April 20, 2009

Triple your bottom line: TOMS Shoes, Endangered Species Chocolate, Newman’s Own.

What does your favorite company do that’s innovative—and for the greater good? Leave a comment + link on elephant journal editor Waylon Lewis’ column on Huffington Post, here.

Do Well By Doing Good: Newman’s Own, Endangered Species Chocolate, TOMS.

It’s the moment that fills the dreams (and nightmares, more often) of business execs.

You, a potential customer, are standing in a grocery aisle, presented with 10 different kinds of tomato sauces in 40 different flavors. Some are organic, some aren’t. You peruse—and pick the winner out—by price, by identity (some consumers care who owns and runs the company, and keep track), by “look” (yes, design plays a huge role in connecting with consumers who want to identify). But there is another vital criteria.

I’m all about organic—I’m an eco-minded bachelor who lives on spaghetti, at least when I dine at home alone (it’s about all I know how to make). But I don’t buy organic sauce—I take a step down the green ladder and, every time, buy Newman’s Own spaghetti sauce. Why?

It’s an important question—if you grock the answer, you can create a rapidly growing multi-million-dollar products company with free customer evangelicism (of which this blog is an unasked-for example) in the place of pricey PR, marketing, advertising.

The answer: because Newman’s Own, when stacked up against spaghetti sauce (in this example) of similar quality and price, will beat all contenders if the customer knows that his/her purchase will go to supporting a worthy cause. Why? ‘Cause Newman’s Own gives all profits (not just 10% of this or that) to charity.


Endangered Species Chocolate is another winning example of a business that puts the lie to the dualistic world view that says you can either do well or do good.:

elevision at LOHAS Boulder – Eat Chocolate…Save Endangered Species! from elevision on Vimeo.


Everyone’s favorite Company-with-a-Cause of the moment is TOMS Shoes. While I wish more of their shoes were made in the USA, and were green-built, the company is an innovative, joyful example of using customer (and corporate) enthusiasm for their One-for-One model (they give a basic pair of shoes to a shoeless child for every pair you buy) to forgo marketing expenses and instead focus on creating awesome, fun, arty shoes…all while making big bucks along with the way. I bought two pairs out in Santa Monica a few months back, and have been living in ’em through the cold, snowy Colorado winter. A recent example of how their feel-good business philosophy gets ’em free, prime-time advertising:


So what’s this Triple Bottom line thing all about? Obviously, with conventional business, you’re beholden to your shareholders and the law to turn a profit. The notion of a triple bottomline is that you also have responsibility to other people—to make your goods with fair labor, fair-trade, and as locally as possible. Thirdly, you have a responsibility to God’s own Earth, the planet that made your business possible. As your momma said, clean up after yourself. As David Bower of the Sierra Club said, “There’s no business to be done on a dead planet.”

But before you business execs start getting sleepy, or aimlessly poking your Blackberries…remember this: in an age that has built AppleWhole Foods, American Apparel, Patagonia, Threadless, Seventh GenMethod, New Belgium, Chipotle, Planet Green and Treehugger, Eileen Fisher, Gaiam…in an age of Climate Change…the LOHAS demographic (300 Billion big) is actively looking to support products we believe in on that long walk down that busy grocery aisle.

Own that moment, and you just might make the next cover of Inc. or Fortune.


Extra, extra: my walk through of a new Patagonia store in Boulder covers some of the same themes:

Patagonia: Caring for our Earth is Good for Business from Mito.Media on Vimeo.

Patagonia: Caring for our Earth is Good for Business from Mito.Media.

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