How Burton is Carving a Better World

The Path from Passion to Purpose

My journey into the world of entrepreneurship began 16 years before I fully understood the power of business as a force for good. Sponge, my branding agency, was born in 2000 out of a passion for creativity and a desire to make a mark.

After a few years, and parallel to Sponge, a side hustle emerged. It was born from my love for snowboarding. It was a venture that not only supported countless trips to the snowfields but also leveraged the skills of my design and marketing team.

Those winter weekend road trips with my boys are well and truly burned into my memory, despite what the partying after the boarding was done for the day! There is something about the peace within the carving that I miss.

This was more than just a side business; it was a labour of love, it was community. An adventure shared. It was cool. And it combined my passion for snowboarding with my entrepreneurial spirit. Of course it featured the cool cats at Burton.

Epitome of Cool

For years, Burton Snowboards stood out to me as the epitome of cool. I remember when I was brand new to boarding, I had little cash and Burton felt so out of reach. It’s funny to reflect on that after what I have learned about Chill.

Yet, it was only recently that I discovered their B Corp Recertification and the depth of their commitment to doing good. The deep dive I have been on since then has blown my mind.

This revelation has caused me not only to reminisce, but to be inspired. And I really want to snowboard again! Discovering the incredible work Burton has been doing behind the scenes has reignited my admiration for the brand from a new, more profound perspective.

The funny thing is, now as an impact driven guy, I would look for a snowboard brand with an authentic impact when I am looking to buy. So while my personal values have evolved, it’s exciting to see Burton’s have too.

Burton’s Legacy and Commitment to Change

If you’re new to the Burton Brand, they’ve been the world’s biggest snowboarding brand for almost 50 years. Of course, as a Snowboard brand, they make awesome snowboards and snowboarding apparel.

Jake Burton Carpenter at Baldface in Nelson, British Columbia. Photo credit

In 1977 Jake Burton Carpenter started Burton Snowboards out of a Vermont barn and dedicated the rest of his life to snowboarding. Jake met Donna, his future wife and business partner on NYE in ‘81/82, and together they grew the brand to the force it has become. Donna became the company’s CFO in 1989, then served as CEO from 2016 until early 2020.

I love their partnership in life, passion and purpose. Such an awesome example as my own partner in life has joined our team at Sponge.

Sadly Jake passed away peacefully on November 20, 2019 as a result of complications from recurring cancer. His legacy lives on through the sport and business.

Under Donna’s leadership, Burton became a certified B corporation in October 2019, committing to balance its profits with purpose. They recently recertified which confirms their commitment. The company is privately owned by Donna who as of 2020 is Chair of the Board.

Donna Carpenter, Chair of the Board. Photo Board Sport Source

Burton has embarked on numerous initiatives aimed at reducing their environmental footprint, fostering a diverse and inclusive community, and promoting social responsibility. From their commitment to achieving a 21% carbon footprint reduction in their snowboards to their efforts in ensuring gender equality within their ranks, Burton’s story is one of genuine commitment to making a difference.

“We have a responsibility to the sport we pioneered and the people and playground that sustain it. To ignore that is to risk everything we’ve built,” Donna Carpenter

Beyond the Surface

Burton’s achievement of bluesign® certification for 65% of their apparel, is a testament to their commitment to sustainable production practices. This certification means Burton is using materials that minimise environmental impact and ensure safety for consumers and workers, marking a significant step in their journey toward more responsible manufacturing. And they are aiming to be 100% bluesign® by 2025.

Bluesign® is a certification I have only now been exposed to. I am an advocate of any rigorous 3rd party accreditation that improves business, product or experience for team members and customers.

Burton has initiated efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and foster environmental conservation. These initiatives include optimising manufacturing processes, enhancing product design for sustainability, and engaging in reforestation projects

They have committed to achieving a 21% carbon footprint reduction in their snowboards which emphasises their dedication to protecting our planet.

By prioritising the use of sustainable cotton and reducing harmful chemicals in their products, Burton is leading by example in the pursuit of cleaner, safer production methods. This approach not only benefits the environment but also ensures healthier conditions for workers and consumers.

Burton’s implementation of life cycle assessments for their products allows them to measure and subsequently reduce emissions across the board. This practice provides a comprehensive overview of environmental impact, from raw materials to end-of-life, enabling more informed decisions to lower their carbon footprint.

“Especially in the hardgoods sector, where toxic adhesives etc. are used, there are great opportunities to be innovative.” – Donna Carpenter.

A willingness to share knowledge and collaborate with other companies on sustainable practices highlights the importance of industry-wide cooperation in addressing environmental challenges. This collaborative approach accelerates progress toward sustainability goals, benefiting the broader community and the planet.

Driving Diversity and Inclusion in the Snowboarding World

Donna Carpenter’s leadership has been pivotal in driving gender equality and diversity at Burton. From actively promoting women into leadership roles to ensuring Burton’s culture is welcoming to all.

With women in decision making positions they can truly connect with the women’s market. As Donna says “Without women in management positions “you will never reach the women’s market”.

Burton’s efforts reflect a deep understanding of the importance of diversity in driving innovation and growth. And as a global brand, here’s another big one! Distributed workforce.

For Burton that means taking care of their people, with equitable and livable compensation for employees, contractors, and factory workers. Their goal is that all major suppliers reach, at minimum, internationally recognized living wage benchmarks. And they work with suppliers to make improvements through their social audit program accredited by the Fair Labor Association.audit to ensure this.

Photo Credit: Jesse Dawson via

Another initiative I love is their Culture Shifters. It’s a vision recently brought to life by Selema Masekela and Zeb Powell that aims to diversify the snowboarding world. It’s all about rallying BIPOC change-makers to create a more inclusive community, representing a future where diversity in snowboarding is not just celebrated but becomes the norm.

Culture Shifters is a huge step in broadening the landscape of snowboarding, making it welcoming for everyone. It’s another testament to Burton’s commitment to building a sport and a world that values and uplifts diversity.

For more details, check out Burton’s website: Culture Shifters

Changing Lives through Board Sports

One of the most compelling aspects of Burton’s mission is the tangible impact it has had on individuals and communities. The Chill Foundation is a prime example, using snowboarding as a tool to empower youth facing challenges.

Chill was founded in 1995 by Jake and Donna. Since then it has served more than 30,000 young people. And works to inspire more than 2,000 youth annually to overcome challenges through boardsports. All gear and services necessary to enjoy boardsports are provided to the youth at no cost.

Photo: Chicago teens shaking off the Pandemic stress via

It’s clear they’re all about unlocking the innate power and promise within each young participant. Through the adventure and challenge of board sports, they’re not just passing on new skills; they’re igniting a spark of confidence and planting seeds for a lifelong passion for the board.

Anastasia Surmava attended the Chill program in the early 2000s. Her family had moved to the US as refugees from the Soviet Union, and Anastasia joined Chill in middle school. It’s not a coincidence that she ended up competing for the University of Vermont’s snowboarding team, or went on to have a successful career as an adult. In Anastasia’s words:

“Being able to have the experience as a kid who didn’t have access to a lot of things really impacted my life”.

These stories of transformation not only highlight the power of sports to change lives but also underscore the broader impact a business can have beyond its commercial interests.

Sustainability and Consumer Willingness

Donna Carpenter has insightfully pointed out a growing consumer emphasis on sustainability, marking a shift towards more environmentally responsible products. This evolution in consumer attitudes underlines the necessity for brands to prioritise sustainability not just as a practice but as a core business ethos.

Ethical production and consumer demands are intertwined today. Companies like Burton are navigating these waters by integrating sustainable practices that resonate with consumer values.

The adoption of standards like bluesign® signifies a commitment to sustainable production. These serve as a benchmark for the industry to aim for cleaner, safer manufacturing processes. Working towards 100% bluesign®, Burton underscores the importance of such benchmarks in guiding the industry towards more responsible manufacturing processes.

The shift towards sustainable practices holds significant potential to sway consumer preferences, with Burton’s initiatives illustrating how alignment with environmental values can enhance brand loyalty and market appeal.

The journey towards sustainability necessitates cooperation amongst companies. The collaborative approach between Burton and Patagonia, as mentioned by Carpenter, highlights the need for transparency and shared efforts in promoting sustainability within the industry.

Burton is in Safe Hands

Donna is my kind of human! A kindred spirit. I love that she stepped out of the CEO role to focus on advocating for the sport, for climate activism with Protect Our Winters and sustainability, as well as advocating for more diversity on the mountain, in business, and in boardrooms.

John Lacy’s promotion to CEO of Burton in 2020, after a shared role with Donna Carpenter, was a significant milestone, marking his dedication to the brand since 1997. His ascent from customer service to CEO showcases his deep understanding of Burton’s operations and culture.

Under his leadership, Burton has focused on strengthening the brand, enhancing direct-to-consumer initiatives, and committing to sustainability and inclusivity, continuing Burton’s legacy as a pioneer in the snowboarding industry and a leader in responsible business practices.

With John’s seasoning across the whole organisation and under the wise guidance of Jake and Donna it looks like Burton could not be in safer hands. I am excited to see what comes next.

Inspired to Action?

This whole Burton rediscovery has been an inspiration for me and my Sponge crew. It’s shown us that blending passion with purpose is not only possible for leading brands, but it’s the way forward. Good business today is about crafting a legacy that’s as much about the good we do as the success we achieve.

There are not many opportunities to change first impressions as a brand. But this is one. I knew of Burton as cool. But to me now, they are up there with the likes of Patagonia (almost)!

This comes down to something I preach. All this good is nothing if it is not Authentic! Your people will give their heart and soul when you give them a crusade to join and fight for that they believe in. One that is relevant. This often takes time, support and external guidance to get it just right.

A Call to Carve a Good Path

Here’s the kicker, my friend! Making a positive impact isn’t just a feel-good bonus; it’s a business superpower. Burton’s trailblazing path shows us that every business, no matter how massive, has the potential to transform their operations to become a force for good. And if a massive brand can, often a juggernaut to steer, isn’t it time we all start carving in that direction?

And now, over to you! How are you making waves in your corner of the world? Hit me up in the comments with your stories, ideas, or even your dreams of making a difference. Let’s keep this conversation rolling. If you want more of this, let us know, and share this far and wide to spread the goodness.

Also, jump onto our community mailing list here.

Remember, the journey to impact starts with us, and every little action counts. See you again soon with more Good Business Inspo, until then, be unapologetically awesome!



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