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4 Brands Building Authenticity Through Conscious Commerce

For today’s brands, being “authentic” means tapping into consumers’ psyche and crafting programs to match their interests. In recent years, the concept of sustainability has risen in prominence as particularly younger consumers are choosing to buy from brands that manufacture in eco-friendly ways, treat employees and consumers with respect, and otherwise give back to the communities in which they sell.

At the final day of the Demandware XChange 2016 conference, marketing leaders from four brands shared their perspectives on social responsibility during the session, “Conscious Commerce: How Retailers are Doing Well by Doing Good.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, each brand has chosen to align itself with causes and initiatives that match its overall brand purpose. Here is a recap of some of the notable ways they are perpetuating authentic experiences through social responsibility programs.

Max Harris, VP of E-Commerce, Gardener’s Supply Co. A few years ago, the 250-employee company banded together to buy out the founder, which solidified the familial atmosphere present at the brand. According to Max, “Our founder was not only a visionary but an eco-warrior.” The foundation of the brand has been in sustainability the entire time it has existed. “We were green before green was cool. To succeed in embodying such a visible attribute (being “green”), you have to be authentic, and sometimes you can’t be afraid to take bold stands against things you believe aren’t good for your customers.” He cited Monsanto and some of the other garden brands in the space as examples of “green-washing,” where powerful marketing teams have been able to craft a perception of sustainability despite lacking in substance. “If you don’t really believe it and breathe it, it will fall flat.”

Julia Mavrodin, Director, Digital Marketing, Kiehl’s. While Julia spoke about several initiatives that the company, which began as an apothecary in 1851, has adopted, including HIV/AIDS prevention and research and helping to alleviate childhood hunger, she also keyed in on a tangible effort that the historic brand has made to both improve customer sentiment and cut costs simultaneously. As part of Earth Day, Kiehl’s moved from box to envelope shipping, seemingly a small change but one that took a lot of coordination and has made a big difference in their footprint. “Our consumers and partners are placing an emphasis on sustainability, and we’ve accelerated the effort to enhance recycling in both our building and in our communities. Incidentally, we see a lot of impact on search engines, as people are searching for sustainable products.”

Matt Ames, Retail E-Commerce Manager, Burton Snowboards. An iconic winter sports brand often associated equally with a lifestyle as well as a set of products, Burton Snowboards has built a sustainability team responsible for optimizing throughout the manufacturing process. In addition, the brand has made an effort to breed eco-friendly habits in their offices, culminating in an event known as “Kick the Can.” A goal was set to reduce waste in the corporate office by 50%, and as part of that, to reduce the amount of trash cans throughout the building. Employees during this event were asked to bring their desk trash cans to the roof of the building and kick them off, which figuratively (and literally) got rid of almost 300 of the 400 total trash cans in the facility. “Now, when a new employee is hired, instead of getting a trash can, you are given a mug.”

Giovanna Alfieri, Director, Content + Marketing, Dogeared. The jewelry brand became the first to use recycled silver in their jewelry, which is just one way they are baking sustainability and social responsibility into their brand identity. Additionally, Giovanna noted that their team is a heavy supporter of Penh Lenh, an organization affiliated with Hope for Justice that works with women in Cambodia who have suffered through human trafficking, helping them to learn how to produce jewelry and then take it to market. Staying on brand while giving back the world in a meaningful way. “We challenge our culture team to capture the moments when our employees are giving back in a meaningful way. We want to visually share those moments with our audience, and make our customers feel like they are part of what we’re building together. It’s part of the Dogeared ‘All-In’ mentality.”

How is your brand promoting sustainability in its personality? What other ways do you empower your employees to give back in ways that are important to them? You’d be surprised how important these efforts are not just to the perception of the brand, but to building long-term customer loyalty.

Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons / By: Kevin Dooley

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