Jaden Smith Is Making His Own Name in Philanthropy and Sustainability
For more than half his life Jaden Smith, 23, has been using his entrepreneurial spirit to help make the world a better place. While he may be best known as the son of Will and Jada Smith, the actor-rapper-designer-singer-songwriter is a philanthropist and humanitarian first and foremost; and he not only uses his platform to advocate for change, but he is also working to directly create impact through his business endeavors.
At just 10 years old, Smith was perturbed by something he saw while learning how to surf: a plastic bottle floating next to him in the Pacific. Within two years, he had cofounded spring water company JUST Water, a social venture that aims to help the environment and reduce single-use plastic waste. By using water that comes from mountain watersheds which are replenished annually with rain and snowfall, JUST’s water is not only pristine and delicious but also sustainable. “Essentially, our company’s created a more ethical water model that makes zero impact on the community water draw,” Smith explained to InStyle’s Shalayne Pulia back in 2017 after JUST became a certified B Corp. “And we decided to pay six times more for the water than the next highest-paying water user in the area. This way, the city can take that money and give back to their water infrastructure.” In addition, JUST’s water is boxed using 88 percent plant-based materials, which helps reduce carbon emissions by up to 74 percent compared to similarly sized petroleum-based plastic bottles, and is 100 percent recyclable.
But Smith’s commitment to making our world a cleaner and healthier place goes beyond selling water. In 2019, JUST donated mobile water treatment systems, known as the Water Box, to the community of Flint, Michigan, which infamously began struggling with lead-contamination in its municipal water supply in 2014. The first device was so successful—within its first 50 days of use, approximately 5,500 gallons of water were distributed, preventing the use of more than 43,000 single-use, 16-ounce plastic bottles—that additional Water Boxes were brought into the area.
“Unfortunately, you cannot just drive to Flint, Michigan, and say, ‘We are here with a solution for you!’—it doesn’t work like that,” Smith told Teen Vogue in a 2019 interview. “So, we did a lot of preproduction work in Flint to find the appropriate, thoughtful and neutral way to partner. This led us to First Trinity Baptist Church in Flint. Pastor and first lady Erza and Catrina Tillman, and their team of church deacons, have been conducting water services for bottled distribution for the past five years. We spent a lot of time planning and learning about one another’s abilities. Together, we engineered a solution from both a hardware standpoint and a social standpoint, to have the best path to success for the community and the churches immediate needs—purity, efficiency, transparency and trust.”
For Smith, though, water was just the beginning. He’s partnered with New Balance to create the Jaden 574, made of surplus materials. He’s cofounded a sustainable luxury streetwear brand, MSFTS. He’s currently looking to open a vegan restraint that will help feed those experiencing homelessness. And last month, he teamed up with YouTube on its original series i, which brings together celebrities and global leaders to advocate for a more sustainable planet. I think we can all raise a glass (of water!) to that.