Cannabusiness Sustainability

Dear Cannabusiness Community

By Olivia L. Dubreuil, Esq., Brett Giddings

Approaching business strategy from a sustainability perspective, Project Polaris seeks to make the cannabis industry a role model for other industries to follow.

Dear Cannabusiness Community,

You may have read our two recent articles. We received so much positive feedback that Aaron Biros (editor-in-chief of Cannabis Industry Journal) has invited us to continue with our own column at We are very happy to launch this column, and we thought we would take this opportunity to introduce our project, our vision and ourselves so you can understand where we are coming from when you read this series of articles.

Brett and I both have a background in business sustainability and corporate responsibility. We both have backgrounds in management consulting, with a specific expertise in sustainability issues along the supply chain. We have been working together for almost nine months now on sustainability issues in the Bay Area. In May, we started to get interested in sustainability in the cannabis industry and before we knew it we were diving deep into research relating to the environmental, social and ethical impacts of the legal cannabis industry. It was actually difficult to find a lot of information, as the reign of prohibition still very much influences what is available.cannabusiness

In June, we attended the National Cannabis Industry Association’s conference in Oakland to open up the conversation with cannabis industry players and to find out about people’s attitudes and approach to sustainability. The results were overwhelmingly positive. Not only were we encouraged to launch a project, but also excited to discover that many of the speakers presenting at the conference referenced sustainability in one way or another when they talked about environmental impact awareness, social justice, ethics or about staying competitive when “big business” enters the market.

What started out as a side project quickly became the center of focus this summer when we decided to incorporate Project Polaris, a California non-profit, to deliver sustainability knowledge and expertise to the cannabis industry.

Our thinking is as follows:

Thinking about sustainability, means thinking strategically about business. As we forge a new and upcoming industry, let’s seize the opportunity to make it a sustainability-focused one! Let’s create generally accepted industry principles that fosters a positive image of the industry and teaches newcomers about best environmental and social practices. Let’s create a voluntary and industry-led socially responsible code of conduct for cannabis business owners and suppliers, helping the regulators, as they will be drafting all of the future regulations of the legalized cannabis market. Let’s do more research on the market and the consumer. Let’s develop clean and green alternatives to dirty processes or practices. Let’s elevate the discussion and create a model industry, one where short-term, large-scale, quality-lowering corporate interests are kept at bay.

With this vision in mind, we created Project Polaris because we believe that this is a real opportunity for the industry to be a role model for other industries (and educate legislators as well as drive public opinion in those states that are still under prohibition laws). We believe there is a real economic opportunity for those businesses that understand how to embed sustainability properly within their business model. Because we know that sustainability influences legislators in a positive way because it sheds a positive light on businesses.

In the upcoming months, we will continue to research and report on sustainability-related issues facing the cannabis industry, such as packaging, edibles, “organic” in cannabis, butane extraction versus CO2 extraction and so on. We also welcome questions from our readers. If you have a question, please post it in the comments section below.

We will also take this opportunity to call out to cannabis industry organizations, cannabis businesses, or cannabis related services and product suppliers to get in touch with us if they wish to find out how to integrate sustainability more concretely into their action plan. We are not planning on doing this alone, we are seeking partners to join us on this journey, and we want to partner with you on your journey to Cannabusiness Sustainability.

PS: We still have one seat open for the board of directors and would love to hear from you if you are interested!

About The Author

About The Author

Brett Giddings
Co-founder and Executive Vice President

Brett is a product sustainability expert with more than ten years’ experience working with and for businesses to design, implement and measure sustainability solutions. With experience managing a member-based sustainability program for more than 1000 organizations, Brett’s seen and helped small, medium and large businesses through most sustainability challenges.


  1. Bob Wilson

    Brett – Interesting article. I would be interested in discussing sustainability in the cannabis industry with you. My company, Advanced Grow Technologies, LLC, was developed to promote efficiency to legal grows.
    We are a group of energy, water and grow specialists who want to bring energy & water efficiency at the forefront of commercial grows. We’ve proven in other industries that energy and water efficiency make for more sustainable companies. By reducing utility costs, cannabis and hemp growers will see a better ROI, operate more efficiently and be able to stay one step ahead of any changes that may be coming with the onset of legalization. We know water and energy efficiency and how to make it work.

    We are a relatively new company whose members have extensive experience in cannabis cultivation and energy and water efficiency. On staff we have growers and engineers who have developed and implemented cost saving energy and water applications for the horticultural, fishery and industrial markets, all of which focus on reducing costs and bring down the ROI on a project. We believe these are directly applicable to the cannabis market.

    As this market matures, we will see prices per pound reduce significantly and utility costs that were once considered a nuisance come to have a major impact on the bottom line. Our mission statement says it all “Advanced Grow Technologies is invested in bringing your Legal Cannabis Grow into the light of modern construction applications. We specialize in designing and implementing individualized construction approaches that include all aspects of utility efficiency. When you have maximized your grow potential, while minimizing your energy costs, we have succeeded. We are a Green Industry; we have to act like it”.

    I’m sure you as a cannabis entrepreneur have seen the impact that utility costs have on the bottom line. As more and more states (and countries) gear up for recreational cannabis, states will be watching energy and water consumption very closely. Those who are prepared will thrive the others may fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, there is little discussion on demand side management, utility rate wheeling, geothermal heat pump systems, fuel switching or just about any efficiency approach other than can LED’s produce the same results as metal halide.

    Same on the water side – recirculation, efficient dehumidification, zero carbon footprint or discharge issues never seem to get much mention in the cannabis press. They certainly should for they will affect the long-term success of our industry, but I guess they are just not as sexy as the latest strain or edible. Sorry about that – that was a bit of a rant. There are so many types of energy and water efficiencies that are standard throughout other industries, that need to be practiced in this market. I guess I’m pretty passionate about it.

    I also work with a California company, Canopy Consultants, who have over 30 years’ experience in all phases of water efficiency, from system design and implementation to client advocacy for water rights. We work with clients helping them prepare for the upcoming legislation as it applies to water use and discharge. Water is going to be a HUGE deal and those that are prepared will flourish.

    Our approach is individualized for each client. It has been our experience that companies have their own ways of doing things. It is our goal to develop and implement a program for them that reduces their utility costs, makes them a more sustainable company with better profitability and allows them to be who they are, but with a better bottom line.

    If I can be of any help let me know. Thanks for listening.

    Bob Wilson
    Advanced Grow Technologies

  2. Gordon Andrews

    Hi Olivia and Brett,

    I recently posed a question along a similar vein on the Cannabis Industry Journal’s own LinkedIn page: “If you had a blank piece of paper, how would you design a medicinal cannabis industry?”

    “Hi All,
    In Australia at the moment, various state and federal laws are being introduced or changed to allow medical practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis for selected groups of patients.

    Based on your experiences, what do you think would be the best way to set up such an industry?

    For example, should such an industry be encouraged to be as energy efficient as possible? Should a new industry aim to supply certified organic material as opposed to non certified? Should a new industry encourage outdoor or greenhouse growing rather than indoor?

    I’d be interested to hear people’s opinions.”

    As you can see from my question, sustainability, naturalness or “organic-ness”, ass well as efficiency are at the crux of my thinking. I’d be interested to hear any opinions you may have on these topics and more. Consider me subscribed.

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