Wow! That’s a lot of Ps in a blogpost title! But I wanted to take a moment to celebrate some of the brands I have worked with and admire that are doing a terrific job of being ‘better’ businesses (while still being profitable) and showing us a sustainable business model that works. Here are my 5 favourite Purposeful Brands that are protecting and preserving the planet as part of their business mission.
I was incredibly lucky to work with Patagonia in the late 80s and early 90s as a PR client. In the 80s Patagonia was already a cool go-to brand for adventurous, maybe even rebellious outdoor types. It’s signature product at that time was the fleece SnapT. It came in a riot of different colours and I was particularly attached to my yellow one with purple piping.
Yvon Choinard who founded the company realised quickly however that his signature product was using a wide array of noxious chemicals to deliver the amazing colour palette of the 80s when the Boston store opened in 1988. The air in the store was making people sick, and formaldehyde circulating was the cause. With his vision and commitment to sound environmental principles, he set out to eradicate the element of environmental risk from his business.
Today Patagonia remains a go-to brand for edgy outdoor adventurous people. It may not be as big as brands such as The North Face, but it has stuck resolutely to its environmental ideas and has won numerous accolades and awards including the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from The Sustainable Business Council, Eco Brand of the Year, and GT Nexus’ Supply Chain Innovation Award among many others.
The Footprint Chronicles, which documents the company’s impact on the environment and socially through its supply chain, is an outstanding example of transparent business. It’s environmental grants programme has given over $58million to grassroots projects to protect and preserve the environment, targeted at people on the frontline of the environmental crisis. It’s not perfect but it goes a long way towards being a role model for many apparel brands out there.
You can read more about Patagonia’s approach to being a responsible company here, you can read The Cleanest Line or you can order The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years.
I discovered B1G1 only this year through the Global Impact Summit. GIS brought together impactful leaders from around the world in a series of interviews led by Paul Dunn, founder of B1G1. In a world that can occasionally suffer from charity-fatigue, particularly when it comes to international development, Paul’s concept stands out as truly inspirational for me for it’s simplicity.
Modelled on ensuring that 100% of donations go to the projects that participating companies select for themselves, B1G1 supports donors with a comprehensive communications package that ensures they get the best return on their participation so that employees are enthused, committed and wholly connected to the projects that inspire them.
I particularly love their Study Tours, where employees from participating companies can actually visit their projects and participate. I can’t think of any other major global charity that allows donors to visit their projects (but if there are I’m sure you’ll let me know). Have a look at the videos on the Study Tour page to see just how motivating these can be!
By enabling companies however small or large, to find an easy way to support important human and environmental projects around the world, B1G1 has successfully connected people around the world in sustainable, humanitarian endeavour.
I can’t draw up a list that doesn’t include WWF. It’s an enormous organisation that has undergone huge changes in my lifetime, but it is one that does extraordinary strategic work around protecting and preserving wildlife and the natural environment we need so much to keep the planet in balance.
Born when I was just 1 year old, WWF was pioneering in its recognition of the importance of sustainable living. As early as 1980 it introduced the concept of sustainable development into its overall strategies – living within the limits of the natural environment without compromising the needs of future generations – at a time when most of us hadn’t even heard of the word.
Earth Hour, the WWF’s largest programme to persuade governments to act on issues around climate change – where for one hour on 28 March each, iconic landmarks across the world, including the Sydney Opera House, the Acropolis, the Pyramids, Big Ben and the Empire State Building, are plunged into darkness – continues to be one of the world’s most popular participation events.
I worked for The Timberland Company in many different ways for over 20 years. Jeff Swartz, son of the company’s founder Sidney, was one of the most inspiring visionaries I have ever worked with.
From the day he took over the running of the company as COO, he had both a social justice and environmental agenda that he built into the brand’s development under the banner headline Boots Brand Beliefs. In the late 80s, the company set up a partnership with City Year, a Boston-based youth “urban peace corps” to support community service. Since that time Timberland has provided over $10 million to City Year helping them expand their service program to 13 cities across the United States. That programme was replicated in many countries across Europe in partnership with similar organisations.
The Path of Service also became part of the brand’s commitment – every single employee of the company was allowed to take 40 hours paid time to support local community programmes each year, followed by annual Serve-A-Paloozas which at the time of launch in 1998 was the largest day of company service in the US.
It’s environmental track record is also excellent. Signing up to CERES as early as 1993, the company has since won a string of awards including Business Ethics’ Corporate Social Responsibility Report’s Corporate Citizenship Award, named on Forbes magazine’s “Platinum 400 – The Best Big Companies In America, listed as Sustainable Business’s “World’s Best Sustainable Stocks”, and established Carden Welsh Award for Environmental Excellence, honouring individuals or teams of employees whose actions lead to a sustainable improvement in Timberland’s environmental footprint. Jeff led the outdoor industry in setting up the Eco Index to measure the environmental impact of outdoor products.
I was very sad when finally the company was sold to the VF Corporation (also a client) in 2011, and Jeff finally retired to go on to new, inspired adventures. He remains in my mind one of the most inspiring people I have ever worked with.
This may be a new one to you if you don’t have children. I only discovered it when my friends started having children/grandchildren and were concerned about the environmental impact of nappies. The name says it all. It’s a business that has the long-view in mind, and it aims to inspire consumers to protect the health of the next 7 generations to come.
Like the other brands on my list, it has won numerous awards and accolades – not least being a certified B Corporation with a very high score for environmental care (65). Although it is a US brand, you can buy their products on Amazon.
Every bit as good, if not better, than Ecover, who also rate a mention here because they’ve been doing this for 35 years now.