF video production and was not part of any agreement. They made the donation after the video was released. The funds were used to produce nonprofit videos.
Landpack donated $500 to HHF after we filmed a video there. They wanted to support HHF video production and this donation was not part of any agreement. The funds were used to produce nonprofit videos.
Nicholas Schwarz Design donated $500 to HHF in exchange for producing a video about his business of turning wasted pallets into furniture. The funds were used to produce nonprofit videos.
My Personal income
As I said above, I have been working for the last seven years to de-monetize my life. I have committed to making very little money (no more than the federal poverty threshold per year) and having a very small financial net worth (currently I have about $1,200 to my name and my possessions are financially valued at less than $5,000). I’ve intentionally designed my life to be as minimally involved with money as I can. Much of my life is based around relationships and exchanges rather than money. Here is a breakdown of how I have personally earned money in the last years:
2019- $9,670 total earned.
$7,600 from public speaking. $1,000 CityWorks(X)po in Winterhaven, FL, $600 Stetson College, $1,000 Northland College, $2,000 Western Technical College, $1,000 UW – Stevens Point, $2,000 UW- La Crosse,
2018– $8,000 total earned.
$3,000 from public speaking
$5,000 from Live Like Ally Foundation. Live Like Ally gave Happy Healthy and Free a grant of approximately $30,000 to partner on a handful of environmental projects. You can see them here. They offered to pay me $15/ hour to direct this work. I capped it after $5,000, even though I did a lot more work. This is all work that I really wanted to do, and getting paid to do it was a blessing because I could focus my energy on this rather than public speaking.
2017- $5,000 total earned from public speaking.
2016- $0 total earned. I had funds saved from previous years worked.
Prior to 2016 I ran The Greenfield Group, a marketing company I started in 2011, and ran until 2014. I did other sales at that time as well.
So there it is, my commitments to financial and corporate relations transparency and a list of all financial relationships I’ve recently had. I’m really happy to have looked back at all of these relationships and to be able to feel good about it. Up to this point, I think I’ve managed to do a great job, and from here on I intend to do equally good or better. The idea of transparency is to put it out there so other’s can make their own decisions though. I might make mistakes, but if I do, you will get to know about them.