Touchy Feely Treehugging Bullshit
As part of a human initiative to spread the word on "conscious capitalism" we decided to pay homage to the businesses that inspire us. We hit upon the idea of writing a book. I'd never written a book before, in fact none of us had, so we felt like we were just the people to put one together and self publish it.
Here is a quick flick through the book for the speed readers amongst us, followed by a few excerpts paying homage to Tom's Shoes (a shoe company that gives away a pair of shoes to underpriveleged children in Argentina for every pair sold), Icebreaker (who lets you track down the sheep that donated the marino wool to make your jacket) and my favourite Zappos who take customer service to a whole other level.
The key to all these businesses is that by being conscious to the markets they are in, and having a bigger purpose beyond just making money, they manage to make a difference while making pretty impressive profits as well.
Commerce with sole.
When Blake Mycoskie travelled to Argentina in 2006 the last thing he thought about doing was setting up a business.
But he was struck by how many children didn't have proper footwear.
So upon returning to the USA he decided he wanted to use the powers of commerce to do something about it. Inspired by the traditional Argentine alpargata slip-on shoe, TOMS Shoes was born creating fashionable interpretations. And here's the kicker - it was set up under a business model of One for One. So for every pair of TOMS sold, one pair is donated to a child in need in a developing country.
TOMS Shoes uses the purchasing power of people to bring about a benefit for the greater good. In the first year it gave away 5,000 pairs. This year it estimates giving away 150,000. And TOMS Shoes has pocketed US$4.6 million in profits since its launch in 2007.
Fifteen years ago, Jeremy Moon touched a piece of Marino wool and instantly knew two things: 1) that it was the most amazing fibre he had ever felt and 2) he had found his life's work.
With the help of some investors, Jeremey formed Icebreaker, a company dedicated to using that wool to produce outdoor gear of unrivalled quality while being equally dedicated to nature and community.
From its earliest days, Icebreaker acted in a highly evolved, highly stakeholder-centred manner. It paid sheep farmers a forward price for their wool. This gave the farmers the security of sustainable profits and the company a better assurance of quality fibre. It also allowed Icebreaker to demand strict standards of environmental and animal welfare practices from suppliers.
Icebreaker is unique with its industry, demonstrating absolute and equal focus on customers, the environment and business partners.
Its passion for quality, transparency and innovation (the ethos is innovation = new + better) has ensured its products are the 'must haves' for adventure seekers everywhere.
Icebreaker is a US$100 million-plus business and now sells in 1600 stores in 35 countries across the world. IT's also credited with creating the marino market.
Zappos is to shoes what Amazon is to books. Well, sort of: Zappos is an online shoe retailer but the comparison with Amazon pretty much ends there.
Its mission is not about providing the best online shoe purchasing experience, the company went for a loftier one; "to provide the best customer service possible'. Zappos calls this its 'Wow philosophy.
CEO Tony Hirsh went about creating a wow customer experience by first creating a wow company culture. Zappos has 10 Core Values (including Creating Fun and A Little Weirdness) that are passionately embraced by employees.
To ensure the focus is always on an amazing customer experience, all new employees, no matter what they're hired for, undergo 180 hours of customer loyalty training (remember this is an online retailer).
It promotes a 24/7 customer support line where employees man the phones with a unique spirit of 'Zappiness'. And no time limits apply to the calls - one call lasted five hours, twenty five minutes and thirty-one seconds - a record that is celebrated.
If out of stock, staff are required to visit at least three competitor sites to source the produce and then direct the customer to that site.
The end result is so 'wow' customers frequently request Zappos to sell other items other than shoes because they want to shop there, so it now sells clothing and cookware.
So successful has the Zappos mission been, Amazon, unable to compete with its online shoe offer, bough Zappos in 2009 for about US$800 million in stock and US$40 million in cash.