Meet the 30X30: erthos CEO Nuha Siddiqui is Paving the Way for a Plant-Powered Future
Our sixth annual Bay Street Bull 30X30 guide showcases a group of incredible individuals who are redefining the way we do business, championing their communities, and cultivating entirely new industries. From tech and environmental pioneers to cryptocurrency entrepreneurs and media trailblazers, each of this year’s inductees is challenging Canadians to think (and work) differently for a brighter future.
In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and best advice.
CEO and co-founder, erthos
What is your elevator pitch to the world?
Nuha Siddiqui: Building a massively scalable platform for better materials that help solve our planet’s plastic waste crisis.
What excites you most about the work that you are doing?
Nuha Siddiqui: To think that we are creating a transformational shift in our industry and reducing the environmental footprint of plastics is what excites me! We can build a better alternative to everyday single-use products which are used by everyone, everywhere.
Where do you think you have made the most impact in your community?
Nuha Siddiqui: At erthos, we are driving forward a new standard for materials that truly puts our earth first. With our plant-powered alternatives to traditional plastics, we have been able to influence some of the world’s largest brands and manufacturers to choose a more sustainable path forward.
For our industry, we have been able to build a compatible solution that minimizes disruption and promotes the seamless adoption of sustainable materials. For our planet, we’ve been able to create materials that directly divert plastics from polluting our environment and reduce our overall environmental footprint.
There is a lot of confusion around the word ‘sustainability.’ How do you define sustainability for yourself and what do you think the industry can do to better inform consumers about the choices they make?
Nuha Siddiqui: Sustainability, for me, is ensuring that the decisions we make today will positively impact our planet today, and in the future. It’s important to remember that “sustainability” is not just about being “eco-friendly”. Sustainability encompasses environmental, social, and economic factors that need to be balanced well to guarantee long-term positive impact. For example, at erthos, our standard for sustainable materials is embedded into everything we do. From choosing materials that are ethically sourced, to creating functional products that guarantee value, our choices are always centered around a holistic view of sustainability. Is the choice you’re making today going to bring more harm or good to our planet in the future? It’s a simple, yet very important question you can ask yourself when making choices everyday.
Climate change is one of the, if not the, most pressing issues that we face today. How do you think we can have more productive conversations around combatting climate change and environmental waste without making others feel powerless?
Nuha Siddiqui: Diversity in perspectives, collaboration, and continuous improvement. To have productive conversations around combating climate change, we need to make sure we first recognize that the challenges we face are complex and require diverse perspectives. We aren’t going to accelerate our path forward if we come up with a solution that only caters to one specific demographic or region in the world. We must be inclusive in both the conversation and the solutions that we build. By collaborating with all stakeholders, we can then maximize the positive impact and execute on a global scale. Even though there is a clear urgency to act in big ways, it’s important to not let that discourage us from the small acts we can be doing every day. No one is powerless and everyone can be a part of the solution, small or big.
Consumer decisions can only go so far. Industry and policy play a major role in these conversations. What do you think government and corporate policies need to focus on in order to move the dial regarding climate change and plastic pollution?
Nuha Siddiqui: Firstly, governments and corporate policies need to align on definitions around climate targets and plastic pollution. If you pick a handful of regions and corporations from around the world and compare their definitions on “biodegradable” or “plastic-free” it will be very different from each other, which leads to a lower likelihood of effective global change. Secondly, it’s extremely important to consider the potential solutions that can address the proposed target or policy before publicly mandating it. By understanding what type of alternatives industries can lean on and by engaging directly with early-stage innovation companies from the very beginning, we can ensure that the ambitious targets and policies are not just treated as soft guidelines and instead provide more specific guidance on alternatives quickly and encourage action and innovation around the development of solutions.
What is your philosophy around problem-solving, specific to your industry and work?
Nuha Siddiqui: All problems have a solution. I truly believe that. But, like most problems, climate change and plastic pollution are not ones that can be solved alone or without an incredibly open and optimistic mind. I have always approached problems with the understanding that I won’t always have the answers, but I will always remain optimistic and open-minded to what I don’t know. It’s also important to think about who else needs to be in the room to guarantee that the problem gets solved in the best possible way.
How do you approach complex problems through an innovative lens or out-of-the-box thinking?
Nuha Siddiqui: As old school as it might be, a massive whiteboard with endless thoughts and a lot of collaborative brainstorming! Our entire business is based on solving one of the most complex problems of our generation, so every day is an opportunity for our team to think out of the box and contribute to the solution. Sometimes all you really need is a platform that encourages you to take a step back and think about the problem, and then trial and error without the fear of failure.
What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away from your work?
Nuha Siddiqui: You can build a profit-driven business that can also make our planet a better place. The two can exist together and is absolutely essential.
What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur? Your biggest milestone?
Nuha Siddiqui: My biggest milestone was saying no to my corporate job after graduating, and successfully raising our first financing round with no established track record or fancy network. Without that first $1M seed round, we wouldn’t be here today.
What I’m most proud of is our team and the fact that I’m lucky enough to get to work with some of the smartest and kindest people in the world who have chosen to dedicate their careers to our wild vision at erthos.
Why does your work matter?
Nuha Siddiqui: It matters because it’s a piece of the bigger picture: a clean, healthy, and sustainable planet. I think we can all agree that matters?
What have you learned about yourself as you’ve built your company and raised your voice?
Nuha Siddiqui: Jacinda Arden has this belief that “leadership is not about necessarily being the loudest in the room, but instead being the bridge, or the thing that is missing in the discussion and trying to build a consensus from there.”
I couldn’t agree more with that. I’ve always felt a strong sense of responsibility to do everything I possibly could to make this planet a better place. But, I’ve learned that there is a balance between lowering my voice to listen to others, raising my voice to advocate for our mission, and supporting my voice with real action.
What is a major career goal that you have set your sights on and hope to accomplish in 2022?
Nuha Siddiqui: I’m transitioning from a CEO of an early-stage start-up to a CEO with a 30+ team, products in market, and operations globally! We’re rapidly scaling and I’m super excited to be leading erthos into this next stage of growth and getting one step closer to a better planet, with better materials.