A Sustainable Wholesale Marketplace Breaking down Barriers

United.Green

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

United.Green aims to create a wholesale market catered towards ethically conscious and environmentally friendly businesses to help them overcome the barriers they have faced in marketing and distributing their products. These products are featured on United.Green’s online platform and sold at affordable prices.

Author

Mitchell Webb

Mitchell Webb

School

Case Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management

Case Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management

Professors

Megan Buchter

Megan Buchter

Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg

Doug DeGirolamo

Doug DeGirolamo

Innovation

United.Green was founded in 2014 in Los Angeles by entrepreneur Karen Leventhal. It aims to offer an online wholesale marketplace and a community forum to connect businesses that prioritize sustainable products. Years ago, Karen realized that the wholesale trading system did not have much regard for the actual people behind the products.

There are a plethora of companies that manufacture products with the specific goal of transforming the world into a better place, both socially and environmentally. However, these companies faced incredible challenges in marketing and distributing their products in a marketplace that was not very streamlined. Powerful corporations block the distribution of goods made by smaller manufacturers and small growers. As a result, they are driven out of business long before anyone hears of them.

To solve this problem, Karen formed United.Green with the long term goal of creating an environmentally friendly and ethical wholesale market that would deliver optimal products without forgetting the people behind them. This innovation has resulted in several businesses eliminating any kind of manufacturing waste almost entirely, which in turn will help the environment immensely. Karen advocates that we should all do our part in establishing and maintaining a trading system that identifies ethically conscious, socially and environmentally responsible suppliers that allows them to distribute their product in a convenient and cost-effective way.

A Sustainable Wholesale Marketplace Breaking down Barriers

Inspiration

Karen Leventhal is the founder and CEO of United.Green and she also works as an independent consultant and grant writer. Her inspiration for United.Green came from working for about nine and a half years as a project director in the Tarjan Center at UCLA. The Tarjan Center is part of a national network called University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs). There, Karen designed over seven innovation projects and obtained about 3 million USD in grants to fund them. One of them was called “Including All Students in Entrepreneurship” which was an initiative to include youth with disabilities in student-run and socially responsible businesses.

While she was working at the Tarjan center, she first heard about social entrepreneurship and she absolutely fell in love with the idea of creating a business with the focus of making the world a better place. She founded the LA Social Innovators Group, a community for social entrepreneurs to connect with one another, hoping she could bring together a network of businesses. Within this group she first heard the problem of how smaller businesses were having trouble distributing their products because of the expenses involved. In some cases, distributing their products proved to be more costly than creating them, so those companies ended up losing money. There were also small business buyers who were having trouble finding certain products to buy. Karen then created United.Green to directly connect distributors to small buyers. She recognized the need for such a platform due to the lack of any existing platform of the same nature.

Overall impact

United.Green distributes a wide variety of products that are featured on their website that anyone can access and order. These products include food, apparel, home, leisure, office, and health items from various businesses. Some examples include reusable, compostable tote bags; fish jerky that is all-natural and sustainably sourced; a candle that transforms into a plant; and an insulated picnic basket that is made up of discarded materials. All of the businesses that United.Green works with are ethical and sustainable. United.Green’s impact includes promoting these businesses and helping them grow and succeed.

Business benefit

The business model of United.Green solely depends on its buyers and sellers. The goal of the company is to set up an aggregate of purchasing volume from various different companies while increasing the purchasing power of each individual. The company provides the sellers with a platform to sell their products and gain revenue from the sales made through the United.Green website at a fixed percentage. The buyers currently do not have to pay anything to United.Green, but a subscription model is being considered.

The benefit to the company would increase with the increasing popularity of the company and if the majority of wholesale sellers in the area use this platform to sell their goods. The business model is built upon voluntary and open membership of small businesses and consumers; democratic member control, wherein the owners merely get a commission for selling the products; member’s economic participation; and lastly, autonomy and independence.

Social and environmental benefit

United.Green’s mission is to help small and medium-sized businesses (that struggle to compete with the resources of large businesses) find and use sustainable supply chains. Improving the ability of smaller businesses to compete improves the inclusivity of economic growth, allowing people who might not have been able to start or grow their business to achieve their dream. Focusing on businesses that have sustainable goals ensures sustainable consumption and production called for in the United Nations Sustainability Goals. And by funding such businesses, United.Green can indirectly contribute to other sustainability goals, like sustainable agriculture.

Interview

Karen Leventhal, Founder & CEO

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United.Green

United.Green

Cleveland, Ohio, US

Business Website: united.green

Year Founded: 2014

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

United.Green facilitates a wholesale marketplace catered towards ethically conscious and environmentally friendly businesses, helping them overcome the barriers they face in marketing and distributing their products.