MICHAEL STAUSHOLM has been working with sustainability in the business world for more than 20 years. He is the founder and CEO of Sprout World, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, with an office in Boston, USA. Sprout World was named the second most sustainable company in Europe in 2020 by Fast Company, and Michael was included in the Worthy 100 list of entrepreneurs who use their businesses to do good in 2021 by Worth Media. EMILIE MOGENSEN writes about the interview she did with him recently on his company and his values.
As a European entrepreneur, with a Masters in Conscious Business and Entrepreneurship from NYU, I recently gave myself a challenge as a freelance writer for the Heartfulness Magazine. So far, I have spoken to North American conscious entrepreneurs. Next was to approach some European companies that excel in their values and integrity around sustainability and eco-ethics.
Sprout is a company that fits this category of pioneers and early adaptors to a world where business owners take more responsibility for the planet and people than we have seen before in history. Michael Stausholm founded Sprout in 2013.
I am really curious to hear if Michael has a contemplative practice, so it makes me smile when the very first thing we talk about is how Sprout is aligned with Mindfulness and a conscious approach to the inner environment of people. Michael explains that the simple thing of writing with a pencil is a value that speaks to him. It symbolizes the values he has managed to cultivate in the organization. The company created the first pencil that can be planted, growing herbs, vegetables and flowers from the little seeds inside.
Sprout is a company that fits this category of pioneers and
early adaptors to a world where businessowners
take more responsibility for the planet and people.
There is something so simple and innocent about this idea, which makes it a captivating story; maybe because the world lacks the simplicity and authenticity of planting a simple seed and seeing it sprout. I feel a resonance with something honorable when I talk to Michael, and that makes me curious how he can stay centered in himself.
He shares with me that he started a meditation practice during the lockdown, but it didn’t become his thing as much as taking long walks in silence, while clearing his head. I ask him if walking brings him into the present moment, and he seems to really agree with this way of stating it.
There is something private around him, and I become curious because of this privacy. During our talk, I write notes about integrity, self-respect, and an inability to be flattered. On the Internet, many platforms write about Sprout and its impressive achievements. I can only imagine a person in Michael’s shoes is all the time meeting people who want something from him.
I feel that his ability to stay so focused on a simple business model requires a lot of integrity, and it is what I notice about his private appearance. I know how easy it can be in the business world to fall out of the inner center, and it speaks tome that Michael keeps a distance while being able to express very profound values, going deeper into the human heart than a business adventure.
When I ask him what makes him get out of bed every morning, his answer surprises me. He says it’s about being “proper,” and doing things properly. We speak Danish, and the word he uses is a very typical Danish word, so we become a bit word-nerdy when I ask him what the right word would be in English. I suggest “kind,” but we both agree that it is something else. The very fact that Michael takes the time to ponder over the word shows me how he really wants to live. He wants to do things properly, treat the planet and people in a genuine way, and this reflects in his organization.
Very few employees leave once they check in with Sprout, and most of the leaders have been with him from the start. I want to know how he cultivated this kind of loyalty in his Sprout community, and he is super clear in his answer: it’s all due to one simple truth, a really strong team of very skilled leaders. The organization is built on mutual trust, and nobody minds each other’s business. If someone needs to leave at 3 p.m., there are no questions asked. He emphasizes that the team consists of equal numbers of women and men.
A part of me wants to ask why he is not totally into meditation, but I feel the need to withhold and be proper myself, as the conversation is not about my agenda of wanting to see the entire world meditating together. It is about Michael and Sprout, and how his business adventure is impacting the world, with its proper and compassionate eco-values.
I ask Michael if he feels sustainable inside, and I love his answer. He says it’s not always easy to be conscious, because we need to change things in our lives, and it can seem a big task to change the world into a sustainable place. His suggestion is to start with small things, like moving closer to work, being able to leave the car at home and take his bicycle to work every day. He suggests that we look for ways to frame the difficulties in life into positive challenges. We laugh at the idea of an angry environmentalist being aggressive in their communication; it somehow seems counter-productive to the whole.
“It’s really about being able to do those little things we do in Sprout,” he says. “We might not be saving the world by selling pencils, but surely we are contributing by planting seeds and giving people the opportunity to experience the sprouting process of a plant. It’s like we are planting little hopes in people’s lives.”
Illustrations by LAKSHMI GADDAM
Emilie is Danish born with design and spirituality in her DNA. Besides being a designer, she holds an Inner MBA, a Masters in conscious business and entrepreneurship, from NYU. She is on a mission to enhance unity, compassion and heart centered entrepreneurship in modern life business endeavors.