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Ethical Sourcing and Impact Reporting

John VanRees Jr., co-owner of Exquisite Crystals, is what you might call a “power user” of Unit of Impact. While our platform has been available to customers for just 17 months, John has already used it to publish two annual impact reports, and he’s an active member of our Slack community.

John’s business is interesting (a small family business selling crystals to customers around the world) and so is his use case (ethical sourcing in his supply chain), so we thought it would be interesting to interview John about his experience with Unit of Impact.

What’s the origin story of Exquisite Crystals?

My dad started the company in 1999, selling crystals and minerals online. He was in the early days of e-commerce, using eBay and then his own website. I joined the company in 2007. We’re a small family business with three employees.

It’s a family business – John Jr., right, with his father and Exquisite Crystals founder, John Sr.

Tell us about your business.

The majority of products we sell are natural crystals and minerals that come from the Earth. Most are minimally to no processing. We work with a lot of different family suppliers and miners and have long-standing connections with many of them.

What has your journey been as a socially responsible business?

Maybe like 8 years ago in our industry the whole ethical sourcing really got to be a buzzword.  I reached out to a bunch of different NGOs and mining certification companies and found that all of that is geared for large industrial-scale mining and not for artisanal collections. So that went nowhere.

I decided to look at other options. We joined 1% for the Planet to show that at least we’re giving back and there’s an independent organization verifying this. Next, we became certified as climate neutral. I wanted to see how much more we could do, which led me to B Corp certification. I thought it looked like a solid certification that measures far more and goes much deeper. But it’s hard. It took us about 2-1/2 years to get certified.

Wow. That’s the triple crown of certifications!

It’s the kind of business we want to create.

From amethysts to zircon, Exquisite Crystals ethically sources beautiful crystals and minerals from around the world.

When did Unit of Impact enter the picture?

I came across Unit of Impact during the lengthy B Corp certification process and immediately thought, “This will make my life easier and give me a framework to start collecting data for the B Corp certification – a really easy way to gather data and it gives me an idea of how to do it. I’m all about making things easier.

I’m continuing to use its database to collect and store data, intending to use it on our future B Corp recertification.

Why is it important for you to publish an impact report?

This all goes back to the type of business that we do and what we sell.  There are so many reasons. It’s a great way to communicate and share the story of your impact with your customers, and it also serves to model your behavior and your expectations for your supply chain.

How do you use your impact report?

We send it to our customers every year as a way of saying, “Hey, look how we’re doing business.” It’s a differentiator as well. We also use this content on our website “impact” page.

Let’s talk about your supply chain. I understand one of the big benefits you get from Unit of Impact is its supplier’s section.

I collected all the social and environmental questions from Unit of Impact and included them in a supplier survey I’ve created. Once I gather all this data, I import it into Unit of Impact.

“It’s made everything easier for me. Everything I’m doing right now is about how to simplify things. I don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. Unit of Impact has made the process of impact reporting so much simpler and made it something I can do.”

How have your suppliers responded to your survey?

You know a lot of the companies we deal with think it’s pretty cool. For 99% of these people, it’s the first time anyone has asked them these questions so it’s cool to have these conversations.  There are some who don’t respond, and this has pushed me away from them to focus my relationships with suppliers who are open to this.

Here’s a story to illustrate that supplier impact goes both ways: One of our largest suppliers is in Madagascar. Their product is high quality and more expensive. Through our survey, we learned that they pay living wages and contribute significant support for schools in their community. Knowing the story behind the product helps us justify the higher costs and support what they’re doing as part of positive impact all the way through the supply chain.

John VanRees Jr. at the tree-planting event his company sponsored for Friends of Trees.

What’s the biggest benefit you receive from the Unit of Impact platform?

It’s made everything easier for me. Everything I’m doing right now is about how to simplify things. I don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. Unit of Impact has made the process of impact reporting so much simpler and made it something I can do.

Its framework gives me guidance for how and what to communicate with my audience. It just makes it so easy to share our message of impact. Did I say I’m all about easier?

You’re an active participant in our Slack community. Tell us about it.

I love the Unit of Impact Slack community. It was super helpful to us this year when donating to a nonprofit we’d previously contributed to no longer became feasible for us. So, I reached out on Slack for ideas on nonprofits to donate to and someone suggested Friends of Trees, which as it turns out is local to our community here in Vancouver, Washington.  We actually sponsored our first tree-planting event with them this past weekend.  We went out and physically volunteered and dug holes and put trees in the ground. It was really cool to see that plus something I probably wouldn’t have connected with if it hadn’t been for Unit of Impact. I do appreciate what you guys are doing!

One last question: True or false – you produced and published your impact report while waiting for a flight at the airport?

True!  I created the first impact report while sitting at the gate at the airport. Unit of Impact walked me through the process step-by-step, so I just said, “All right, I’m going to knock this out.”  This year when I was traveling to a trade show, I started it at the airport and finished it when I got to the hotel.

You can view the 2023 impact report for Exquisite Crystals here.