It’s common in the 21st Century to come across businesses that give a portion of their profits away to contribute to the solving of a global issue. But brands can demonstrate the strength of their commitment to a cause by doing more than simply giving away more money.
GDR Innovation Researcher Fraser Scarlett explores how, by focusing on the goal of environmental sustainability and protection we can see that, with even a small selection of brands, there are many different kinds of altruistic behaviours.
A project on a mission
Skating brand Bureo can be traced back to its over-funded Kickstarter page launched just two years ago. The campaign begins with the bold title ‘A Project on a Mission’. Three friends, Ben Kneppers, David Stover and Kevin Ahearn, made it their goal to do something about the growing issue of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. After discovering that recycled fishing nets can be used to make high-quality skateboards the three of them created Bureo, a skating brand, and Net Positiva, a fishnet collection and recycling programme.
The first skateboard, ‘The Minnow’, is shaped like a fish, has a scale-like grip surface, wheels made from recyclable material and an innovative B-hook carabineer lock. Clearly, the design of the board reflects what’s on the founders’ minds.
The whole brand is and always has been about providing a cool, albeit modest, solution to a colossal problem. The clever designs of their products, ranging from boards to sunglasses, make them even more appealing to the conscientious skater of today.
Focusing in on Florida-based beer maker Saltwater Brewery we can see a different kind of environmental concern at work. Far from an enlightened origin story, this lifestyle orientated craft brewery has innovated a ubiquitous piece of beer packaging.
Collaborating with advertising house We Believers, Saltwater Brewery has designed an edible and biodegradable six-pack holder. Ordinarily, plastic six- pack packaging ends up damaging marine life through suffocation, entrapment or by being ingested. Made from barley and wheat remnants leftover from the brewing process, the new edible packaging is also compostable.
The project reveals something interesting about Saltwater Brewery’s attitude. It presents a challenge to “the big guys [in brewing]” to copy them. This proves Saltwater Brewery’s commitment to a cause that they care about over-and-above their own business’s competitive edge.
Embodying the ethos
Clearly commitment to the environment is not limited to small, up-and-coming, brands. Outdoor clothing giant Patagonia claims its mission statement is as follows:
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”.
Patagonia’s co-founder, Yvon Chouinard, is the embodiment of his brand’s ethos. As bold as the mountains he regularly climbs, Chouinard is a rare thing: a reluctant but successful businessman. “I hang onto Patagonia because it’s my resource to do something good” he told The Wall Street Journal. Over his 50-year career he’s been known to be more committed to his love of nature then to his business. Every now and then he disappears from the office to go fly-fishing, kayaking or just rambling around the northern Rockies.
Having leaders and ambassadors who embody the brand’s values convinces the consumer that those values are sincerely held.
This is just a small selection of the different, innovative ways brands can be committed to a cause. GDR clients will be able to discover more about how corporate altruism can deliver a genuine ROI in our Global Innovation Report 62, published this November.