Social Enterprise Success Stories: Patagonia and Allbirds
The reality is that your responsibilities to your business’s bottom line and to your social mission are separate but very much connected. The most successful social enterprises — the Patagonias of the world — find a way to include their impact stories in every facet of their marketing and communications programs.
They do this because their causes are inextricably woven into who they are as organizations. And they do it because they are savvy enough to know that it sells.
It’s not enough just to have an impact or give-back page on your website and leave it at that. Social enterprises that put their impact story in a silo may not even be recognized as having a social mission at all.
For example, it may surprise you to learn that trendy eyewear company Warby Parker has a buy a pair, give a pair eyeglasses program, much like TOMS shoes. Unlike TOMS, however, the only time Warby Parker mentions this program is on a dedicated impact page on their website.
As a result, Warby Parker is better known for their $100 frames than for their social impact. It’s possible to buy glasses from them and never know they are something other than just a market-driven business.
Patagonia and Allbirds, on the other hand, are two examples of social enterprises that give their impact story a central role in their communications and customer experiences.
For decades, Patagonia has been in the vanguard of socially responsible businesses. In many ways, this well-known outdoor apparel and lifestyle company has helped to write the playbook for social enterprises.
The company’s recently refined mission statement — “we’re in business to save our home planet” — is reflected in everything Patagonia does. It's lived out from their use of recycled materials and the content on their blog to the company’s support of grassroots activists and environmental organizations.
Allbirds, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to the social enterprise scene. As an environmentally-minded footwear company, Allbirds' tagline is “better things in a better way." In addition to using sustainable materials in their products, the company has pledged to go carbon neutral in 2019, starting with carbon offsets and other practices.
The interesting thing about Allbirds’ approach is that they are actively engaging consumers in their decisions about how to reach that goal. For example, after placing an order online, customers receive an order confirmation via email. In that email, they are asked to vote on whether Allbirds should invest its efforts toward carbon neutrality in environmental programs focused on land, air, or sea.
By weaving their impact efforts throughout the customer experience, Allbirds makes it clear that carbon neutrality and environmental responsibility are core values.