Embracing Your Ethical Entrepreneurial Spirit
We truly believe the sustainable marketing future will be a bright one. In this episode we share inspirational examples of brands and corporations that are stepping up their sustainability commitments. We then highlight ways to act with purpose, and how you can embrace your entrepreneurial spirit as a business owner or as a marketer.
Episode 038 TOPICS:
What it means to provide an ethical marketing plan
A Deep dive into the Unilever Compass (long term sustainable living plan
Inspiration from Olio - founded by Tessa Clarke and Saasha celestial-one
The Soulfull Project - the hot cereal brand founded by Megan Shea and Chip Heim
Detailed steps and resources to put it all into action
Across the Pond- Marketing Transformed
38. Embracing Your Ethical Entrepreneurial Spirit
So, last week, we looked at creating a sustainable marketing future, and I think in summary, if we seize the initiative, the future can look bright. There were some inspirational stories about people’s companies and organisations, but what was clear is that you have to act with purpose. You have to have that clear.
We also looked at a practical action plan, which I think we will explore a bit further. But one area that we didn’t cover was how you can embrace that entrepreneurial spirit as a persona or a marketeer. What inspiration can we draw and what do we practically do in our day to day living? I’m going to start with a story, Sam about a company called Olio, but just wondered whether you had any thoughts?
Yeah, I think this idea of the entrepreneurial spirit and weaving and having purpose in the DNA, it seemed a bit fanciful and a bit far off. But I think in the last few months this space has become so well established and so proven and has touched so many people’s hearts that absolutely, now it’s not a side or a niche or a fluffy topic. It really is going to be the core of what a lot of people want to stand for in their lives and their professional lives.
Absolutely. Yeah, well said. So, something that we talked about was good stories and I think this is a great story. I had the pleasure of working with a lady called Tessa Clarke, back in the early days of digital in 2000, she set up a company called Olio with a partner Saasha Celestial-One, that is her name. (An amazing name, I’d love to find out a bit more about that, to be honest). Their vision of the company is for millions of hyperlocal food sharing networks, all around the world, they believe that Olio can help create a world where nothing of value goes to waste and every single person has enough to eat without destroying the planet in the process. And the goal is to actually get a billion people using the app in the next ten years’ time, which I think is a fantastic ambition. You can suddenly see how much impact there is.
They co-founded it in 2014, both with a strong passion for food and waste. Tessa grew up on a farm and therefore saw food production and how important it was to minimise waste from that. Saasha, apparently grew up in a relatively poor family who upcycled and resold things that others were done with. So, it’s probably embedded within both of them, the principles and the purpose that they wanted to achieve. And since launching the app in 2015, there’s been over four million portions of food shared in forty-nine different countries, and I certainly wasn’t aware about the countries, the global appeal part of it. And simply put, when you think about it, a third of all food is thrown away, which is just staggering, and that’s worth trillions of dollars, yet one in nine people go hungry. So, that math doesn’t work there.
You know if there was an equation you could quite easily just redistribute, and it would work out well. Interestingly, this is the part that I was staggered by, only two percent of the waste is at supermarket level and half of all the waste is at a household level, but again, it all kind of makes sense, from a business perspective you look at efficiency, waste is part of efficiency. So, average households throw away a quarter of their weekly shop and that in the UK is fifteen billion pounds a year, which is staggering. So, I love the fact that they’ve focused not just on the supply chain from a corporate perspective but focusing very much from the household. They’ve got a million users, now with a mindset to share food, recently got featured in the royal edition of Vogue, which was edited by the Duchess of Sussex, certainly winning awards.
But the bit that I like is, not only are they making an impact on a global scale, but they are making a very, very real impact as well. There’s case studies, one lady claiming that since she started using the app she’s managed to cut her food bill down from four hundred pounds to one hundred pounds a month, which is life changing. And I like the fact that this is two ladies that have come from different backgrounds, taken corporate careers and said actually, we want to tackle this problem with a really, really ambitious goal to achieve it, as well. So, yeah, I thought I’d start off there, Sam.
Yeah, Chris, great story and as you’re telling that story it reminds me of - I feel, one of the biggest failures I’ve had in my career was working on a project with a brand, where there was an opportunity to seed and embed food waste as a key solution that this brand was actually a part of and how this brand was actually making strides. And I’d been working on a project with some of the marketers on that team, we’d made great progress, but there were some leadership changes. And the project fell away…it just didn’t get any priority. A new leader came in with a different perspective, and what frustrated me even more was that it went back to the CMO. He just wasn’t feeling it, it wasn’t a priority, a very operational driven leader and this meaningful purpose driven opportunity to be part of the food waste solution just didn’t make it, and I regret not trying harder and not making that happen.
As we think about that in a corporate environment, I know a lot of the listeners are working in that space or know people working in that space. I take comfort and confidence from Unilever, because they’re in their tenth and final year of their sustainable living plan. Now, in their words, this wasn’t a sustainability plan, it was a plan for successful, sustainable business and the new CEO Alan Jope, has reinforced their commitment to sustainability leadership and he calls for renewed action, to tackle social inequality and the climate crisis in a post Covid world.
So, I said they were in their final year, but obviously the story’s going to end in a good place. They’ve got over twenty eight sustainable brands which includes Ben and Jerry’s, Domestos the cleaning brand, Dove which we know the soap brand and beauty care, Helmann’s mayonnaise and other products. Love Beauty and Seven Generation are other brands in their portfolio. They continuously show that those brands have performed above the market on a consistent basis, and they all happen to have purpose as a core to them.
Now, they’ve been able to save over a billion euros in costs through their sustainable living plan, through energy efficiency, water improvements, better performing factories and platforms such as Loop and Algramo. The companies just set their new Unilever sustainable living plan, it’s been a key fact in attracting the best people to join their organisation, partnering with NGOs and government organisations and other businesses.
But, guess what? They’re completely honest about their success and their failures. They’re proud of their achievements but they’re on record. Go to their website, you’ll see that they’ve said ‘look, we haven’t met all our targets, we haven’t achieved all our goals’, they found it really difficult to measure the impact on many of their programs to really improve livelihoods and opportunities for women. So, they’re saying, we’re not hitting it there, they’ve underestimated the challenge of how they’re able to change consumer behaviour, that they had targets for green gases and water, but they haven’t substantially changed the way people wash their clothes or take showers. They’ve launched products which require less water and work in different ways, but they haven’t brought enough innovation to the marketplace.
So, their new strategy is called the Unilever Compass. Now, they’re ambition is to be the leader in sustainable business globally impacting eight billion people, with nine imperatives and fifteen multi year priorities. So, ten years and in the final year a bigger ambition, a bigger goal, they’re doubling down, transparent about their failures where things are not going well, but still have that longer-term commitment, and that inspires me and hopefully inspires other marketers.
Altruism Across All Company Sizes
Well, that’s inspired me, Sam. Absolutely. And it's good to see actions at both ends of the industrial scale there, I think as well. and also, when you were saying that, that plan was coming to an end I was thinking, oh well, that’s a bit disappointing and looks like an even more ambitious plan for the next fifteen years as well. But also, it made me think about two points as you were talking there, Sam.
The first one was about profits with purpose and the fact that actually it is ok to make profit and have a strong purpose at the same time. And funnily enough, I know that’s something that Tessa talks a lot around as well, and interestingly, looking at some of the charities, Just Giving is really interesting. It’s a platform, I think you have it in the states as well, don’t you Sam? I mean, they operate as a profit-making organisation and there’s quite a fair amount of criticism, in terms of are they actually making too much profit out of charities? But the more charities, fundraisers use that platform because even with the fees, then they’re cheaper or more effective than some of the free alternatives, and I think that in itself is fascinating.
I think the second point is around competition as well. Unilever have certainly got a market category leading position there, but I think just looking back at Olio again, it’s amazing there’s a list, there’s Food Cowboy, Food Loop, Meal Sharing, Zero Percent, We Save Eat, Too Good To Go - that’s an interesting group of competition there, and I think one of the trends we may well see is that actually, we might find that there’s more need for more partnerships to survive. And the sharing economy is an interesting one, I’d be really fascinated to ask Tessa do the same rules for competition apply? And hopefully we will get her on the show when we look at our next series of podcasts and we bring some expert case studies in. So, yeah, two points there, Sam.
Yeah. I mean I’m all for it in this space, Chris, so, as you’re talking about it I’m getting more energised and thinking of examples that we can see around us or take inspiration from. Intermache was a French grocery store that came up with the idea of selling the fruit and veg that was ugly, that you might throw away or not seem presentable to consumers, instead of throwing it away and contributing to the food waste we are talking about earlier, they actually turned it into products they sell to consumers at multi million dollar revenue stream. And that, a few years ago, that was a novel idea but that’s basically been copied and emulated by so many other stores and the rest of the industry, which is great.
Tom’s, which is a brand we all know for buy one give one shoes, they've recently moved into coffee products and exploring effective media buying with a purpose attached. And one of the things they’ve done is a tie up with a company called Good Loop, which basically takes video creative and wraps it around an ethical ad player, which carries branding but allows you to actually select and donate to a charitable cause. So, you’re not forced to engage with the brand or the ad, but if you do, if you view fifteen seconds of the ad, a countdown clock shows up and then you get to decide which charity you donate the fee to.
What I like about this is it’s money coming out of the media spend and it’s treating me because I’m giving my time and my attention and also my data and actually treating this as a transaction which actually sounds quite capitalistic. However, I’m all for it. For too long, my data has been given away for free and so, this might actually treat me as a partner and instead of finding sneaky ways to use my data they’re actually treating me an adult, monetising it, but me donating that to a great cause is just a great way of shifting the system, creating an ecosystem and a value exchange that disrupts the market place and actually does good for the world.
Now, lets just scale up how we can spend and invest our dollars, think about Wall Street and the capital providers and finance sears out there. JP Morgan have recently announced, which is one of the big banks, big finance institutions, they’ve announced big moves to support the environment including lending loans to the coal industry. Yes, it’s a financial driven move, however, there are big shifts in the way Jamie Dimon, their CEO, is leading that organisation, and there’s a number of two hundred million dollars, specifically designated to funding climate and economic inclusion projects and also steps to accelerate the transition to cleaner energy. So, in addition to stepping back from advising companies that get most of their revenue from coal extraction, or financing new coal-fire power plants, they’re basically phasing out their credit exposure to that industry by 2024 and stopping funding any new or oil gassed drilling projects in the Arctic.
There’s clear millions and billions of dollars now being shifted to support these better causes, which is great to see because that will shift the market and shift the impact on the world.
Representing All Entrepreneurs
Yeah, you’re right. It’s not only consumers that will vote with their feet, it is institutional investors too. Interestingly, Sam, only one percent of all investment goes to female founder businesses. So, a staggering amount of work that needs to be done there, which I thought was quite an interesting point as I came across researching this subject. But, on a more positive front is around ethical investment funds.
There definitely looks like an increase in ethical investments funds of various different shapes and sizes and that’s for people who don’t just want a return on their investment, they want their money to contribute to something good. One fund categorises it into three types of funds like green, medium green and dark green, which light green is the least restrictive, while the dark green is the most restrictive having ethical values run through the whole of the investment strategy. Again, even that traffic light system feels a tiny bit marketing led, in a way. But, you have to applaud the fact that that is a strong move. And of course, you find consumer facing banks actually start to operate in a similar way. Tridos bank only offers investment types for companies that are working towards environmental and cultural change, Nutmeg, a brand over here, socially responsible investing. So, there’s some good examples at an institutional level where we are starting to see some changes.
Yeah, you talk about the challenge and the under investment, the lack of investment in female founders and I’m just reminded of Backstage Capital, which is led by a black woman who is very vocal and she’s’ been calling out the industry about their lack of inclusion but also the fact that the industry just doesn’t fund minority or female founders, and she’s doing something about it. and I’m inspired, when I was younger and was by the Anita Roddick’s of this world, the co-founder of The Body Shop, which is a beauty brand retailer, vocal activist for fair trade that she was and reputably sourced ingredients which were chemical free and better for the environment.
Twenty/thirty years ago people thought they were deemed a bunch of do-gooders and tree-huggers but fast forward to today and we have this growing B corporation movement. A quick reminder that B corporations are businesses that meet the standards of well-being, doing good, of verified social and environmental performance, it's about being public, transparent, and the legal aspects are very open and accountability really, about balancing profit and balancing purpose - it's about doing both. These brands and companies with a mission. So you’ve got Sir Kensington’s which is a sauces and condiment brand, Seventh Generation household cleaner I’ve mentioned before, All Birds, Stumptown coffee, Good Loop I just mentioned in the advertising space now which is exciting to see apparel and retailer brands that are using sustainable materials or recycling plastic, which we’ve talked about before. Method, which is now an SC Johnson brand and they’re achieving sustainability through design and their certified cradle to grave organisation with dozens of products that meets the needs of that standard. They’ve invested in beach clean ups, working with recycling partners to create bottles made out of recycled products.
But I wanted to just end this section by talking about the Soulfull project. You can find them online, you go online to thesoulfullproject.com and it’s a brand and a company that has created a wonderful experience, a wonderful product line up of hot cereals and foods and it was started around four or five years ago by employees of Campbell soup. They were doing some research, meeting with families in Texas to learn about their food, and they were on their way to a family and they just decided to go into one last home. The neighbourhood clearly needed some support and was a poorer neighbourhood, and they walked in and they went into the house and there was no food in the pantry, there was no food in the house. Nothing, as in zero. And they talked to the resident and how she struggled to feed their family and how they were having a hard time and the team went back to the office and did nothing for a year.
Faced with a similar situation, they just thought ‘ok, what are we doing?’ We’ve seen this before and we did nothing for a year, and that led to the creation of the Soulfull project, which are the co-founders are Chip Heim and Megan Shea. They’ve got this remarkable story of how they’ve brought their product to market and how every product you buy there’s a serving of grain products which is provided by consumers and donated to a foodbank. Their premise is that the food that you buy for yourself, quinoa and oats and bran and all of these wonderful ingredients – if that’s good enough for you, that’s good enough for someone who’s in need. And so, what you buy for yourself is essentially donated to someone, not the thing at the back of your cabinet which is old and manky and what you don’t want, no, the thing you buy for yourself is going to be given to someone in need. They’ve got a national food bank set up in the US where it goes to someone local to you.
I just wanted to give them a huge shout out in terms of being a woman led organisation. A woman founded a company with a co-founder Chip, who’s male. Some of the stories she would tell about engagement with funders and companies and they’d want to speak to the founder, and they’d be looking right by her talking to Chip or someone else, and she’d say, hey, I’m here, it’s Megan, I’m the founder. And these stories which wouldn’t be, if it wasn’t so annoying you’d laugh about them. And some of the challenges that they face, so, again, this is like a PSA ad for The Soulfull Project, but I think it's really important to vote with your wallet, go check out their food products and support a good cause that is doing something great for the world.
The Action Plan
Yeah, good, good. You’ve absolutely convinced me with that story, that’s for certain. Do you remember the action plan we went through last week, Sam? Not going to go through it all again but I think there were a few things that still ring very true on this episode as well. When we were looking at how marketing will have to adapt, it will have to be sustainable, any mission statements positioning a measurement will have to have a sustainable well-being message, as well. We’ve just talked about attracting investment from consumers or investors, you will have to prove your long-term viability. It’s not just about the business model, it’s about the value you add back in, I think that’s an important point.
Reassessing competition, we’ve just covered that. But I think one to focus on is about a move around that convenience sector unless its sustainable and a follow on point of that is a focus on hyperlocal and community. I think as we’ve learnt to embrace our local community again, I think we will see a rise in SME businesses and kitchen table businesses that service that community, and we will also see that move away from mass produced to handmade and global to local.
Already, if you just look at the share prices of Etsy and Shopify since the lockdown period they’ve gone way up. Shopify’s become the go to platform for businesses looking to reach customers online. In their first quarter revenues it was up about forty seven percent higher than the prior year, which is staggering. Etsy has a similar story and Amazon, of course, with their handmade marketplace, sort of getting in on the act as well, very successfully.
We’ve come back to this, there’s a game designer, game illustrator that I know well who set up her own gift business, Ameliaplayer.co.uk, it’s absolutely fantastic what she’s done already and I think that entrepreneurial spirit, in terms of trying to create something that feels personalised, very handmade is gonna be alive and strong and we’re gonna see an abundance of businesses like that. So, yeah. Lots to look out for, I think, Sam.
Yeah. I like, sort of those areas you called out there, Chris. And I thought I’d wrap up my contribution to this show with just a recap of some of the elements and resources that people should be mindful of. I’ve said them before, but I believe they’re worth saying again about tackling this space.
Firstly, whatever you do, whatever you go after, be clear on what you stand for. Secondly, identify an issue that needs to be solved and tap into your network, if you’re in a corporate organisation bring together knowledgeable stakeholders, be it marketers, supply chain, design, corporate social responsibility, PR agencies, factories, operations people, bring all those people together and really find an issue. Thirdly, keep yourself honest. Who could hold you accountable and to your challenge and to your efforts, and there’s a sustainable brands community, you can find them online if you search sustainable brands, who have been doing this for a number of years and have enough resources. I’d say fourthly, identify an issue that matters to consumers. Really the people you’re trying to serve - what do they care about? What do we know about their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations?
I’ll refer again to the UN list of sustainable goals, which is definitely a good resource, there’s over seventeen, but I’ll only call out a few of them. So, there’s one, goal three is about health and well-being, goal ten is about reducing inequality and here we’re seeing spaces such as adopting policies that support wage and social protection and achieve greater equality, and now in a current Covid environment where these front line workers are being paid more, that actually ties directly into this reduction of inequalities. And then, goal sixteen is about promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, and again, in a current environment, current climate that’s an area where your policies, your statements, your values, your actions in this space aren’t just fluffy they tie into what the united nations is saying is going to make a better world.
And, it’s not a one-off meeting, but it’s a disciplined strategic process. You know, Unilever have had this ten-year commitment and when they stumbled, they just got up and kept going and doubled down and committed again, to the future. So, it’s a strategic process and it’s about commitment.
Yeah. That last point, Sam, just thinking about that ten-year commitment, you look at something like Bill Gates and Microsoft and you think well, that’s more like a lifetime commitment, certainly forty years of Microsoft and then beyond. The Gates Foundation, largest private organisation in the world, forty-six billion dollars in assets, but the purpose, where it believes that everyone should be free to live a healthy and productive life, I think, is certainly there. And as of 2018 they’ve donated over thirty-six billion to the foundation research and areas and obviously with the coronavirus, have donated another one hundred million, and you know, of course, with all of these things there are some doubters as well as some advocates there.
Some people feel that although the three billion dollars he’s given in the last ten years to benefit hungry people, only ten percent was spent in Africa where eighty percent was spent in richer countries and two hundred and fifty million dollars spent on media companies helping to influence news as well. But look, from my perspective there’s a lesson that we must always look for a balanced view but sometimes with good stories people will look for a negative angle, as well, I think.
That’s a good point to leave it, really, because the moral of all these stories is that we all have a role. That’s about investing for the long term and that’s about our personal, our business or our society, and that entrepreneurial spirit through to established companies through to institutional investors. So, if you are a marketeer, you better make sure that it's part of your tool kit and part of your purpose because it’s got to be a core part of our future.
Today’s Three Key Takeaways
Chris, yes, you’re right. I’ll just get to the three things.
Definitely a call to action to lean into this space. Failure is common. I shared my failure story, I shared Unilever’s challenges and struggles but they’ve doubled down and they’ve committed. Don’t stay on the side lines.
Have a plan and a strategy, it’s a priority. You have to put it into practice now.
See it as a long-term commitment. I told you the story of Soulful which has grown over four years, then Unilever ten years and we talked about The Gates Foundation with a fifty-year ambition. You can be part of a multibillion-dollar movement by taking action.
Great stuff, Sam. Good three points there. So, look, next week’s show, we’re going to reflect, Sam, we’re going to pause. We’re going to look at the last fourteen podcasts that we’ve done. When we decided that this bunch of podcasts was going to be about the modern marketer, I don’t think we were quite anticipating where we would all end up. But it’s good to know that a lot of the predictions that we’ve done actually have helped us along the way already, I think, so, looking forward to that, Sam.