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8 ethical brands making an impact online

Patagonia: the leader in cause marketing

Recently named a UN Champion of the Earth, Patagonia is the godfather of brands when it comes to sustainability. Since being founded in 1973 as a small company making tools for climbers, Patagonia has become a leader in sustainability thanks to the use of recycled materials in its products, its ethical manufacturing processes, and its regular donations to environmental causes.

Patagonia makes no apologies for its environmental activism. In 2018, the brand launched a campaign to sue the Trump administration over its decision to withdraw the protected status of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. It even momentarily paused online sales during the pandemic due to management concerns for employees.

Bold moves like these have enabled the brand to amass a huge online following of loyal and devoted customers and sales of more than $1 billion per year. It’s the perfect example of building a brand through ‘passion conversation’, word-of-mouth and user generated content.

Patagonia boldly takes on Trump in cause marketing move (image source: USA Today)

Chilly’s: a lesson in cultural listening

When BBC’s Blue Planet II aired in 2017, it was a catalyst for change – particularly for reusable water bottle brand, Chilly’s. Originally created in 2010 as a way of helping consumers save money, Chilly’s was catapulted into the public eye as people became increasingly aware of their own plastic usage.

No longer just a functional item, the reusable plastic bottle became a fashion statement and Chilly’s tapped into emerging trends, developing bottles in popular rose gold, avocado and flamingo prints. The company also undertook several brand collaborations and developed micro-influencer campaigns to increase its reach in a subtle but effective way.

In July 2020, Chilly’s reported sales of £44.1m and they came in at number six on the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list. A stylish product, combined with cultural listening and influencer marketing, has truly paid dividends for this eco-friendly brand.

smol: a fresh approach to customer service

Founded in 2017, smol is a cleaning product subscription service with a difference. Created by former Unilever employees, Paula Quazi and Nick Green, smol’s unique approach to eco-friendly cleaning has seen them competing with the big brands in just three years.

As well as being animal-cruelty free, smol’s laundry capsules come in a plastic-free childproof box that’s small enough to fit through your letterbox. By cutting out the middleman and delivering direct, smol claims customers can save up to 50% on their normal brand price.

smol’s website is fresh, clean and user friendly, with type-ahead address technology to ensure customer details are correctly entered every time. smol says customer service and community management have been crucial to its success and believe too many brands have lost touch with real people. Paula says: “Listening to people and treating them as we would wish to be treated ourselves is the smol way.”

smol takes a fresh approach to customer service (image source: Packaging News)

Lush: enhancing the customer experience through tech

Lush isn’t your typical high street retailer. A tenth of Lush is owned by its staff and the ambition of its founders is for their employees to eventually own 35%.

Sustainability is at the heart of the company – and it has been ever since it was created back in 1995. All of Lush’s products are handmade every day by a team of ‘product chefs’ in what the brand says look more like big kitchens than manufacturing sites. Half of the brand’s products can be taken home with no packaging, everything is vegan and cruelty-free, and more than 65% of its range is self-preserving, meaning they don’t require any synthetic preservatives.

Two years ago, the brand launched its Lush Labs App – a place where its ‘digital community’ can get involved and see the latest big ideas and digital innovation as they happen. As well as a visual search feature acting as a ‘digital packaging tool, the app offers a personal shopping service and a forum where customers can provide feedback on new tech solutions before they go live.

Bloom & Wild: revolutionising the flower giving experience

Pioneers of the letterbox bouquet, Bloom & Wild is now one of the most popular and fastest growing flower brands in the UK and Europe.

In order to offset its carbon footprint, the brand supports projects around the world that improve lives and cut carbon. Its packaging is 100% recyclable, it has a zero waste to landfill policy, and any leftover flowers are sold to local florists or as compost for other companies to use.

As a digital-first company, Bloom & Wild’s website is user-friendly and intuitive, with a quick and frictionless checkout experience. Acknowledging that flowers are generally gifted on emotive occasions, the brand has worked hard to ensure deliveries arrive through the recipient’s letterbox on time, every time. The company’s adoption of Loqate’s Address Validation is part of this commitment to ensure the optimum in customer experience – both for the sender and the recipient.

Bloom & Wild uses address verification to reach customers (image source: EU start ups)

Tribe: nurturing communities online and offline

Tribe makes performance nutrition products that are 100% natural, vegan and gluten free. Products are delivered straight to the customer’s door either as a one-off purchase or subscription.

Tribe certainly lives up to its name when it comes to its brand activity. The brand has its own charity, The Tribe Foundation, where customers are encouraged to ‘join the movement’ to end modern slavery.

Before the pandemic, Tribe held regular challenges and events, using face-to-face engagement to strengthen its online marketing activity. During the pandemic, Tribe migrated its community management online. As well as training challenges, the brand runs regular strength and conditioning sessions, and recipe competitions using Tribe products where users are encouraged to share and vote on each other’s creations.

Pact: handing back control to the customer

Pact is a coffee delivery and subscription service. Founded in 2012, the brand’s mission has always been to deliver quality coffee direct to consumers in an ethical and sustainable way.

Unlike traditional coffee business models, Pact’s coffee is sourced through the Direct Trade model. By cutting out the middleman, the company can pay farmers around the world directly, helping them to invest in their farms and improve their quality of life.

Personalisation has been key to the success of Pact. Rather than being tied down to monthly deliveries they don’t necessarily need or want, Pact’s customers are in control at all times with their subscriptions.

They can choose what type of coffee they want and manage the frequency of orders in one easy click. Multiple addresses can be added to an account to allow customers to have their coffee shipped to wherever they might need it – such as home or the workplace – and deliveries can be easily rescheduled the night before on a handy drop down calendar.

Pact gives control back to the customer (image source: Pact)

Cotopaxi: connecting with Millennials   

Founded as a Benefit Corporation, Cotopaxi is an ethical outdoor and equipment brand whose products are made from upcycled or recycled materials. 1% of its annual revenue goes to the Cotopaxi Foundation, which supports poverty and community development across the globe.

Shunning the traditional brick and mortar retail model, founder Davis Smith, tells Forbes: “We realised there was a need for a digitally native brand in the outdoor space that told a story, could connect with what Millennials wanted, and make technologically advanced gear and apparel that made a difference.”

Despite being digital-first, Cotopaxi cleverly combines its passionate story telling online with its unique offline event – Questival. Complete with its very own app, Questival is a 24 adventure scavenger hunt where groups of friends race to complete 300+ challenges, from extreme outdoor activities to volunteering in a soup kitchen. Winning teams are then awarded with travel vouchers, Cotopaxi gear and prizes from sponsors.

All of these brands have one thing in common: an impressive level of customer insight that allows them to meet customer needs through great online and offline experiences.

Having a deeper knowledge of your customers is key to driving business success. And this ability to truly understand customers can only really come from data. Find out how our data cleanse and maintenance tool could help you build lasting customer relationships, enhance your reputation and boost sales.

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