Kaleena Morrison of United & Free: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More Sustainable
Social sustainability — We are in business to do better for everyone involved with united & free. We build partnerships with our entire supply chain with the intention of bettering the lives of people we work with, our community, and the environment. As we grow in the next few years, we plan to focus on a series of multiple small scholarships, organize events to drive awareness for ocean conservation, and become a carbon-neutral operation.
As part of our series about how companies are becoming more sustainable, we had the pleasure of interviewing Kaleena Morrison, Co-founder of United & Free.
United & Free is an inclusive and sustainable hair and skin care brand founded by brother-sister team, Brandon and Kaleena Morrison. BIPOC owned, Natural, Vegan, and Cruelty-free. On a mission to create the conscious super future.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I created United & Free in 2016 with my brother, Brandon. We shared a passion for wanting to create something new and meaningful. As a mother, I focused on cutting down on the unnecessary ingredients we find in our everyday care products. I wanted to create a product that was not only good for my family to use but also didn’t harm the planet. My brother, who worked with my father as a formulator, started to create hair care products for himself and his friends. We started brainstorming together, and shortly after, he moved to Vancouver to help start United & Free Skincare. We have won awards around the British Columbia area, and in 2018 Brandon was a finalist for the BCBusiness 30 under 30. In 2018, we underwent a rebrand and relaunched the new brand in October 2021 with a greater focus on radical inclusivity and exo-sustainability. Since the relaunch, we have been working towards our BCorp certification.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Our mission is to create less waste in the personal care industry. We are an impact-based company.
We have five core values:
1. Radical inclusivity — Recognizing what unites us all while respecting our differences. We create to honor all bodies.
2. Earth first — To preserve our oceans — we see a vision of the future where humans and Earth thrive. Our products have 3 uses — 1 container to cut down on the amount of waste required for our needs.
3. Product efficacy & transparency — We are transparent in where we manufacture the ingredients and materials that go into each product. We create and test for efficacy, and are respectful to our community.
4. Fact-based decision making — Our products, packaging, and tools are created based on research and data. From packaging to product, back to the Earth.
5. Social sustainability — We are in business to do better for everyone involved with united & free. We build partnerships with our entire supply chain with the intention of bettering the lives of people we work with, our community, and the environment. As we grow in the next few years, we plan to focus on a series of multiple small scholarships, organize events to drive awareness for ocean conservation, and become a carbon-neutral operation.
One of the main problems we are trying to solve is product waste, from wasteful packaging to overconsumption. Our products reduce the overall waste from traditional skincare routines. Each product has multiple uses — 1 container replaces 3 other skin or hair care products, causing less waste. This is our take on skinimalism.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Currently, we are working with Mission Blue initiative and SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research and partners to bring awareness to hope spots like the Salish Sea, located in the Pacific Northwest between Vancouver and Washington State. These areas are hope spots because they are scientifically identified as critical to the ocean’s health and need to be protected as much as possible. The Salish Sea is home to many Flora and Fauna, like the southern resident killer whales. Marine conservation is vital as our oceans and these ecosystems help absorb and cycle much of our carbon.
During our rebranding, one of the biggest issues we noticed was in packaging and the amount of waste ending up in the ocean. We designed our outer packaging with a list of goals and started working from there. Our outer packaging is made from upcycled sugar cane bagasse, which is biodegradable/compostable. We used post-consumer recycled plastic for areas where we couldn’t get around using plastics, such as a bottle closure. This type of plastic is created from consumer waste and has been recycled. Our main vessels are made from glass, which is highly recyclable. We also design our products with three uses in mind, an approach to functioning skinimalism. We wanted everything to do with our products to be reusable, recyclable, reduce waste or breakdown, and complete the cycle.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
One thing we are working on is becoming BCorp certified. A BCorporation balances planet profit and people. It is important to understand that having a business isn’t solely about profits. It’s about the mission of the business to reach its vision. If you are a BCorporation, you are focused on what impact you can make on social or eco-sustainable matters. Customers seek out BCorp certified businesses because they are held to a higher regard and standard. These businesses resonate with a louder minority that is becoming a majority — and the customer wants businesses that are ethical in their practices, create more good for the environment and help their local community.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
September 20th was an interesting time in Canada, especially in Vancouver. It was inspiring to see how much passion and conviction the younger generation has to voice their concerns to the global leaders. I think it gives us a lot of hope for the future that even though we have climate change looming over us and we always need to be doing more, there are generations now and more willing to fight for our earth.
Being a mother, I practice these 5 things with my little one. I would say 5 things parents should look at doing with or for their children it would be:
- Instill a sense of empathy and compassion for plants and animals.
- Take them outside on a hike to show them the beauty of nature and teach them we all have a responsibility for our environment and ecosystem.
- Teach them to stand up for those who don’t have a voice.
- Nurture a sense of wonder for science and art.
- Volunteer with them in your community to teach them that time and effort can directly impact those around them.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. It’s always going to feel like an upwards fight till you get to the next level and look back.
2. It’s good to take advice, but don’t lose track of your focus.
3. Make sure to have it in writing.
4. Even when you have a bad day or week, it’ll pass, and you’ll be stronger for it.
5. Plan for a work-life balance.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There has been a lot of support from mentors through business-based programs and peer mentorship groups. I am very grateful for all of the help I have received from my peer mentors. My family, especially my husband, have been huge support systems throughout my business journey.
My husband is a business owner as well. I am fortunate to be able to pick his brain on various topics that relate to growing my business and receive honest feedback.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It would be creating the conscious Super Future, celebrating all expressions. All identities. Recognizing what unites us all while respecting our differences. We create to honor all bodies. You are welcome here. united // free
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated.”
This quote is from Maya Angelou, and it really resonated with me. There have been so many trials when starting your own business and trying to grow.
After hitting many roadblocks, I learned that these obstacles will always be along the journey. It is more about how you approach these obstacles and what you can learn from them, that makes you grow stronger.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
Our website is unitedandfree.com — where you can shop directly from us. Also, we are active on our Instagram (@beunitedandfree) and TikTok (@unitedandfree). We can always be reached either via dm’s or directly through email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!