Founded in 1973, Patagonia is the perfect illustration of success with integrity. Committed to environment preservation, each year since 1985 the company has given 1% of its revenue to small environmental grassroots groups fighting to protect the planet. Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s VP of Environmental Initiatives and Special Media Projects, says the company aims at building “the very best product the teams are capable of creating while causing no unnecessary harm, to the planet, its societies, or its biodiversity”.[i] In the age of planned obsolescence, Patagonia is always looking to expand the useful life of their products, operating the largest repair facility in North America. Patagonia is the #6 most innovative company in 2018 according to Fast Company[ii] (the first non-tech driven company) and its annual revenue has quadrupled in the last 10 years to about $1 billion.[iii] In 2018, Patagonia sued the U.S. President in a bid to protect Bears Ears National Monument. Suing the government to protect a national landmark? Hardly a non-divisive topic.
Patagonia's Facebook Feed:
Allbirds is a San Francisco based footwear start-up focused on sustainable footwear. After only two years in business, the company already generated an estimated $50 million in annual revenue in 2017.[iv] Wool, tree fibre, renewable sugarcane, recycled cardboard or bottles, Allbirds builds ‘the most comfortable shoes’ with materials that limit their environmental footprint.
“Regardless of consumer support for the environment, empathy often goes completely out the window at the point of purchase because there’s a disconnect between this empathy and buying behaviour, in part because of limited options but also because a lack of understanding around what exactly sustainability means. That’s why we’re trying to do our absolute best to try and explain it along the way.”[v]
—Tim Brown, Allbirds CEO, The Future Is Sweet And Sustainable For Allbirds, Forbes, 2018
Albirds’ Twitter feed
We partnered with @complex to produce a video series called Sustain This, that profiles individuals who are finding ways to promote sustainable practices. In this episode, Chef @KristenLKish speaks about how her everyday choices contribute to a larger movement. #weareallbirds pic.twitter.com/JnsM0wb0pf— Allbirds (@Allbirds) December 10, 2018
Ranked #1 on the Sustainable Brand Index in The Netherlands[vi], Tony’s Chocolonely is a Dutch chocolate manufacturer on a mission to produce 100% slave-free chocolate. Founded in 2005 by the journalist Teun van de Keuken, the company is committed to making its chocolate respectful of cocoa farmers in West Africa. Tony’s pays farmers 25% more than the standard price for their cocoa. Every cocoa bean in a Tony’s chocolate bar is traceable and has been directly purchased from one of their partner cooperatives. The company’s purpose seems to be resonating well with consumers, as it recorded a 53% revenue increase YOY in 2017.[vii]
Founded in 1976, the French multinational cosmetics company L’Occitane en Provence has always brought a lot of care to its sourcing. The operations around its signature ingredient, shea butter, have been praised by the United Nations Development Programme[viii], “L’Occitane adds considerable value, notably in terms of the development of cosmetic formulas, packaging and design, and marketing. Due to this value addition, the end product can retail at prices that generate sufficiently large margins such that sourcing at the lowest prices is not a key necessity for the financial sustainability of the business model.” L’Occitane founder Olivier Baussan defends himself of doing charity, “I want to give things back, because I was given things. And this isn’t being charitable. It’s being human.”[ix] The company reported net sales of €1.3 billion in 2018, a 4.6% improvement YOY[x].
“A changemaker organisation is one that puts solving a major social issue at the core of its business, and acts accordingly in terms of governance, ways of working, managing their employees, educating their clients, etc. The world changes at a very fast pace, but economic divide increases even faster. Billions of people don’t have access to health, education, clean water, etc. With all due respect to social entrepreneurs, NGOs or governments, there is no way they can address them all on their own. Businesses have a responsibility to intervene and there is a true business opportunity for them if they do it right.”
— Arnaud Mourot, Global VP, Strategic Corporate Alliance, Ashoka Europe
Can you be a giant multinational consumer goods company and put sustainability at the centre of your model? For Unilever, the answer is yes. The British-Dutch company, founded in 1929, now operates 26 sustainable living brands, among which are Dove, Lipton, and the B Corp certified Ben and Jerry’s. Paul Polman, CEO, spearheads Unilever’s philosophy: “We are at a turning point. Only businesses that help people and planet thrive will succeed. We have to scale our impact through partnership, collaboration and trust.”[xi]
This article is excerpted from Future Focus 2019: Searching for Trust.Download Future Focus 2019 for key insights and success stories on navigating truth and authenticity in 2019.