The Ethical Business Model That Threatens Retail Giants

Last week we discussed how retail giants benefit from being more “Green”, but let’s talk about how a new business model, that supports sustainability and ethical thinking, is threatening to pull the rug from right under the retail giants who don’t get on board.

Admittedly, the notion of “sustainability and corporate giant” is bit of a contradiction from the get go.  If we’re talking about ethical consumerism, we’re also talking about stopping over-consumption, so presumably, we should be moving away from selling products altogether.  Can you sense the cold sweat trickling down the retailer’s temple?

ILoveFilmAs it turns out, even without sustainability as a catalyst, businesses should be thinking about fundamentally shifting their sales from products to services.  New businesses adopting a new, service-based business model, such as LOVEFiLM and StreetCar, have found that leasing a product or offering a service makes consumers much more likely to come back for more.  This “leasing” trend of service-based brands, essentially offering a customer the same things over and over, have the potential to send profit margins through the roof.

Not only are we, ethically-aware consumers happier at the thought of fewer products being produced, and therefore, fewer “old” products ending up in landfill, but retailers can enjoy saving the time and money not spent on making new things.  Win win.

This is a huge shift in traditional business models, and one that threatens to outmanoeuvre the (overproducing) businesses who don’t adapt.


Why The Big Boys Need To Think Green

Let’s get real – it takes more than a lot of persistent educating to turn the non-green to green.  Realistically, it’s time to stop waiting for the everyday consumer to simply wake up one day and decide to be more environmentally and socially responsible.

We need to think bigger.  We need to think brands.

Corporate Brands Go Ethical

Corporate Brands Get Ethical

Brands are the ultimate Gods of desire.  Why else would we buy the beautiful, patent, ‘it’ hand bag in emerald green, or slick, ultralight, double-resolution display tablet?

The question is: can they make us desire a more ethical world?  If any one can do it, it’s the big brands.  And who knows, making us use less energy, or even, heaven forbid, making us buy less stuff, could be a good challenge!  But why would they want to?  Well, I’ll tell you why:  Consumer engagement and customer-brand relationship (… and I’m sad to add, ultimately, sales).

 Ariel - Turn to 30 Degrees Ad Campaign

Ariel - Turn to 30 Degrees Ad Campaign

Some of my favourite examples originate from the giants, Ariel and Sainsbury’s.  Ariel’s “Turn to 30” campaign encouraged customers to save money and feel informed, whilst doing something good for the environment.  The environmental result?  Saving almost 60,000 tonnes of carbon over five years.

During Sainsbury’s “Love your Leftovers” campaign, Sainsbury’s handed out tuppaware boxes and recipe cards for inspiring ways to integrate leftovers into new meals.

Talk about strengthening brand-customer relationship!  In one marketing move, Sainsbury’s suddenly became a mentor, someone looking out for you, someone you could trust.

Beyond this, green movements and schemes in the retail sector go against the perception of the “corporate giant”.  Everyone knows that retailers are simply out to make money, so gestures that contradict the perception, build trust, brand loyalty and ultimately make us come back for more.

For more information visit Offset Warehouse’s resources area: 

For one-to-one guidance and consultancy on becoming more ethical in business, go to:

What Happened At The Fashioning The Future Awards 2011…

As you may know, we were thrilled to have been shortlisted for the “Unique Enterprise” prize, for the Fashioning the Future Awards 2011.  Last night, we attended the ceremony at the East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, to bask in some runner-up glory.
The third annual ceremony was inspired by the UN’s International Decade on Biodiversity, and saw applications from all over the globe submit projects for sustainability in fashion, to compete for six awards, including The Body Shop One to Watch recognition award.

Dark ambiance of the evening. Speaker from the UN takes the floor.

The event was set in a stunning venue, with lots of delicious canapes and champagne flowing, and boasted a really fabulous mix of social entrepreneurs and fashion designers.  Most notably, we got chatting to Miranda Kaloudis, who chatted to us about her notions on sustainability.

©Miranda Kaloudis 2011

But the most exciting part of the event was seeing number of Offset Warehouse customers exhibiting there!  There was a fantastic array of innovative and stunning designs incorporating Offset Warehouse fabrics, which demonstrates just how far designers are pushing the boundaries with ethical fabrics, to change the common perceptions of ethical design by creating both wearable and unique, innovative clothing.  They are continually proving that ethical does not have to mean unchic and untrendy.

©Ceri Jones 2011

It made us proud to know that by bringing together lots of suppliers and therefore offering a wider variety of beautiful, ethical fabrics and haberdashery, Offset Warehouse is making beautiful, ethical design, accessible and possible for young, innovative designers!

Makes it all worthwhile!

Take a look in the Fabric and Haberdashery section of Offset Warehouse to browse our ethical fabrics.

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Zara… ethical? Has the world gone mad?!

Just had to stop mid-morning emails to blog this insane claim:

Telegraph Title

“-and ethical”??  The only reference to being ethical happens to fulfill their SCR quota – donating to the Haiti relief funds.  Inditex (zara’s parent company) sent two million euros of emergency reconstruction relief as cash.  Box – checked… in ink.  I think it’s a little rich that the article should then go on to demonise other corporate brands or “retail giants” who chose to send clothes instead of money, which lead to the decrease of local clothing retail & subsequent diminishing of the local retail industry… can i please point you in the direction of Reuters journalist, Felix Salmon :  who identified the problems with the overwhelming number of donations that went to Haiti in the first place?!

I’m not for one minute not advocating sending money to Haiti, but perhaps Zara could invest some of their “estimated €32 billion” worth into more regular philanthropic donations?

And can we take a second to talk about contradictions?Text excerpt

“Fast response to city specific trends” –  I would just LOVE to know the logistics behind the order from Spain for the sourcing of fabric and manufacturing of another “much bigger consignment” of cream jackets, which allowed it to be delivered within a fortnight of some retail assistant in the US saying “hmm I reckon some cream ones would sell good”.  How much overtime do we think Zara paid the manufacturers for this?  I’d like to see these figures alongside the fast-response accolades.  Not to mention that this is a total example of fast fashion led/caused by fast trends.

… and don’t even get me started on “it’s mass, but class” …   shudder.

The Worst Advocate

At the dinner table last night, surrounded by various family members (I do have quite a large family), my brother pointedly asked:

“Charlie, would you be upset if I spent £100 in Primark today?”

Admittedly, he was trying, in true brotherly fashion, to get a rise out of me.  My initial thoughts were “How do I respond to this question?”

  1. Act like it doesn’t really bother me, and shrug it off – he won’t stop shopping there anyway & some people just can’t be told.
  2. Go all Martyr and throw out my pre-prepared speech on the horrors of buying from the mass-manufactured hell-hole, maybe throw in a little “margins” argument.
  3. Throw a sisterly tantrum right back at him – a little crying that my efforts are all in vain and “no one understands me” and storm out.

I often think about this when confronted by a total “ethical fashion cynic”… the force it takes not to punch some people in the face is quite overwhelming at times… but I haven’t included that in my options in this instance.

It also got me thinking:

“How the hell can I persuade other people to behave ethically, when I can’t even persuade my own family members??”

I think they understand what it’s all about, but they simply don’t care enough to act on it, it’s too much effort!  I totally get that.  And that’s what it boils down to: Until there’s an option that’s as accessible, cheap and as aesthetically pleasing as the mass-manufactured alternative, then it simply won’t be a competition.  At least, the few ethical advocates that do exist, that do continue to voice their opinions and educate people, may be able to start at the grassroots, upwards?  Perhaps it should be about educating the designers, rather than the customers?

Hello world!

With all the bizarre and great things going on in my average day, I can’t wait to share them with you and get your thoughts and comments.  Stay tuned for all the marvels and bizarre moments encountered during my day as an ethical designer and entrepreneur…