Means&Matters
Stories of Money and sustainability

Why Your Business Values Matter

The Outdoor Industry's Playbook for Sustainable Recovery

BY Nathan Beers Writer Bank of the West

Oct 17th 2020

The pandemic blew up your playbook. You closed, you reopened. Maybe you closed again. Your customers … Well, where did they go? The initial shock is long gone. You survived. You’re moving forward. You’re looking to recover. You need a new playbook.

This summer, a dozen of the brightest brains in the environmental, outdoor, and sustainable finance communities dug into this question: How does the outdoor industry regain its vibrancy and build back stronger?

Out of those discussions came a playbook to get small businesses back on their feet, snowshoes, or hiking boots, and trekking onward. What follows is the first in our series on building a stronger and more sustainable business.

 

Connect with Consumers through Sustainability

For consumers in the outdoor segment, protecting the environment means protecting their lifestyle. For many, that starts with a stand on climate change. Over 80 percent of outdoor enthusiasts say they are concerned about climate change, according to recent research from the environmental nonprofit Protect Our Winters (POW). Why does that matter for your business? Because nearly 75 percent of those surveyed see brands and businesses as part of the solution. And we all know what you are if you’re not part of the solution.

This is the time to lead with values. This is the time to stand up as a business, as a brand you believe in.

—Mario Molina

Brand affinity and brand loyalty are very closely tied to the relationship the customer has with the values they see brands reflecting,” Mario Molina, Executive Director of POW, said during this summer’s Navigating Change event put on by Bank of the West, Snowsports Industries America, and POW.

With such a large pool of environmentally aware consumers looking to do business with environmentally aware brands, make sure you tell your story—your sustainability story.

Shout Your Values from the Mountaintops

Though values play a central part in purchasing decisions, many consumers remain in the dark about what some companies believe in.

“Consumers have been telling us for some time that they want to buy from brands and retailers that align with their values, whether its sustainability, support for social causes, or just the love of the outdoors and snow sports,” says Laura Hills, Director of Client Development at market research firm The NPD Group.

Consumer spending data from The NPD Group has shown that during the pandemic, people are willing to spend on gear and clothing because they highly value outside activity, health, wellness, and time spent with their family outdoors.

“Brands and retailers really do themselves a disservice if they’re not communicating both actively and authentically with their audiences about their brand purpose, and what their brand stands for, so that consumers can align with them,” says Hills.

Small businesses shouldn’t overlook tools they may already have to amplify their voice. “What assets do you have at hand that you can leverage more heavily?” Hills asks. “Is it a newsletter, is it a blog, is it social media, do you have a social media manager? Don’t be shy about what you’re doing!”

 

Your Sustainability is a Journey

If you’re taking steps to make your operations more sustainable, don’t think in terms of some magical—and elusive—end state. It’s a never-ending journey. As you progress, tell your story. “Don’t be scared of the fact that maybe your product isn’t perfect or maybe the experience isn’t completely carbon-neutral,” says Molina. “It’s about, ‘Here’s what I can do now, and this is where we want to go, and this is our intention of where we want to end up.'”

Those who have gone before you or are on the path with you are often happy to share information and resources, and to help lift one another up. “Reaching out to learn from others and leaning on others is incredibly important,” says Jenn Swain, Global Senior Sustainability Manager at Burton, the snow sports retailer and a certified B Corporation. “If you try to go it alone as a small business, it’s going to be an uphill battle that’s unnecessary.”

One path many sustainable businesses take is to become certified B Corporations. These companies balance profit and purpose, and meet certain social and environmental, public transparency, and legal accountability standards.

Sustainability is More than Climate Action

Tackling climate change is a major part of working toward a more sustainable world, no doubt. But if you think of sustainable business practices as climate-related actions only, you’re missing 16 other sustainable opportunities. The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to improve environmental and social conditions by 2030. They include international targets for reducing poverty and hunger, making gains in health and education, improving gender equality, and more.

“Business owners can attach themselves to different aspects of sustainability,” says Ben Stuart, Head of Marketing, Growth, and Transformation at Bank of the West. “We’re not going to have a sustainable recovery if we have widespread poverty. We’re not going to have a sustainable recovery if we don’t have diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

These are not sort of extra niceties, these are really part of what businesses need to be doing to contribute to a healthy future and to create a future where any business can thrive.

—Kate Williams

1% for the Planet is made up of member businesses that pledge 1 percent of sales to environmental and other nonprofits. CEO Kate Williams has actually seen membership grow during the pandemic. It’s a reminder, Williams says, of the importance of networks. Even during difficult times, businesses can make change through like-minded communities that offer support and collaboration.

Reach Out. We’re All in this Together

Think partnerships. This is a time to play to your strengths and collaborate with others with complementary strengths. Having shared values around sustainability opens opportunities to partner with others in ways that can grow your business.

“The marketplace is all about partnerships and all about looking at things a little bit differently,” says Stuart.

Looking at things a little bit differently can mean, for example, bringing multiple entities together to deliver a compelling new product or service. In a multi-faceted partnership this year, Bank of the West teamed up with 1% for the Planet, Protect Our Winters, a maker of biodegradable debit cards, and carbon-tracking startup Doconomy to launch a unique checking account: the 1% for the Planet account.

“It was only through the unique mix of those partners that we created something beneficial and worthwhile,” Stuart says.

Lessons from a Leader: Burton Snowboards

In addition to pioneering a new winter sport, Burton is known for inspiring near-fanatical customer loyalty.

“Half of our customers say that the environment is something they think about regularly,” says Global Senior Sustainability Manager Jenn Swain. “What we’ve seen over the last 15-20 years is a shift to looking at a whole company, a real comprehensive evaluation of a brand, and that is what is breeding that loyalty.”

The company is known for balancing profit and purpose. And being a certified B Corporation is a key piece of its story.

“One thing we’ve found incredibly helpful has been joining the B Corp community,” says Swain. She recommends going through the B Impact Assessment to uncover areas where a business can take immediate action to have a positive impact on workers, community, customers, and the environment.


The Outdoor Industry Playbook for Sustainable Recovery sprang from a recorded conversation in the summer of 2020 titled Navigating Change: Sustainable Recovery for Small Businesses. Videos two (left) The Values and Cents of Sustainable Recovery and four (right) Why Cause Matters: Customer Loyalty in Purchase Decisions of the four-part event, a collaboration among Bank of the West, Protect Our Winters, and Snowsports Industries America, are available here.

Author image

Nathan Beers Writer Bank of the West

Nathan joined Bank of the West in 2018 as a writer for technology, finance, and green businesses. On weekends he’s often out with his family exploring the California coastline.

Disclosures

Navigating Change Transcript
The Sustainable Recovery Series for Small Businesses
The Values and Cents of Sustainable Recovery
Transcript from July 30, 2020

Dan Osipow (00:00):

Thank you for joining us and joining Navigating Change, a four-part webinar series focused on sustainable recovery for small businesses, brought to you by Bank of the West, Protect Our Winters, and Snowsports Industries America. My name is Dan Osipow from Bank of the West and I’m proud of the series we’ve put together. We hope you’ll join us for the next few weeks as we look to highlight trends and present practical improvements for small businesses in the wake of the pandemic. COVID has redefined how we do business and new opportunities are emerging for how businesses can adapt to survive now and even flourish in the future. Today’s topic is extremely timely and relevant with values and sense of a sustainable recovery. Before we jump in, I’d like to just cover some small housekeeping item: All video and audio of attendees will be muted throughout the webinar and the Q&A will be live as well and the moderator will pull in those questions and utilize them in say the last 10 minutes or so of the program.

Dan Osipow (01:00):

And now for some quick introductions for today’s program: Our moderator is good friend and skiing legend Chris Davenport. And the panelists are Laura Hill, Director of Client Development NPD Group. Mario Molina, Executive Director of Protect Our Winters. Nick Sargent, President Snowsports Industries America. And Ben Stuart, Chief Marketing Officer Bank of the West. Over to you Chris, and have a great conversation.

Chris Davenport (01:29):

Great, thanks Dan. Welcome to all of our panelists, thank you for joining today the second in the four part series Navigating Change. I’m really excited to be getting some great insights and talking to some people that have a lot of experience in what’s going on with small businesses around the country. This pandemic obviously has derailed a lot of industries and a lot of businesses but there’s also been some trends that have accelerated in a positive way for others in the outdoor industry. So today, what we want to do is try to bring together some sort of learning, some shared beliefs, touch on a lot of things that are working well within the economy in the outdoor industry and beyond. So with that said, let’s start. I wanted to start with you Mario, and I’m glad we’ve got we’ve got Ben on now – Ben, you got your technical difficulties taken care of. So Mario, we were actually on a call earlier today and discussing some things with Protect Our Winters. It was actually a POW board call, which I’m a member of the board of directors of POW. But POW, Protect Our Winters, has been doing some really interesting research going back years, but especially this year: What have you guys learned as an organization most recently in terms of the demographics of outdoor enthusiasts and how those shared values perhaps are sort of coming to light in this day and age?

Mario Molina (03:08):

Yeah, thank you so much Chris, and thanks so much for the Bank of the West for putting this on. So in reference to the study you’re mentioning: In 2019 we conducted a research study across 3,100 participants of outdoor sports across the country. And from that research we wanted to understand what motivates people to participate in an outdoor sports lifestyle, but also what motivates them to engage in causes, particularly for us obviously, sustainability and climate change. And what we found out is that almost 80 percent of participants surveyed said that they cared and were concerned about climate change. And that crossed groups across sports. So snow sports, mountain biking, trail sports, trail running, climbing, et cetera. And it also cut across demographics in terms of age distribution and political affiliation.

Mario Molina (04:09):

And so what was really interesting for us was to see that the concern is incredibly high. In total about 81 percent of participants say that they’re very concerned about climate change and that they actually see businesses as part of the solution. So 47 percent of the participants that we surveyed said they actually see brands and businesses as a big part of the solution, and about 30 percent of them actually look the business to inspire them and motivate them for businesses that they follow in the outdoor industry. So for us, what that really highlighted is that brand affinity and brand loyalty are very closely tied to the relationship that the consumer and the customer has with the values that they see those brands reflecting.

Chris Davenport (04:56):

Yeah, that’s great. I see that myself just as a consumer, I definitely look to brands that share my exact same values. Where can the folks that are on our webinar today get more information about this research, and the other work that Protect Our Winters is doing, Mario?

Mario Molina (05:16):

Definitely, so we have an executive summary of that report available online at protectourwinters.org/resources, and maybe Corey if you can throw that up on the chat I would appreciate it. And we have conversations about this topic as well on our stream channel, so I encourage everyone to go and check it out.

Chris Davenport (05:40):

Great thanks. Making a note of that myself. Laura, let’s go to you and talk a little bit about the work that the NPD Group does. You guys provide insights into a whole range of consumer trends and the general landscape of the economy. I was on the NPD website—it’s extremely robust, there’s a lot of information on there. During the pandemic, consumers have had to make a lot of changes, just the way we go about our daily lives. But how much do we know about how their values have changed? Of course, it’s not so easy to just walk into a retail location like we used to. But is there big changes going on in the way people perceive shopping, perceive retail, perceive small business and other values?

Laura Hill (06:29):

Yes, Chris, and thank you guys for having me, I’m really happy to be here. So firstly, I think the changing consumption behaviors that we’ve seen over the last four to five months, really are a reflection of what consumers are valuing most. Specifically in these uncertain times, purchases have fallen most dramatically and been the slowest to recover in categories like apparel, footwear, and accessories, because so many of us aren’t dressing for the office or for special occasions and instead, we’re really prioritizing spending on the goods that emphasize comfort, health and wellness, fitness, time outdoors, and then specifically time spent with family. So we’ve really cemented, as consumers, the need and certainly the benefit of being outdoors and we see this in a wide array of the categories that are experiencing growth during the pandemic. So let me share a couple points of data with you. For instance, the channel of independent bike dealers and cycling has grown more than 50% year-to-date over last year, and they’ve added over a billion—billion with a B—new dollars to the industry. While all segments are growing, the largest that we’re seeing in volume are mountain, transit, and then specifically kid segments.

Laura Hill (07:45):

We also see it in true performance running shoes, so those, for the past 5 to 10 years, really fell out of favor as consumers’ preference shifted towards “inspired by” styles and took a more casual approach to sport and then as athleisure as a fashion trend continued to grow, but consumers are really getting back to running and no surprise they’re making those purchases online. So NPD tracks the sports specialty e-commerce channel separately, and that channel registered a 78 percent growth in dollars sold and running shoes just between the months of March and May. We’ve of course seen it in fitness equipment and accessories. Consumers look to not only continue their workouts at home, but as many reported to us in our survey data, that they were starting new fitness programs while being stuck at home in quarantine.

Laura Hill (08:36):

So again, because the pandemic has brought about a renewed focus and value on health and wellness, NPD’s tracking of the fitness equipment sales we showed a growth of 115% since March when the shutdowns began, so pretty incredible. And then lastly, the outdoor industry, which a lot of us are most familiar with, has certainly seen growth across categories that support both time spent outside in the backyard, so grilling and fuel, as well as in outdoor recreation categories like kayaking and camping. So for instance, rec kayaks added 27 million new dollars to the industry just last month. So based on those consumption behaviors, consumers really are telling us that they value being active outside, they value health and wellness, and they value the time spent with their family.

Laura Hill (09:30):

To tag on to that, so secondly, consumers have also been telling u  for some time that they want to buy from brands and retailers that align with their values. So whether it’s sustainability, support for social causes, or just the love of the outdoors and snow sports, now more than ever, brands and retailers really do themselves a disservice if they’re not communicating both actively and authentically with their audiences, what their brand purpose, and what their brand stands for so that consumers can find them on that and then align with them, particularly in this time when we’re seeing so much social change.

Chris Davenport (10:08):

Wow, that’s fantastic. I love hearing about all the statistics, it backs up what I’m seeing here in Colorado in the outdoors. Trailheads are full and people are out biking and getting in touch with the outdoors is really great. I wanted to ask all the panelists actually, as you introduce yourselves, to just touch on very briefly what sustainable recovery means to you, what does that look like? So Laura, why don’t you just take that quick question then we’ll move on to Nick as well.

Laura Hill (10:35):

Yeah absolutely. So what’s been top of mind for NPD across the organization, and for me related to industry recovery and more specifically sustainable recovery, is creating even closer partnerships with our brands and our retailers and utilizing all of NPD’s assets from consumer to POS data so that our partners can better understand what’s happening in their markets, how they can better navigate their business through this crisis. Everyone’s sort of feeling their way through the dark right now and we’re finding that businesses are really hungry for data to affirm their decisions and to identify what new opportunities are out there.

Chris Davenport (11:24):

Nick, let’s go to you because you work very closely, as the President of Snowsports Industries of America with Laura and the NPD group getting all this data. What are you hearing from—I’ll let you introduce yourself and discuss quickly what sustainable recovery looks like from your perspective—but then I also want to hear what you are hearing from your members. And unmute yourself there. We all make that mistake.

Nick Sargent (11:56):

All right, back in the back into the varsity program here. We’re seeing a lot, we’re hearing a lot. And obviously, we work with NPD to help educate our members. SIA is a 65-year-old trade organization that represents the wholesale business for the winter sport and winter outdoor industry here in North America and around the world. So you can imagine through the shutdown in March, April, we heard a lot from our members with a lot of the unknown and uncertainty which was ahead of us. The good news is—and what Laura really supported with those numbers—is that we’re seeing a huge increase in our constituents that want to be outside and want to participate in sports. And as you too mentioned Chris, here in Park City and in other parts of Utah and the West and the East, this new exploration of the outdoors is, I hate to say catching on, but when you take something away from someone they want that much more. And when we’re all staying at home in quarantine, the only thing we want to do is get outside and participate.

Nick Sargent (13:05):

So we’re seeing that in those increases. But really what we’re hearing and what we’re seeing is that the consumer really wants to know that they’re going to be in a safe environment to not only shop for their favorite gear, go look for it, we’re seeing a lot of retailers move to direct-to-consumer, bolstering their website. They’re also moving to curbside pickup, which is going to be the new norm for us moving forward. But really the other part of this—and this is what we’re seeing now with the spikes in COVID in a lot of our favorite areas—is that we have to remain vigilant, and we have to continue to operate in a safe capacity if we want to flatten this curve. I just read two articles this morning, one by Aston Co’s CEO Mike Kaplan and Vail Resort CEO Rob Katz, and their common theme was safety and vigilance. So those are two things that we’re gonna have to really stand behind and support.

Nick Sargent (14:13):

Beyond that, we really have to work with our consumer in managing their expectation, not just through communication, but through the actions that these consumers are going to experience when it does get cold and we do want to participate outdoor, what are those rules, what are those regulations? What’s going to happen at resort? And the common answer right now is nobody knows—this is uncharted territory. But everyone’s paying attention, and everyone’s building contingency plans, and everyone’s looking for opportunity to create that fun experience that we all love. It’s gonna be different, but if you’re patient and you’re staying vigilant and safe, I think we’re gonna get through this and we’ll get back to a normal space. But it might not be until ’21 or ’22.

Chris Davenport (15:01):

Yeah I mean you said it right there, things are going to be different, and so that’s really what this webinar series is all about is how do we adapt, how do we build resiliency for the future by looking at our businesses in different ways? And Ben, now let’s go to you and discuss what’s going on at Bank of the West. First off, I’ll let you introduce yourself and talk about what a sustainable recovery looks like from your perspective.

Ben Stuart (15:29):

I think a big part of sustainable recovery is just doing things differently than before. I think, to build off what Laura said, in the month of April, we saw 139 percent increase in social media mentions of sustainability, and that’s in a viral pandemic, and so we saw sustainability really spike across the country as a theme. And so I think that, as we go back, and as we deal with a completely new normal, and I think today is a pretty tough day to have this webinar when we see GDPs contract at the largest rate in US history, we’re all sitting here, and as important as the PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] program was, it’s probably not going to be a situation where we spray the money hose at this problem and it goes away. I think we’re going to have to do things differently. I think we’ll probably touch on some of this later, but I think collaboration, partnerships, doing things en masse and in coordination with other constituents is really what’s going to be so important to get ourselves out the situation that we’re in.

Chris Davenport (16:32):

And speaking of doing things differently: You and your team at Bank of the West just launched a really exciting, first-of-its-kind new product, this 1% For the Planet Checking Account, of which I am a account holder. Giving 1 percent of the revenue to environmental causes, which is just really cool. So the more that I dug into this, the more impressed I was at how many companies you had to work with to bring this idea to life—it’s obviously not that easy. So can you kind of give us a little sneak peek under the hood in terms of who was involved and how it all sort of added up to create this new product that otherwise might not exist?

Ben Stuart (17:08):

Yeah, speaking of partnerships, at its core, it’s a checking account and we think it’s a pretty good one; it’s got nice mobile features all that kind of stuff. But in order to make it what it was, we had to partner with 1% For the Planet, we had to partner with Doconomy, which is the world’s leading carbon tracking algorithm in the world, and that’s another neat unique feature of this is, not only does it give 1 percent back to environmental causes at no cost to the customer, but it also allows you to track the carbon impact of your purchases. And that could only happen through Doconomy. We as a bank don’t have that kind of capability, and then obviously incredibly proud that the 1 percent give-back is going to our friends at Protect Our Winters, but even the card itself is a biodegradable plastic and we had to partner with a company called Ballot in order to make that happen. And it was only through the unique mix of those four partners did this thing come out as something that is beneficial and worthwhile to the marketplace. It’s all about partnerships and all about looking at things a little bit differently.

Chris Davenport (18:18):

It’s interesting that you mentioned that the topic of this discussion is the values and cents, C-E-N-T-S, of a sustainable recovery. Was this product, the 1% For the Planet Checking Account, was it an idea that came out of needing to pivot in this pandemic time, or was it something that had kind of been on the table for a while for you guys? I mean we’re all trying to learn lessons that can help our small businesses; was this something that was just a product of creative thinking due to having to pivot during the pandemic?

Ben Stuart (18:58):

No, I’d be cool if it was and I’d make myself a little smarter-looking but no, this is a classic case of preparation meets opportunity equals luck. I think this was something that Kate Williams and I have been talking about for a year—Kate Williams at 1% For the Planet—and as we decided that we were going to do it, and build a 1 percent-branded product, we just said, “Well if it’s going to be that, it can’t just be a checking account and there’s no way in hell we’re going to have virgin plastic debit cards being shipped all over the country. And if it’s going to do that then it’s got to have a carbon-calculating capability to raise people’s awareness of the impact of their purchases and their connection to sustainable finance.” So no, we had it in the works for a while, but again, from a luck perspective and all the information that Laura talked about, now more than ever, something like this is more relevant and more desirable in the situation that we’re in.

Chris Davenport (19:59):

We will have one of our moderators put up the link to the Bank of the West 1% For the Planet account info in the chat right there. Once again, I just wanted to thank all of our participants, everybody that’s here watching. Mario, let’s pivot over to you now because Ben just talked about the importance of partners, partnering up in this day and age to seek out resiliency, seek out success, and that’s been a big part of POW’s success, Protect Our Winters, over the years, whether it’s Patagonia or Burton or Clif Bar, or working with Bank of the West. What are a few things that you found that make such alliances, I guess, successful? What are those essential ingredients, if you will?

Mario Molina (20:42):

Yeah, so there are the pieces that are strategic combinations, right, so we look for partners both in the finance world; Bank of the West is our first partner in the renewable energy world because we need those systemic solutions at large scale to be adopted and deployed rapidly if we’re going to address climate change. But then we also look for cultural partners, so who are the cultural influences in the outdoor space that can actually help translate some of the technicalities around this to our consumer audience? And then obviously, we look for partners in the political and policy realm, and we believe that it’s the combination of those three realms that makes the work that we’re doing really effective and powerful. That’s the theory; I think ultimately, it gets down to the individuals and the passions that individuals have across all of these sectors.

Mario Molina (21:39):

Our most successful partnerships are those that are aligned on values—people who really truly value their experiences outdoors, who realize that the legacy that we leave to future generations is more important than necessarily the bottom line for the next quarter, or whether we’re Republicans or Democrats; that we’re all relying on this love for the land and that we realize that that is the number one thing and the most important thing that we can be doing with the tools that we have, whether they be business, whether it be a nonprofit, whether they be communications. And so when you have those two things—a very specific area of expertise, with a very specific audience, and values aligned with the individuals—that’s when I think we have really powerful partnerships like the one that we’ve been developing and working on with Bank of the West.

Chris Davenport (22:32):

I would invite all of you to jump in and comment if you’d like on the value of partnerships. Nick: With SIA, are you seeing this perhaps happening more and more where brands or retailers or companies are deciding to kind of get together to build resiliency or to be stronger?

Nick Sargent (22:54):

We’re seeing it across the board and it’s no new action for us in one regard, but it’s a very new topic in another. We’ve seen consolidation; we’ve seen a lot of different groups working together to solve different problems. But this is a whole other area that we need more help in, and so we’re seeing a lot of our industry leadership starting to address this conversation, looking for more ways to get behind it, get active. But more importantly, how do they bring their brand up to speed? A lot of these brands haven’t been as quick to jump on this, but they are now, and they’re really making a huge effort. And I think with more partnership and more conversation, [inaudible 00:23:43] to help, but we still have a long way to go. We’re just scratching the surface on what’s possible, and it’s conversations like this and it’s partners like POW and Bank of the West that are really helping make a big a difference. But again, here we are, we need to get another 600 people and companies and leadership behind us [inaudible 00:24:06].

Chris Davenport (24:06):

Yeah Mario.

Mario Molina (24:11):

If I can piggyback off that, and Nick, you and I haven’t talked about this for a while, but I completely agree. And something else that came out of the research that we did last year, is the importance of meeting our audiences and our consumers where they’re at and giving them actions and giving them ways to get involved that are along the same lines. And so we’ve come to better understand that we can’t start by asking people to show up at Capitol Hill and lobby their lawmakers, but maybe we start by sharing a social post and get more educated on the issue. And there’s a journey, there’s an engagement journey for the consumer, and I think that it’s the same thing for a lot of our brands. One of the main questions that became really salient in the research was that people sometimes don’t even know where to start. And so how do I start engaging in this topic, how do I start about it?

Mario Molina (25:11):

And so a lot of the product that came out and that’s available in that same report, is how do we start that conversation with our consumers, but also as a brand, where do we start talking about our own actions and not being scared about the fact that maybe our product isn’t perfect or maybe the experience isn’t carbon neutral et cetera, but here’s what I can do now and this is where we want to go and this is our intention of where we want to end up. And we’ve had a similar conversation with Ben about Bank of the West and the importance of taking what action we can now and laying out intentions and a timeline for future engagement, rather than being scared to engage in the conversation right off the bat because we’re worried about what imperfections there might be.

Chris Davenport (26:01):

Yeah that’s a great answer, Mario. And Laura and Ben, maybe you two can take this next one which is just: What examples are you seeing out there in either your own industry or the industries that you’re you’re following, of businesses getting creative to succeed, whether it’s through the partnerships that Nick and Mario just discussed, or other ways?

Laura Hill (26:24):

Yeah and if I can take that first, if you don’t mind Ben.

Ben Stuart (26:27):

Sure.

Laura Hill (26:28):

And Chris: I first want to tag on real quick to what Mario was speaking about, about not waiting for the product to be perfect and to really take that first step. Some of NPD’s survey data shows that consumers really, they care what the brands and retailers are doing, but they don’t always know who to buy from and why, and so shouting it from the mountaintop and letting consumers know what you’re doing, whether it’s perfected or not, is really important so that consumers can find those products and they can support you for those. So just tagging that on that consumers want to know and sometimes they have a hard time finding it and a hard time understanding it. But to your point, who’s doing it well and who’s doing well right now. From my industry, who I’d like to point to is Outdoor Research. They’re a small brand, or a medium brand I should say, in the outdoor industry, primarily in apparel. And apparel, as I mentioned before, has been really one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic, but back in March, they made a lightning-fast move to convert their Seattle warehouse and manufacturing into PPE [personal protective equipment].

Laura Hill (27:53):

They partnered, so back to partnerships, they partnered with Filson on some of that, and now they’ve developed that into you know a full-scale product that they have at market. It’s made out of antimicrobial fabric; it has an insert for filters; it’s actually sold out on their website right now so I know that they’re working really hard just to keep up with the demand that they’ve created from bringing that product to market and really just responding to a demand that we needed as a society to respond to the pandemic and support our front-line workers. So that’s one of the brands, at least out of the outdoor industry, that I really like to highlight right now for that.

Chris Davenport (28:31):

That’s a great example, thanks for that, Laura. Ben, on to you: What are some shining examples of businesses getting creative that you’ve seen?

Ben Stuart (28:41):

The one that stands out is just a local restauranteur, it’s a guy who’s been—I’m in Mill Valley, North of San Francisco—and there’s a guy that owns a couple restaurants. And very early on in the pandemic, he partnered with Feed The Front Lines so that his restaurant stayed open but also had a cooperative with Feed The Front Lines to feed healthcare workers and things like that. Just kind of an example of a simple partnership that just made people prefer to eat and get take out from his restaurant group as opposed to others, so I thought that was a nice simple way to attach yourself to the issue at hand and be part of the solution.

Ben Stuart (29:24):

Second, obviously I think biking has kind of exploded and I’ll be honest, I bought a new bike right at the start of this and the bike shop has been incredible in terms of picking up, delivering, doing service appointments, so sort of going out of their way. Their trucks have been on the road a little bit more taking things back and forth to the bike shop and being pretty responsive when things aren’t right; they’re very good about it. And then second, again going back to shopping your values, we’re just seeing an increase of folks who said, “Look, I’m going to start doing business with the companies who are part of the solution, not part of the problem.” And it’s not just values-based but they actually see a connection between some of the systemic issues facing the health of our planet and the purchases they make every day. And we’re seeing you know material percentage shifts in customers who are voting with their wallets, voting with their behaviors every single day.

Chris Davenport (30:34):

I just want to remind all the participants that we will be taking some questions. You can actually at the bottom of your screen type a question into your Q&A, and I will read those questions out to our panel here in a little bit. One more question for the group though. And Nick, we’ll start with you: As we head into or get close to the winter sports season—and you mentioned earlier that you were just reading letters from Aspen Snowmass CEO Mike Kaplan and Vail Resort CEO Rob Katz—everybody’s thinking about this multibillion dollar industry of winter sports. What’s it gonna look like? And we don’t really know. But what advice or guidance could you give small business owners as they prepare to sort of shift from summer business to winter business?

Nick Sargent (31:21):

Yeah, I mean it’s a great question and it’s one that we’re working on with our members every day here. There’s a great opportunity in front of us: Never before in this industry have we had a chance to pause, take a really strong look at the way the business has been run, and really decide where we want to be as an industry for the next generation of consumers and leaders. And so we’re working hard to help our members really look at their business and really dissect that model to make sure it’s sustainable and it’s going to carry them through the next amount of time. But we have to also exercise patience in this. Nothing’s going to happen overnight.

Nick Sargent (32:10):

We have a big trade show in January every year. Like a lot of trade shows, everything is being threatened, so what does that mean for your business if you can’t go to a trade show? As an example, if you’re not pointing your brand into a digital solution, this is a good time to do that. If you can’t get out to see your retailers as a supplier or a rep, digital solution’s a great way to do that, we’re seeing that across the board. And we’re seeing a lot of companies make really hard decisions on how they want to spend that marketing dollar to be sustainable with those specialty retailers as a way to reach these consumers.

Chris Davenport (32:54):

Great. Laura, you mentioned earlier a really interesting sort of case study with outdoor research—a small or medium-sized apparel brand that pivoted quickly and stayed busy—what is the NPD Group, your company, seeing in terms of trends, maybe outside of the outdoor industry of successful pivots, if you will. Anything else come to mind?

Laura Hill (33:19):

Yeah, there were several examples of brands that were doing exactly what Outdoor Research did, a couple from within the industry. Crocs, I know they made a big change, they were giving away footwear to front-line workers. New Balance switched and they started doing some PPE manufacturing. Solomon changed their innovation center in Annecy and started making PPE out of that as well. So several examples from within our industry, but then you also saw ones in you know, beauty and perfume where they were taking their bottling manufacturing and using it to create hand sanitizer, putting that out to market. So I think at the time there were several examples of manufacturers that were really stepping up to do their part.

Chris Davenport (34:08):

I think to both Nick and Laura, to your point: One of the things to come out of this—Nick you mentioned digital solutions, Laura you mentioned pivoting to PPE and other things like that—is companies are having to look at their own business and see how sustainable it is, whether it’s just in their manufacturing or their supply chains—whatever it might be. So Mario, this is a question for you: How does Protect Our Winters see sustainability as an asset in this current environment?

Mario Molina (34:43):

Yeah, so I think there’s a couple of things. One is the strategic long-term view, while we are all in the midst of the pandemic and we’re hopeful that we’ll be coming out of it in 2021, looking at 2022, the reality is that when it comes to climate change and the climate impacts on the outdoor industry, there’s a lot of uncertainty ahead of us, and there’s a lot of variability ahead of us, and so it’ll become increasingly difficult to continue to plan for business as usual, particularly in winter sports as we have less predictability of the winter season from the amount of snowpack to first and last snowfall. So starting to think really through what does this strategic adaptation to uncertainty in climate over the next 5 and 10 years for the industry look like as an integrated part of business planning, not just as an add-on to your marketing or messaging I think is really critical. And getting that has embedded into our decision-making culture.

Mario Molina (35:52):

But then on the plus side as well, going back to customer loyalty and brand loyalty: I think that what we’ll see is that we’ll see the consumers who see brands stepping up in areas of, whether it’s social justice or responsible health management and sustainability, those are the customers that will stick with brands and companies through thick and thin, and those are the customers that will return and when they have to make a choice between purchasing a product, if they can only make a choice between purchasing one product versus two or three products, they will purchase a product from the brand that they feel is most aligned with their values. Or when they go back in 2021 and they go back to more or less normal consumer spending, that they’ll remember which brands have been the ones that, even in the midst of crisis, have actually stood and messaged their values that align with their own.

Chris Davenport (36:52):

Yeah, well said. One of the things that came out of it just for me personally is in thinking about my family and my own values, I looked at my banking—and this is going to come over to Ben from Bank of the West—and I realized that the bank that I had my mortgage with was one of the largest funders of the fossil fuel industry and dirty fossil fuel projects and I was sort of shocked by that and decided to pull my mortgage away from them. And actually it’s with Bank of the West now, so for transparency’s sake: Ben, thanks for that. Ben, so who comes out ahead in this market? I mean we’ve heard some really great sort of lessons and tips for small businesses. What are you seeing in your big industry, the banking industry? Who comes out ahead? Who wins in this tough climate?

Ben Stuart (37:43):

God, I don’t know if I’m good enough to foreshadow there. I’m going to go backwards if you don’t mind. I want to say a couple things that have sort of we’ve seen work in terms of the environment in which are working and then maybe I’ll try and be Nostradamus here and see if I can predict the future; I doubt it. The one thing, I’m going to talk about two things that seem really weird but they’ve been incredibly standout effective in terms of us both internally and externally dealing with this. And one, believe it or not, was wellness calls to our clients. And I know that might be difficult from a retail perspective, but actually just reaching out and calling them to say, “Hey how are you doing? Are you all right?” What we found is that we were one of the very few banks that were actually calling customers and just checking in on them. And the response we got was just overwhelmingly positive. And so I would say one thing on the external front was doing that.

Ben Stuart (38:39):

And then on the other side of that coin internally: We’ve been spending a lot of time dealing with doing mental health check-ins with our employees. And again the response from our employees that we’re really checking in on them and providing resources—because again, I think one of the things that we found is that everyone’s having a very different experience in this, and that you’re going to have some employees who are coping just fine, they’re biking, they’re running, they’re losing weight, they’ve got COVID projects. You know, other people are alone and don’t have social interaction. So I would say for the business owners to just, and I know it’s not applicable necessarily, but I think knowing that checking in on your employees mental health and then actually just having the guts to kind of call some of your key customers and call some of the folks that you interact with every day and check in on them; just those simple motions yielded a tremendous amount of goodwill and we’re actually productive, both on the personal side and on the business side.

Chris Davenport (39:38):

That’s a great practical solution or that’s very helpful for I know a lot of our participants today, so thanks for that Ben. And one more question for you—and this came from a participant: A lot of small businesses struggled with the PPP process. Can you speak at a high level about what your bank or banking in general anticipates?

Ben Stuart (40:05):

This, I was very close to this. And first, I think the context here was, it was essentially overnight the government said, “We’re offering a brand new type of loan and it’s gonna be available in 24 hours.” And every single bank was like, “Wait a second, we’ve done small business administration loans before, but the loans don’t look like this, they don’t have the qualifications like this,” and I spoke to so many angry customers every day, frustrated with the process, the opaqueness of the process, and I read the Twitter feeds for every major bank and it looked like it was pretty universally awful for everybody. But in the end, I think we were estimating that only a small fraction of businesses were actually going to get their loans. We were estimating at the bank that we were probably only going to get a third of our applicants funded, we ended up getting 90 percent of our applicants funded, and the ones that weren’t were thrown out for some other reason. I think to this day, there’s still $100 million left in the second round of funding.

Ben Stuart (41:03):

So A. I guess I’m kind of apologizing on the in-stream for what a horrible process it was, but it does look like they may offer more because I think a lot of people got scared of the application process, they got scared of the rules, and then they heard that the process was so nightmarish that they said, “I don’t want to deal with that.” And so I do think, just as there’s going to be a second round of stimulus checks, there is thinking that there’ll be another round of funding. The current thinking is that it’s going to happen around the election for political reasons obviously, that they’re going to release money close to that for small businesses. But I can say after touching base with a lot of other banks is that the process is going to get a lot better this third time around. I don’t know if that answers the question directly but that would be that, so if there’s a follow-up question I’m happy to answer it. I just want to make sure I’m addressing the question at hand.

Chris Davenport (41:58):

Yeah, I think that was great those are some very, very good insights and if there is a follow-up question from one of our participants, just post that on the Q&A. Laura, we had a question for you: Do you have any advice for a local business that supports the environment but doesn’t have brand recognition to connect with consumers? Interesting question, so it could be something that’s not a big broadly known consumer brand but wants to connect.

Laura Hill (42:29):

Absolutely. So I would first tag on to what both Ben and Mario spoke to in terms of partnerships: Who can you partner with that it would be mutually beneficial, that you can grow that recognition? And then also what assets do you have at hand that you can leverage more heavily? Is it newsletter, is it blog, is it social media, do you have a social media manager? Don’t be shy about what you’re doing there. It doesn’t behoove you to be modest in this case. Get out there and shout it from the mountaintop. The reason that Patagonia is synonymous with environmental justice is because they’re a marketing machine. And you don’t have to have their marketing budget—just start with what you have at hand and maximize it to its most potential.

Chris Davenport (43:18):

That’s a great answer, thanks for that. And Nick, this is actually a nice segue to two questions that we got about supply chains: Any advice for small businesses with large suppliers, but they want to still make their supply chain more sustainable and climate-friendly. We had two questions about that. Can you touch on the supply chain issue?

Nick Sargent (43:41):

Yeah, there’s a lot of opportunity and options for brands that want to look at their supply chain and really understand how sustainable it is from an environmental perspective, but also from a product management perspective. And SIA can help make those introductions to any brand that is looking for that. But we’ve had a lot of our members go through that, specifically when I was at Burton Snowboards and getting all of our factories bluesign-compatible and making sure that the factories were operating in a safe and healthy manner, both for the environment, but for the employees. And I can talk about this for a long time, but I’ll speak quick, but we can help you with that. Give us a call and we can make those introductions if you’d like.

Chris Davenport (44:32):

Thanks for that Nick. There’s also some good information being posted in the chat with some links for outdoor brands that can join climate action corps. There’s the two articles that you referenced, Nick, were posted in there as is some information for Protect Our Winters and their research. A couple more questions here: The supply chain one was really good, and we saw a few of those. For businesses just struggling to get through this economic downturn: Any advice on how they might incorporate sustainability? Let’s go back to just talking about sustainability as a word and what it means to you, because is it sustainability in terms of environmental impact or climate, or is it sustainability in terms of the economic success? I mean there’s a lot of different ways to look at sustainability here. Laura, do you want to start? Or actually Mario, let’s go to you and talk about what sustainability really means to you.

Mario Molina (45:32):

Yeah, well that’s a great question, thanks. I think it’s a matter of timeframes right? Like what’s a strategic horizon for the industry, what’s a strategic horizon for the business? And if we’re talking about sustainability in the short term, I think some of the advice that Nick provided is just spot on. How do we look at moving to digital and curbside pickup and some of those tactical decisions that will help the business survive? But for us obviously, we’re really focused on climate change and what does mid- and long-term sustainability, not only for our industry, but really for our sports themselves look like? And for us that really comes down to emissions, and that really comes down to how can the voice of the outdoor industry be heard at its full power? There are 50 million people who identify as outdoor enthusiasts in the country. And if we were able to actually bring all of them together with climate change, and climate mitigation, and climate smart policies as a number one priority, we would be far more influential than any other group lobbying in the government right now, as well as being able to drive those really long-term systemic changes.

Mario Molina (46:48):

So I think it’s a coupled strategy of organizing as a policy and political force, bringing together our consumers and our businesses, but it’s also learning the most that we can about what are those practices that are going to be required to adapt to a changing climate, and how are we going to adapt the business practices and how are we going to adapt consumer culture to the changes in climate? I think Alterra Mountain Company is an example of a company that’s really embedded that variability and the future into their business model by offering multiple destinations, because we no longer will be able to predict exactly what does a winter season look like for one particular resort. So again, to the point that they made earlier, we will become more resilient and more sustainable if we partner together from a business perspective. But if we’re really concerned with the sustainability of the industry, the sport, and ultimately—not to be cliché—but the planet, we really have to address those large-scale systemic shifts that would mitigate the worst impact of climate change.

Chris Davenport (47:56):

It’s an excellent answer, Mario. I’m glad we’re recording this because I need to go back and just kind of soak up everything you just said, that was really well said. Laura, how about you, on the sustainability front?

Laura Hill (48:09):

I completely agree with what you just said about Mario’s answer, I’ll be doing the same. So I think sustainability as environmental and as sustainable business, I think, very much go hand in hand just from what we see in our survey data, as how important sustainability is to our consumers and that they want to know what businesses are doing and be able to support that. So I think the two are very much connected. And sustainability in terms of what small businesses can do, is really just start looking around you. What vendors are you working with and where are you buying your cleaning supplies from and things of that nature. And do you have an electric car charging station in your parking lot? Things like that are maybe less obvious to your consumers and then on the other hand can be more obvious, can certainly support that sustainable business piece of the recovery as well.

Chris Davenport (49:12):

Okay Ben, I’ll let you touch on sustainability and if we have some more questions from the participants, please post those on the Q&A. Go ahead, Ben.

Ben Stuart (49:21):

Yeah, and I think at the risk of being a little wonkish: If you go and you look at the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, there’s 17 of them. And I think it’s really important to understand what sustainability means in the broadest context. I think it’s really easy to go to environment climate change and things like that but poverty—we’re not going to have a sustainable recovery if we have widespread poverty. We’re not gonna have a sustainable recovery if we don’t have gender equity and inclusion and diversity, if we don’t have education. And so I think that when you take a broad look at sustainability—and I’m just touching on a couple of them out of the 17, and I don’t necessarily think we need to go on onto all of them—but I think it’s really important to understand, from a true sustainable recovery in order to have your business sustained from a business perspective, there are a lot of things that need to come along with that. And I think that business owners can sort of attach themselves to different aspects of sustainability and don’t necessarily need to go just to the environment.

Ben Stuart (50:22):

I personally believe—and I know Mario—I think if you ask a lot of people I think how we create energy as a species and the carbon impact of the globe’s energy grid is a huge part of that and likely the most important. But I think it’s important to note that there are a lot of things that need to come in place to be sustainable. And so I think businesses should have a pretty expansive view because depending on their ownership, depending on their constituents, depending on the business they’re in, I think there are places within the sustainability continuum where people can play that aren’t just purely climate or the environment. I think there are other things that are critically important as well.

Chris Davenport (51:01):

Well said by everybody there. Thank you for touching on that. As we get close to wrapping up our webinar here today, I just wanted to ask you for some final thoughts for small businesses out there, the participants and we’ve had a great group following the webinar today: Any last thoughts? Nick, you want to start it off?

Nick Sargent (51:22):

Yeah sure. I think I really like what Ben, you just said—sustainability comes in so many different spaces and however we look at it, we’re taking a deep dive at our industries’ DEI Initiatives right now and we’re pushing that hard to help grow our industry to others around the world that want to participate. I think that’s really important. I also think that the change that we’re embarking on through COVID; it’s gonna be a big change for this industry so I’m gonna go back to being patient, working together to communicate and really practice safety.

Chris Davenport (52:09):

Thank you, Nick. Ben, why don’t we jump over to you because I know you have to jump off here in a little bit.

Ben Stuart (52:16):

Well first, let me preface it by saying I’ve worked in marketing a long time and so many small businesses and people I know and they all come to me and they always say, “Well Ben, you know marketing, you got to tell me what to do,” and almost inevitably small business owners know so much more and so much better about how to market their business than any knucklehead like me could ever say. So I’ll preface it with that, and then my next part of the answer is gonna be completely unscientific and completely based on my own experience in this crisis.

Ben Stuart (52:46):

I think the one thing that I found in terms of the businesses that I’ve dealt with for the last four months, the ones that I’ve been really drawn and really attracted to have been the ones that have just been endlessly optimistic and friendly, not the ones that come across as shell-shocked and depressed. And I’ve been drawn to the businesses that have been almost effervescent in their ability to attract you and smile through the mask and ignore the hand sanitizer. I’m not saying shirk the rules, I’m saying that people just saw through that and acted through that. You tended to seek out those businesses because there’s so much bad news and there’s so much depressing crap that we’re all dealing with every day. I tended to kind of seek out the businesses that were rays of light and hope and optimism as opposed to those that were sort of reflecting the bad news that we get every day. So very unscientific but my two cents.

Chris Davenport (53:35):

I couldn’t agree more—positivity is such a strong force and you nailed it right there. Laura?

Laura Hill (53:45):

So I would like to leave you guys with a couple last pieces of data since I am a numbers girl. In NPD survey data, a third of consumers report that a brand or retailer’s social position is extremely or very important to their decision-making, purchase decision-making, and that gets even higher when you talk about Gen Z and millennials who are the largest cohorts, the largest generations in our country, and whose spending power is growing every day. That figure looks even larger, and half of them tell us that they actually choose not to purchase from brands or retailers based on those positions. So it’s really important what you’re doing out there and that you tell consumers about it.

Chris Davenport (54:40):

I agree. I was speaking to a former owner of a large retail chain here in Colorado a couple days ago and he told me, “Chris, going forward companies that stand for something are the companies that are going to succeed.” So we all have to ask ourselves what we stand for. With that in mind, Mario, some final thoughts?

Mario Molina (55:02):

Yeah, well I think everything’s been said really eloquently. But I guess just to tag on it: I don’t remember who said the quote but that, “You know the character of a person not during the good times but during the bad times,” or something to that effect—during difficult times. And I think this is the time, this is the time to lead with values. This is the time to stand up for what, as a business, as a brand, do you believe in? Because it will be, once we get past through these dark times, people will remember who stood up when it wasn’t easy to do it. And the thing is you don’t have to do it alone. There’s so many resources, so many partners out there, from Protect Our Winters to the OIA Climate Group to the SIA Climate Group, depending on which angle you want to take, that can help both with supply chain sustainability, with marketing, with messaging, with advocacy initiatives. There’s so many resources out there and one of the reasons I think it’s such a great idea to put this group together is that even though it’s on this call, I hear [inaudible 00:56:12] reach out to businesses and brands and help start or continue on this journey. So this is a time for us all to stand for what we believe in and it will be remembered by those of us in the industry and our consumers.

Chris Davenport (56:24):

Yeah well said Mario. And to all of you—Laura Hills from the NPD Group, Ben Stuart from Bank of the West, Nick Sargent from SIA and Mario Molina—thank you all so much. This has been really interesting. I’ve learned a lot and I’m going to go back and rewatch this. Remember, it is recorded it will be posted at sustainablerecovery.us. And with that I want to thank all of our panelists and wrap it up and remind all of you that we will be doing another one next week for webinar number three in the Navigating Change Webinar Series. I’ll be moderating again. I’ll be joined by some great guests from evo.com, from Avalon, and from REI. This session is titled Sustainable Operations Equals Sustainable Recovery. So moving forward with that theme and we’ll be talking about what businesses like yours can do to integrate more sustainability into their operations. So again, you can register for this web series at sustainablerecovery.us. And with that: I’m Chris Davenport, I will see you here next week. Thank you guys very much for participating and have a great day.

Navigating Change Transcript
The Sustainable Recovery Series for Small Businesses
Why Cause Matters: Consumer Loyalty in Purchase Decisions
Transcript from August 13, 2020

Dan  Osipow (00:00:00):

Hello everyone and thank you for joining the fourth and final webinar of Navigating Change, a series focused on sustainable recovery for small businesses, brought to you by Bank of the West, Protect Our Winters, and Snowsports Industries America. My name is Dan Osipow from Bank of the West and I’m very proud of the series we’ve put together over the last month. It has highlighted trends and presented practical improvements for small businesses in the wake of the pandemic. As we know well, COVID has redefined how we do business; new opportunities are emerging for how businesses can adapt to survive now and even flourish in the future. As mentioned, today’s event is the final webinar in the series, so a big thank you to everyone who has joined us and taken part in these relevant conversations. That said, I’d like to present today’s topic—Why Cause Matters: Consumer Loyalty in Purchase Decisions.

Dan  Osipow (00:00:53):

Before we jump in and for the last time, I’d like to cover some of the small housekeeping items for the webinar: All video and audio of attendees will be muted throughout, and Q&A will be live throughout, and the moderator will pull those questions in and utilize them for Q&A for about 10 minutes at the end. And now to introduce the folks that have joined us for today’s event: Our moderator and good friend US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Famer Chris Davenport, and our panelists: Kate Williams, CEO 1% for the planet. Jenn Swain, global senior sustainability manager at Burton, and Brady Robinson, executive director of the Conservation Alliance. Once again, thanks all for joining. And Chris, take it away and have a great conversation.

Chris Davenport (00:01:38):

Fantastic. Thank you very much, Dan. Thanks for the introduction. And a big welcome to all of our attendees today. Thanks for joining in. Certainly, I want to welcome our panelists, Brady, Kate, and Jenn, we are going to have a really exciting conversation today around the concept of cause and why cause matters and why consumers loyalty is so important. I want to remind everybody that you can ask us questions—put them in the Q&A at the bottom of your screen, and as we get towards the end of our conversation that I’m moderating, we’ll bring in some of your questions. And the idea is really to get some insights, some advice, some tips from these experts as to how you can help your small business. So with that said, let’s get going here. I want to start, Jenn, with you this morning, welcome from Vermont. And to start off, I want to explore this idea of consumer loyalty. I think it’s incredible what Burton has done around that, specifically how it relates to purchasing decisions.

Chris Davenport (00:02:42):

I think a good place to start is that Protect Our Winters, one of our presenting sponsors—they recently came out with some research that showed that I think 76% of consumers and outdoor enthusiasts, they want some direction as to where to start taking action on climate change. So, when you’re an outdoor consumer brand like Burton, how do you take a piece of information like that and start to try and activate people, your customers, around it?

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:03:11):

Yeah, thanks for having me, Chris. And thank you to the webinar sponsors as well. Sustainability, we know, matters to the Burton customer even more than the average outdoor participant in the US. From a combination of the research you mentioned from POW and also Burton’s own internal customer insights, we know that half of our customers say that the environment is something they think about regularly, and they’re incorporating positive changes in their own lives when they can. That’s compared to 39 percent of the general outdoor consumer in the US. We also know that snowboarding is really core to Burton, and nearly a third of snowboarders have indicated that they volunteered or donated particularly to climate change organizations compared to 17 percent of outdoor participants. So we know that really authentically, sustainability and climate activism in particular is important to our customer. But it is really hard, we’ve learned, we’ve heard from our customers, to connect those dots of how do you go from taking individual action on things like greening your commute or eating a more plant-rich diet to really multiplying your impact as an individual?

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:04:21):

And what we really firmly believe in at Burton is advocacy. And so the way that we try to connect with our customer in this area that’s kind of beyond product as a brand, using our full brand reach, is to help empower our customers to take action on policy. And so, one thing that we’ve learned from the recent POW research relates to how we can approach messaging in a way that’s most effective: How do we actually motivate outdoor enthusiasts to take action with us? So starting from a place of someone who cares about the outdoors, we really need to put people at the center. So, what we get to is the crisis, what we get to is the urgency, but we really need to ground ourselves in the people, the place that they love, that they play; the issue and then provide that call to action—those resources to help them actually take action alongside us. Whether that’s through a more local like mountain cleanup or through actually advocating raising their voice on policy issues as well.

Chris Davenport (00:05:27):

I think it’s really interesting how a lot of companies like Burton no longer look at the consumer as just this person who purchases things from your brand; you’re looking at the more brand advocates. Yes, they buy stuff, but you’re asking a lot more of them. Just one more follow up question: How long ago was it in your experience that there was this transition from consumers just being consumers to as you said, more of a brand advocate?

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:05:59):

It’s a tough one. I would say that we’ve really seen … If you look at corporate responsibility, corporate sustainability on the whole, the first 20 years was really focused on sustainable products from a brand perspective. So getting a certification, whether it’s fair trade on the social side, organic on the eco-conscious environmental side, but what we’ve really seen over the last 15 to 20 years is the shift toward looking at a whole company—a really comprehensive evaluation of a brand. And that is what is breeding that loyalty. It’s no longer about the product—it’s the expectation that a company on the whole is taking action that has positive impacts for people and the environment. And so I think it makes a company almost a little more human. You want to engage more because you see the passion of the company and what they’re working toward. And so I would say, really in the last 10 to 20 years, we’re seeing that shift. And it also really matters if you as a business are reaching out to your consumers and really asking them to engage with you in that way.

Chris Davenport (00:07:00):

I think that’s a great answer. I think companies that care, companies that take a stand are companies that I care about, because it just resonates with me. So thank you for that. Okay. For Kate and Brad: Your organizations, and you specifically, work with a lot of brands around causes that their customers are very passionate about, much like Burton. Are there any particular examples that come to mind so that other business owners might be able to draw some lessons or perhaps get a good sense of a blueprint for that success? Kate, why don’t we start with you?

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:07:32):

Sure. And I always hate to call out any particular company because all of our members are doing such great work. So it’s caveat on that: All of our companies are engaging with their consumers and making a difference in a very real way. But a couple of examples of how aligning with a cause can actually be good for business and we’re seeing that more and more. One really clear example is from one of our members, Finlandia Vodka, and they did a promotion in certain markets and not in other markets, not so much for the test purposes, but it just so happened to work out that way. And they had very clear point of sale information about the giving that they were doing through 1% for the Planet at certain bars and retail locations, whereas in other markets they just weren’t doing that. And during the time period, they saw a 7 percent increase in sales in those markets where they activated and actually a decrease in sales by 2 percent in other markets.

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:08:29):

And we can’t point to direct causation, but that’s a pretty clear example given the way those markets were set up—that there was a correlation between engaging customers in a chance to say, “Hey, brand with a cause, I’m going to choose that.” Versus not providing that opportunity. And then another specific example is a company called Penske. And I don’t have that same market-to-market comparison, but what they’ve done is a great example of a dialogue with their consumers. So, they started out as a fabulous 1% for the Planet brands giving back. But then they heard from their consumers, they heard from their nonprofit partners, they heard from other members in the network: “Hey, you’re doing a great job with your giving, but you still have a lot of plastic in your packaging and actually the frames of your sunglasses are plastic.” And so while they got into 1% for the Planet for that story around their giving, the network actually pushed them to now in 2020, have developed a way of manufacturing fully recycled frames, eliminating all plastic from their packaging and really taking that next step.

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:09:37):

So they developed loyalty and consumer goodwill through the relationships that they developed with them. And we’re seeing that broadly across our network. So again, back to all members in our most recent brand survey, we saw that our brand awareness has grown by more than 150 percent over the past three years and purchase intent this year, which is the surveyed consumers’ intent to purchase items that had the logo on it was that 45 percent. So, it’s really great to see that. Not only is it the right thing to do for the planet, but for these businesses, it’s tied to a good consumer relationship and return.

Chris Davenport (00:10:22):

Yeah, that’s great. It’s no surprise I think that organizations like yourselves are getting more visibility I guess during this time. Brady: Over to you with the same question. What are you seeing in terms of specific cases that you could share that other brands are doing out there?

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:10:42):

Yeah, I’ve got a few and somebody mentioned that by calling these out. We’re not saying everybody isn’t doing a great job. And I just want to remind people that the Conservation Alliance harnesses the power of businesses in outdoor communities to advocate for the protection of wild places in North America. We have a grant program, we do advocacy and 100 percent of our member dues go into our grant-making program. But a few that come to mind: Keen, the shoe company did something called Live Monumental, back when President Obama—do you remember when we had, the president’s name was Obama? It seems like it’s another world—but there was a lead up into designating some really key landscapes as national monuments. And so, Keen got behind that and built a year-long campaign; they called it Live Monumental. And they weren’t directly selling shoes during that time, but it was their most successful brand campaign to date in terms of social impressions, earned media, and brand recognition. So they did see a lot of value there. Another one that comes to mind is New Belgium, the beer company.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:11:54):

They did something called Finding Common Ground. They released these really interesting videos that were bridging the gap between user communities, outdoor user communities that traditionally maybe don’t view themselves as being either part of the same community or perhaps even on the same team. They linked a climber and a hunter, an off roader, and a mountain biker, and an angler, and a kayaker to explore shared values. And again, they couldn’t directly link increased beer sales to that, but they had a lot of engagement, got a lot of brand recognition out of it. And they also deepened their relationships with existing nonprofit partners. But just in case people think, “Well, those are big companies. What can I do?” I’ve got two other quick examples: There’s an incredible trail mix company called Shar. 20 percent of their profits benefit our grant program—Conservation Alliance’s grant program. And they built that in at the start.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:12:53):

So, we don’t have to be the beneficiary, but as a small company, you can make a commitment like that. And then there’s a company called Katella, based in Colorado, make custom awards in a one-person shop. And Lisa comes to Washington, DC for our annual fly-ins and has become a really powerful advocate and works on projects in her backyard. So I think they’re really meaningful things, creative things, that companies of all sizes can do.

Chris Davenport (00:13:22):

Those are great examples Brady, and also thank you for sharing a little bit of insight into what the Conservation Alliance does. Before I go to Jenn with the question, Kate, I did want to give you the opportunity to talk a little bit about 1% for the Planet. I apologize for not bringing that up earlier, but maybe you could just let us know exactly what 1% is doing and maybe also talk a little bit about what sustainable recovery looks like from your perspective.

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:13:50):

Sure, yeah. It was fun to just dive right into the question, but I’m happy to come back and share. 1% for the Planet is a global nonprofit. We have about half of our membership is in the US and half is international and our members are primarily businesses, although we do have some individuals. And to be a member, you commit to giving 1% of your top-line sales to environmental nonprofits. And we serve as the adviser and amplifier of that giving, we help companies to identify their giving partners and develop those strategies. And in the last year, we certified about $27 million in giving and have seen some really great growth as companies have grown with us and as bigger companies have come on to join with us. I think in terms of sustainable recovery, it looks a little different for everyone because everyone’s experiencing this pandemic differently. But I think one of the things that we’re seeing with a lot of our members is that the power of being able to adapt and to identify what are the core skills and strengths and commitments that you have that are durable regardless of the environment.

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:14:57):

So we have mattress companies making masks and doing a great job of that, and having strong sales with that. We have other companies—a restaurant that’s pivoting to providing meals and tapping into their network of farms to provide meals for the hungry. And some of those are temporary pivots, but they’re keeping people employed and they’re keeping things working. And so I think adaptability and then for the longer term, I think sustainable recovery looks like learning from what we’re seeing and using this opportunity to develop new ways of doing business that are durable.

Chris Davenport (00:15:38):

Thanks, Kate. Jenn, we’ll go over to you and maybe you can just also touch on what a sustainable recovery means to you personally and also from the Burton perspective. Before you jump into that, I just want to also remind our attendees that as we go through the webinar today, if you have questions, put them in the Q&A button at the bottom and we will definitely address those as we move forward. Okay, Jenn, from Burton Snowboards. Sustainable recovery, and then I’ve got a more specific question for you.

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:16:04):

Okay. Yeah. Right now, society’s weathering the dual storms of COVID-19, climate change; we’re also reckoning with issues of social justice from racial injustice to wealth disparity to the protection of workers’ rights around the world. So in the face of really compounding crises, we see an opportunity for an equitable, resilient, and regenerative recovery. We need to find hope at times and we need to take action when there is this benefit almost of urgency. So, as many have said, what we need to be looking to do as a society is to build back better. And this must be driven by governments, but it also has to be through evolved business practices. And I really feel that businesses that are putting people first right now, that are prioritizing and supporting their employees, their communities, and their customers are going to emerge stronger on the other side of the pandemic.

Chris Davenport (00:17:03):

Yeah, I agree with you. I think there’s no question that the businesses that reach out to their customers throughout this trying time and ask them how they’re doing or just connect—that’s building meaningful relationships. Specifically, Jenn, I think there’s a thought out there that to add sustainability or environmental responsibility to one’s business comes at a cost and that upfront costs might be scary or daunting for businesses when they think about the ROI of sustainability. So, how do you overcome that?

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:17:38):

I won’t sugarcoat it: It is hard to measure sustainability performance in financial terms. There are certain opportunities that we find where actually sustainability leads to efficiency. There are other times where to improve product sustainability on an environmental attribute might actually come with a cost in the short term. So what we’re really thinking about at Burton is the benefit to long term. Customer lifetime value, customer loyalty to the value of the brand over time as a result of sustainability. And I think, where corporate sustainability used to be seen as exceptional, it’s increasingly the expectation of customers. And I think that goes across industries. So as a business, I really think that the long-term risk of inaction might be greater than the short-term cost of action. And I think this is particularly showing up as we look at increasing customer awareness of business practices through the pandemic.

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:18:44):

So a survey that was conducted earlier this year: 73 percent believed that moving forward after the pandemic, companies really need to be prioritizing the needs of all stakeholders and not just financial rewards. And that shows up in all aspects of responsible business practices. So I really think that it’s a business imperative and we’re increasingly seeking to measure it better than we’re able to now. But I think if you think of it in different terms than the financial, whether you want to look at the compliance side of things, the efficiency gains—the ability to draw employees who are going to be more loyal to the brand as well. Increasingly just in our interviewing process, we’re hearing that people are drawn to work for the brand because of our efforts. So I think it’s really a full picture.

Chris Davenport (00:19:41):

I really like your quote and I’m going to paraphrase, but “the long-term cost of inaction is much greater than the short term cost of action”—you said something to that effect. That’s really interesting because I think we oftentimes just think of those upfront costs and you guys are looking long-term about consumer loyalty and building customers for the future. So, that’s really great. Kate, you mentioned—and this is a good segue from that—that 1% for the Planet has grown during this pandemic and the quarantine. But what are the obstacles that you see for brands traditionally to get involved in sustainability or climate or just activism in general? And why do they seem to maybe be reduced or those doors are more open right now?

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:20:27):

That’s a great question and one we’ve definitely been trying to put our hands around. And Jenn, some of what you said I think ties into it. But over the last three months, we have seen growth in memberships of new members joining year over year, so compared to 2019. And we have asked many of those what brought this about now and some of the answers—and this is anecdotal, we don’t have it all; it’s not quantitative data—but some of the answers include people think they have the time to do it. So I think sometimes just having the mental space to choose how you’re going to step forward. It can feel overwhelming as you mentioned, Jenn, these compounding crises, it can often feel overwhelming to know what to do. But I think the urgency of this moment has provided a push to greater clarity.

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:21:13):

So, I think that is part of it and in some cases, the slowdown of the normal pace of work has created some space to make those commitments. An obstacle in the past because often, and will continue I’m sure, is that 1% of top line sales is a big number. And it depends on how your business model is structured. But that can be a large portion of profits for some companies too. So, oftentimes we have heard that the cost is high. And what’s been interesting is as we’re seeing the consumer data move in the direction of purchase intent increasing for brands with a purpose, recent stats that we saw is that something like 81 percent of consumers surveyed said that they would be extremely likely or very likely to purchase from a company that has aligned with an environmental cause. So, I think the consumer data is also pushing towards reducing that perceived cost of making a choice like that. So, I think right now, what we’re seeing is that there is a growth in interest in cost for consumers, we’re seeing—

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:22:31):

Again, Jenn, I think you said it well—there are compounding crises that are making it really clear that these are not extra niceties, these are really part of what businesses need to be doing to contribute to a healthy future and to create a future where any business can thrive. And also, I think it is becoming clear that employees, customers, all stakeholders, their expectation of businesses is that they’re going to be part of the solution with government, with other players as well. But again, it’s no longer, “It’s optional,” it’s more, “In what way are you going to make the choice?” And I think that that’s a really important piece of it. And I guess actually, one other thing that I would add is I think that—I’m just seeing one question that came in—I think being part of a community driving change is really important right now. One of the greatest challenges of the pandemic has been it’s a hard time and we’re isolated. And as humans, we typically come together in hard times.

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:23:36):

And so I think finding communities of change has been more important than ever, particularly given the nature of some of the additional challenges we’re facing. So I think finding those communities of change in this particular moment has elevated the desire to belong to things like 1% for the Planet, Conservation Alliance, things like that.

Chris Davenport (00:23:59):

Kate, it brings up a follow-up question for you from our Q&A: Have you seen some examples of small businesses who maybe didn’t feel like they had leverage or a big enough voice to amplify their values, so they went and partnered with bigger businesses or got a group together along shared values?

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:24:21):

We do see some of that. And I think that’s a big part of 1%. So, every member that joins 1%, whether your actual numerical 1 percent is small or big, are all equal partners in the way that we’re set up and have access to each other. So we do see brands reaching out to each other just back end around solutions. “How did you handle this problem? What was your packaging solution?” Very tactical things. But then we also see brands coming together around giving strategies and things like that. That has been a little harder, I would say during this particular time, because oftentimes those kinds of partnerships are forged at events in opportunities when people can network freely and discover those crossovers. But we are trying to facilitate more of that because that has been a really powerful part of the network.

Chris Davenport (00:25:15):

Yeah, it seems like the more industry wide collaboration, whether it’s the outdoor industry or whatever it might be, the more powerful we’re all going to be. It’s that rising tide thing. So, that’s great that you’re helping facilitate that. Brady: A couple weeks ago on our webinar, we had Laura Hills from the NPD Research Group here and they do tons of heavy data lifting, and their data shows that within the last 10 years brands that have made a commitment to causes—whether it’s public lands or sustainability or climate, what have you, diversity—they’ve continuously shown that those brands have excelled. Have you seen a similar trend with the brands that you work with at Conservation Alliance and when did it become okay to talk about those issues? Because for a while, it was uncomfortable to talk about the issues and now it’s the opposite.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:26:06):

Well, similar to what Jenn said, when did it become not okay to not talk about them is another way to think about that. And I thought about this, the term corporate social responsibility was coined in the 1950s and things really started ramping up in the 90s. So in some ways, these trends can be seen across many decades. But I think with the younger generations, coming in generation—the millennials and Generation Z—there are some statistics and maybe I’m repeating from the last seminar, but 64 percent of those two generations won’t take a job with a company that doesn’t have some kind of corporate social responsibility practices. 85 percent of Gen Z employees think that the companies that they work for have an obligation to solve social problems. And interestingly, customers wouldn’t care of about 74 percent of the brands that they are affiliated with would just disappear. And so presumably we wouldn’t want to be one of those brands. So we did a poll recently just within the outdoor industry trying to understand attitudes and behaviors within our industry around these issues as well as the election, what might motivate people to come to the polls.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:27:23):

And we found that about 80 percent of customers want to buy from companies whose values mirror their own. And it’s important for those consumers that they hear from the top. So, it shouldn’t feel—according to other research that we did—it shouldn’t feel like it’s just kind of a throwaway line on social. Statements coming from CEOs and backed up with action are important. So I think we’re all in very strong agreement here that these trends are only increasing and it’s only becoming more and more critical for businesses. And I also appreciate that when you’re a business owner just struggling to survive right now, this all might sound like just a bunch of additional stuff to do. And I appreciate that—we certainly appreciate that at the Conservation Alliance—but I think the lesson is it just has to be part of the business model, regardless of the environment.

Chris Davenport (00:28:25):

Well, I like the theme about just leading by example, whether you’re a big company CEO or a small retailer putting your money where your mouth is, I guess it might be, but just like standing up and leading for your employees. And Jenn, to you, Burton is a great example of that. Your founder, Jake and his wife Donna, have been so shiny examples of leading in that way. We began this webinar with a session about diversity. It was three weeks ago; we were discussing that as it pertains to sustainability and small businesses. How do goals and strategies for improving diversity align with goals and strategies for sustainability? Where do those two things cross over?

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:29:15):

Yeah. Sustainability is both about social and environmental responsibility and the intersections of the two. As mentioned earlier, there’s been a shift in expectations toward a comprehensive view of corporate responsibility across business practices. But that said, there’s also seemingly continued to be an outside focus on environmental responsibility. So environmental action, efficiencies, carbon reduction, environmental certifications, and also social impact—primarily through charitable giving, which of course is very important, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of the issue. So, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, businesses seemed to finally be taking notice that they need to meaningfully incorporate justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion into their practices. We cannot build sustainable companies, communities, and economies without ensuring fair treatment, equitable distribution of resources, access to opportunities, and representation. And so I think that I don’t have to say this is a big wake up moment for a lot of businesses. And I think it’s an incredibly important moment for businesses to be taking stock across all of their practices.

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:30:33):

One thing that Burton has done, which I think we have a few questions coming in that relate specifically about how small businesses can be taking action across environmental and social impact. And one thing that we found incredibly helpful is joining the B Corp community. So, B Corps are companies that are verified to be balancing profit with purpose. So they’re seeking to benefit workers, customers, community, and the environment through their business practices. And B Corps cross different industries,, businesses of all sizes and it seems like they’ve been growing very consistently through the pandemic even, which really speaks to the importance of responsible business practices. And to Kate’s point earlier, we really need to be working as communities in the business community to better our practices, to lean on one another, to help one another make change at an industry level, at a societal level.

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:31:39):

And so, one thing that I think that a lot of businesses could do looking at how they can better promote their own practices around diversity and other areas, is take the B Impact Assessment and really look at what is that gap. What is the best practice and where are you falling and what can you be taking action on in the immediate term? And there’s great resources available for free from the B Corp nonprofit B Lab and a number of other organizations.

Chris Davenport (00:32:09):

Yeah, thanks for bringing up B Corp, Jenn. Let’s throw up the B Corp information—the website in the chat so that all of you attendees can click on that if you want more information about B Corp. Jenn, to follow up: Can you provide some specific examples of times where your brand took a stand and how that might have actually helped with consumer loyalty or increasing revenue?

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:32:37):

Sure. I think we have been speaking out on climate action for a long time. We are a long-term partner of Protect Our Winters and very involved with them as a brand. But we had a moment last September when the global climate strikes were starting to get organized by the Fridays for Future Students around the world. And people were really starting to pay attention. And it was this moment as a brand where we had to decide—we promote our values, we offer opportunities for those customers that resonate with climate to take action with us, but are we willing to really put a stake in the sand? And we decided that we believe that the majority of our community would stand alongside us, and so we shut down the business around the world for 24 hours. We didn’t take sales, not even on Burton.com, and we opened up all of our stores and offices as action centers to help our communities, our employees, make signs, write texts, call your senator—really start to take action and join the strikes in their local areas.

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:33:52):

And I can tell you that we had sales losses that day for sure, but we felt confident that people would return to us at a later date to make those purchases; that we might even invite new customers into the brand as a result of our willingness to take a stand. And year to date, that was the most media attention that we’d earned as a brand. So for us, I would say that that really solidified our belief that we could put our values out front and our community would not only back us up, but join us.

Chris Davenport (00:34:29):

I have to ask what the vibe was like in the office when that decision came down. Like, “We’re going to shut down?” Was that scary? Were you wondering if this was going to be a total disaster?

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:34:44):

I think it might have been a little scary for people in sales roles. But the general vibe was, there was a lot of pride. A lot of people stopping me in the hallway to say, “I am so proud to work for this company.” And I think overall really positive and a lot of energy. And it also provided the opportunity; I feel very privileged to have sustainability in my title. It’s work I’m passionate about, I get to do it every day. But things like the climate strike and other ways of integrating sustainability throughout a business, especially in a smaller business where it’s necessary, really gives the opportunity for other employees to get involved. And so the climate strike was this opportunity for—it doesn’t matter what role you’re in, you could be in facilities, you could be in finance, you could be in sales or retail—you were also putting sustainability out front that day and getting paid for it as well.

Chris Davenport (00:35:39):

Yeah, that’s a great answer. Kate, I’m curious for 1% for the Planet: You work with so many brands. Do you have a similar example of one of your brand partners who did something outside the box?

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:35:53):

Yeah. Again, many of our brands do a great job with that and have examples across the country and across the world. I think the most striking one where we have the best data is from Patagonia in 2016 on Black Friday, which as you recall, 2016 was after a certain election had taken place. And similarly to what you were describing, Jenn, I think there was, “Should we sit down? Should we do this, do that?” And Patagonia went back and forth and 1% for the Planet one was, “We’re doing our job over here.” And then about five days before Black Friday, we got a call saying, “Hey, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to donate 100% of our sales to environmental nonprofits on Black Friday.” 100% of the sales on that day will go to environmental nonprofits. So we’re like, “Great, do it.” And they created a great little logo for the day and then it was off. And it was pretty amazing to see actually the sales exceeded projections by about five X.

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:36:59):

They predicted maybe $2 million in sales, it was $10 million in sales, it was about 70 percent new customers. And then there was the feeling of, “All right, that was a great day, but the holidays are going to just drop off.” And it just kept going. And so it was a really strong statement that really did bring in a lot of people. And we talked to a lot of our members. About 80 percent of the 1% for the Planet network is small businesses. So we were actively talking to members who were saying, “I can’t really do that. I can’t afford to not sell anything for a period of time.” And so, there are a lot of ways that people really creatively either identified certain products that they would promote and donate from that or they would take a stand in other ways, they would continue to sell but open their shops for organizing people to sign petitions or things like that.

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:37:51):

So there was a lot of action, but I think the Patagonia Black Friday example, just really brings home the fact that there is a time and a place when boldness can really be the best strategy, even if it’s a risk and does mean that in the short term, there’s a cost.

Chris Davenport (00:38:11):

Yeah, that’s a very good point. I think one statistic that you just mentioned that jumps out at me is 70% were new customers. So, in terms of building a brand base with new customers, that’s really incredible. Brady, a couple of questions for you now: One that I have and then one that’s come in through the chat. When it comes to taking a stand for public lands or climate or other sustainability issues, whatever it might be. In this day and age, it can often feel like it requires getting into maybe some partisan politics there, which is too bad and it can be risky, I guess particularly for small businesses. How can businesses get involved, speak to their customers and their consumers without getting partisan?

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:38:55):

That’s a great question and I think it is easy to feel. If you take a look at what’s going on, especially in national politics, I think thoughtful business owners might not want to touch that with a 10-foot pole. But I think it’s not the case that conservation—I’m going to speak to conservation issues since that’s what I know best and what we know best. It’s just not the case that it’s a partisan issue. While it is true that this current administration has done some unprecedentedly bad things to dismantle the bedrock environmental laws that have been the root of many of the gains that we have enjoyed since the middle of the last century. The truth is that President Trump signed the Land and Water Conservation Fund bill, the Great American Outdoors Act. And what does that tell us? That tells us that the calculus is now that conservation issues have been elevated to electoral issues. They’re important enough that they actually might move elections. So, that’s one indication that it’s a bipartisan issue. We did some research again on these things, we found that protecting public lands and waters—that concept isn’t partisan.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:40:12):

There’s a majority support in that from conservatives to independents to people who are further on the left. If you take a look at the spectrum of environmental issues, climate change continues to be somewhat politically polarized, but less so over time. What’s the key takeaway for businesses is that if you can speak with integrity and authenticity and you can speak using facts and to issues that are core to your brand and to your beliefs and your values, you’re going to be okay. And not only are you going to be okay, you’re going to benefit from that. And I think one of the things that we do with our member companies is help them on that path and try to help them find issues and messages that they can share or even maybe give them some advice.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:41:07):

One thing I want to mention, I’ll put this in the chat—we’re going to do a deeper dive on the polling results that might be interesting to some people on this webinar and that’s going to be at 10 AM on Aug. 27, we’re going to go over a webinar with our polling results and what people can do to drive their employees or even their customers to the polls, which I think is another nonpartisan act that people can do. One little quick sneak peek: About 78 percent of outdoor consumers are likely to go to the polls. But if you take a look at what does that also say—22 percent are not very likely to go to the polls, which is about 25 million people. And some of those people, especially younger people in urban areas, are actually looking to brands for some indication of what to do. And so again, the takeaway here is that brands—not only you have a responsibility, but an opportunity to actually have a real impact. Anyway, those are some thoughts.

Chris Davenport (00:42:07):

Yeah, those are great. And you mentioned that 22% in the outdoor industry, that is a big number. And those margins, if we go back to 2016, would have completely changed the election. So, I know at Protect Our Winters, they’re very focused on states with large outdoor recreation communities on leveraging everybody: “Your message is well received, get out there and vote.” It’s a very good point. And a follow-up question that came through the chat: What do you think the implications are, Brady, of a Biden-Harris win? And what can businesses do right now to potentially put themselves in position to take advantage of those changes that might come with that new administration?

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:42:49):

Well, let me say this. As a 501—

Chris Davenport (00:42:53):

Try not to get political.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:42:56):

No, no. As a 501c3 organization I can’t get involved in electoral politics. So I encourage everyone to vote, I encourage everyone to be informed. That being said, of course we’re thinking about what the differences might be between a Biden and a Trump administration. And we don’t know all the details of what a Biden administration might look like, but we know that we’ve got public statements that he and his administration would protect some of the most important landscapes that we’re interested in protecting, specifically the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the [inaudible 00:43:29] and other things. And so I think it’s safe to say that that administration would be better caretakers frankly of our bedrock environmental laws. In terms of what that might mean for businesses and the regulatory environment, I can’t tell you. When it comes to trade policy, that is one of the more complicated things that you can wade into and that is out of my area of expertise. Maybe that wasn’t what the question was, but I just had to put that out there.

Chris Davenport (00:43:58):

No, fair enough, fair enough. It kind of reminded me actually—I wanted to have an offline conversation with you in the future about the Pebble Mine in Alaska. Something I’m interested in what’s going on there. Well, yes. All right. So this is a question sort of a broad question for all of you: Throughout this four part webinar series, we’ve been exploring this theme of “building back better,” Jenn, you mentioned it earlier. And that’s included everything from improving diversity and racial issues at small businesses to why climate and other causes can be an essential part of your business platform, just to adopting day to day operations in line with the pandemic and why businesses need to pay attention to sustainability. So from your perspective, what are the top maybe one or two things, little insights that you’ve seen, that you think can help small businesses right now? Jenn, let’s start with you.

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:44:48):

Thanks, Chris. Yeah, I would add a word to that phrase—I would say “build back better together.”

Chris Davenport (00:44:53):

I like it.

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:44:56):

The business with the customer in mind and to Brady’s point, really thinking about what authentically you can speak to, you can promote action on. Nonpartisan issues like getting out to vote. But it’s also as businesses. And now that we have an audience coming from a number of different industries, a number of different business sizes on the line. And so I would say, for Burton’s part, we’ve really been able to grow our responsible business practices and continue to do so through collaboration and through learning from other businesses. And so whether that’s through your local chapter of business for social responsibility or through partnerships with groups like Protect Our Winters, 1% for the Planet, also at the Conservation Alliance. So I think really reaching out to learn from others and lean on others is incredibly important because if you try to go it alone, especially as a small business, it’s going to be an uphill battle that’s unnecessary. Especially when it comes to responsible practices, people are incredibly willing to share information, to share resources and to help lift one another up.

Chris Davenport (00:46:09):

Great. Thank you for that, Jenn. Kate, how about from your perspective at 1%?

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:46:12):

Yeah, I guess two things come to mind for me. One is I think this challenging time is actually a time where we’re having an opportunity to create some convergence around issues that I think it will serve us really well to carry forward. And specifically I think moving forward it will not be an option to see sustainability as not inclusive of environment and justice for all people. And so I think really stepping into the opportunity to build those connections. So I think as small businesses looking for that authentic cause, I think there’s that really great broad territory to move into that intersection where you can connect social and environmental issues in a really meaningful way. And then the other thing that is to me always really important with any big important thing in life is to figure out one step that you can do first, and do that. And break it down to size, because it can be really overwhelming and it can also feel expensive and daunting and you have so many other issues to deal with, particularly as a small business in these times.

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:47:26):

So taking one step sets you up to then take the next step. So I think relieving yourself of the sense that you have to do it all at once and creating authentic ways that you can just figure out, “What’s that first step that I’m going to take that will then get me connected to some other people that I can take further steps with?” So, that’s one of my beliefs. And I think that’s really important right now.

Chris Davenport (00:47:50):

That’s great, Kate. Thank you. And we’ve got some great questions that have come in on the Q&A, but Brady, before we get to that, a couple little insights from you?

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:47:57):

Yeah, I got two quick ones. I don’t know about you all, but this has been a trying time. And one of the ways I’ve gotten sane is just by going out and enjoying some of the spaces that are close to where I live. And so I think one big takeaway for me is just how critically important it is that public lands, public spaces are important to our mental and physical health right now. So, I just think businesses, if you haven’t done so, just paying attention to what’s in your backyard, what are the issues? Are there things that you can shed light on where you are is a great first step. Another step that doesn’t cost any money, but can be a little bit of a hassle because there’s a lot of inertia around this: Let’s take a look at where you’re banking. If you have values as a company and you have your assets at a bank that is completely antithetical to those values, maybe you should think about that.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:48:48):

It’s something certainly that we’re thinking about at the Conservation Alliance. And I think it’s something meaningful. I think that’s an element of corporate social responsibility that is getting more and more attention, especially with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and most banks have been taking a public stand that they won’t publicly fund oil and gas exploration there. So I would just really encourage businesses to take a look at their banking practices.

Chris Davenport (00:49:13):

That’s a really good point, Brady. And I have to say just on a personal note, when I started looking into the money pipeline that’s feeding fossil fuel industry and the few big banks that are actually doing that, I found out that my mortgage and my credit card was with one of those banks. So this spring, I actually moved all of that to the Bank of the West in their 1% for the Planet account. So, that personally felt like a really good move. So, anyway. We’ve got some great questions coming in. Brady, I want to stick with you because this is a question directed at you: We’d love to hear how the Conservation Alliance has tried to persuade business owners to partner with an org like yours. What do you do to persuade businesses to get involved? What pressure points do you try to use?

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:50:00):

Anything. All the elements of sales, right? No, I think that’s an interesting question. I’ll keep this very brief. There’s two elements for programming. We give money away. One of our key insights is that we think that in the environmental landscape, these small, highly focused, grassroots environmental organizations are relatively underfunded. So you can write big checks to the big NGOs and that’s great. But we think that our members get a huge bang for their buck through our grant program 100 percent pass-through and we vet these highly effective, very efficient grassroots organizations. And so we think that if you’re a company that cares a lot about these issues, you get a heck of a lot of value and actually don’t have to do the investment of infrastructure and potentially staff on your own. So that’s one selling point, but what we find is that by participating in the grant program, companies start to get engaged, they’re starting to think about issues. And then the threshold issue and hopefully we start doing this again post-COVID.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:51:05):

One threshold issue is when someone from a company comes to one of our clients in Washington, DC, suits up or pantsuits up or whatever they’re wearing, and shows up in front of one of the representatives and starts to try to advocate for an issue and realizes, “Wait a second, I can do this. And the way that things change in Washington is by people like me caring, paying attention and showing up.” And so for us, it’s a one-two. I think the grant program is really accessible and very safe frankly, way. And then as people get more engaged and finally come to Washington with us, we find that we have got a lot of these companies really deeply involved. So thank you for the question.

Chris Davenport (00:51:48):

That was a great question. Kate, for you since you mentioned Patagonia and their Black Friday event, we have a question from Jonathan: How did Patagonia advertiser communicate that Black Friday concept and action to reach on that particular day so many new customers? Do you have any idea of the strategy behind that?

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:52:10):

Well, as I mentioned, it was pulled together very last minute—less than a week. So it was largely I think a network effect in terms of social sharing. So, we put it out through our channels, they put it out through their channels and it got shared from there. So I think it was largely a social campaign. Patagonia might have a slightly different answer; I wasn’t as close to those details, but given the short timeline, it’s really just leveraging existing social channels, primarily.

Chris Davenport (00:52:44):

Great, thanks. Certainly a powerful social voice that they have there at Patagonia. Jenn, here’s a question for you: What kind of tactics have you taken to get P&L owners in your company thinking about advocating for sustainability and thinking more about cause?

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:53:05):

That’s a difficult one. I think it really varies by what you’re pushing for. If you go to the very basic risk lens, you can really look at things as simple as compliance. There’s a lot of companies that aren’t even going to the level of compliance for social and environmental impact right now. And so let’s look five years out. Regulations are changing—they’re becoming stricter. What is it going to cost us to be reactive versus being proactive right now? So, really looking out a few years definitely helps. But that’s the more negative view of how to approach sustainability. So on the positive side, I think it’s also looking at—you might need to question what your positioning is as a brand. So who are you benchmarking against? So if you’re still benchmarking on cost for a product or service that is against a competitive set that you don’t really want to be sitting next to, if you want to go to the next level, you really need to be looking at that and benchmarking against that versus just looking at what are the increased costs immediately.

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:54:14):

I know that can be incredibly hard in the face of a pandemic. I think this is a really good time, though, to reconsider how business is being carried out, period. If you had asked us to cut our travel budgets last year, everyone would be aghast. We don’t get to go fly and see the factory and touch the product and make sure that we’re going to the events and the conferences. Nobody’s going to conferences right now. So, that cost has just been pulled. So rethinking how are we actually—I’m not saying we shouldn’t be traveling specifically—but how are we approaching business? This is an opportunity right now to rethink that. Well, everyone’s looking at their balance sheet, a little bit worried. And I also think there needs to be an element of creativity to it. In my role in sustainability at Burton, I don’t determine exactly how we meet our goals, I help to set the strategy and partner with colleagues throughout the company to help us get there.

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:55:14):

But by setting goals 3, 5, 10 years out, you’re giving people targets to work toward and they’ll find creative ways to help get there. You don’t need to have the answer today for what’s going to happen five years from now—just checking the feasibility of it. So I think just bringing both some real numbers to the table. The costs are important, but also making sure that you’re looking at it through the lens of the opportunity and the long-term feasibility.

Chris Davenport (00:55:43):

That’s a great answer. Thank you. This one’s for all of you: And I think that there’s a lot of young people out there who look at the outdoor industry and think, “That’s where I want to work. That looks fun, it’s healthy, it’s active, it’s a great industry to work in.” So, this question is: What advice can you give someone who dreams of working for a company that is a leader in corporate social responsibilities? And again, it’s not just the outdoor industry, it could be any industry. Do you have any advice for perhaps a young person who’s interested in working for a company that really shares a strong value in corporate social responsibility? Kate, you want to start off?

Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet (00:56:21):

Sure. I guess the main thing I would say is figure out what you love and what you want to do all day. If you’re interested in accounting or if you want to be more on the marketing side, all of those skills are needed in industries that are aligned with your values. And those industries need you to have those skills. So, think of the ways that you can bring your passions in your skills to the table with the companies that you want to work with. And I think you do want that marriage of passion and skill because you do want to help these companies or nonprofits to be the best—not the best in comparison just to that particular industry, but the best of all the rest. So, having that connection between the best skills and the best passion. So I think that fortunately there are many opportunities out there now working at places like Burton, I’m sure you guys are mobbed with applicants anytime you have an opening, but I think that’s true across many of these companies. So, that skill and passion combination would be where I would come out.

Chris Davenport (00:57:35):

That resonates with me. Passion is everything and I have three young—they’re not that young—three kids and I’m just like, “I don’t care what you guys love as long as you love something, it just really will take you far in your life, whether it’s in business or personal life.” Brady or Jenn, do you want to comment at all on that question?

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (00:57:53):

Yeah, I’ll chip in. I agree with the skills that Kate mentioned. Just be really good at something that the company or the organization that you want to be part of needs. That’s one thing, but the other thing … And so that gets a certain threshold, but when there’s 20 resumes in front of me, I’m looking for evidence of value alignment. That this isn’t something that occurred to the person two days ago. Are there personal activities, are there volunteer activities, is there evidence that we have deep value alignment? Maybe there’s some affiliation with our organization previously. That isn’t mandatory, but once you’ve gotten in the door with your skills, I’m—as someone who’s hiring occasionally, looking for evidence of that deep value alignment. And because that’s something as an employer, you can’t really fix. There’s a lot of things you can make course adjustments, but if your team isn’t aligned with the values that your organization or company stands for, that’s a hard one to fix.

Chris Davenport (00:58:58):

Jenn, any thoughts on that one?

Jenn Swain, Burton (00:59:00):

Sure, yeah. I would say, there is no perfection in sustainability. If we are successful, we’re moving the benchmark on ourselves and the industry forward. And there are always going to be issues to solve. So really looking for people that are able to identify an issue and propose a solution and really be proactive about that, who’s really interested in creating change and has demonstrated that in their experience. And then I would also say, think about what role you might currently be in because there might be a way for you to help your own company become more sustainable and to find meaningful work through that. And it’s especially true when you’re already within a business, you already have so much knowledge of how it functions, what the challenges are. So you are incredibly valuable already and so more like pitching how to bring that into your role. I think a lot of people have found great success in that, including Allie Kenny, who started our sustainability department here in 2012 and is still with the company.

Chris Davenport (01:00:07):

That’s great. [crosstalk 01:00:07].

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (01:00:08):

And one other quick thing.

Chris Davenport (01:00:09):

Go ahead.

Brady Robinson, Conservation Alliance (01:00:10):

I want to say one thing: Specifically with the outdoor industry. I think there’s the sense that it’s kind of insular, we hire from within and it’s a club. And I think in light of all the things that are happening in 2020, there are a lot of brands that are trying really hard to pull new perspectives and hire from new communities and communities that aren’t as well represented in our industry. So, I would just say that one other additional thing is if you don’t feel like you fit into this industry, please apply—please. There’s a lot of companies that are going to likely be very open to your candidacy. And I think there’s also companies that are truly embracing diversity and understanding that different life experiences, different opinions coming from different backgrounds is just a good business decision. And so I just encourage everybody listening to consider that too.

Chris Davenport (01:01:00):

That’s a really good point, Brady. And I think that ties together this overall conversation that a lot of these decisions around sustainability and economics are good business decisions, even if they don’t feel like it in the short term. And with that said, I want to thank you guys. Thanks, Jenn, thanks, Brady, thanks, Kate. This has been a great webinar. I want to thank all of our attendees, this is going to conclude the fourth and final webinar in our four-part series Navigating Change, but I want to remind you that all of these sessions have been recorded and they’re available to watch on the website, which is sustainablerecovery.us. I want to thank Bank of the West and SIA—Snowsports Industries America—as well as Protect Our Winters, who were our presenting sponsors for this series. And just a big thanks out to all of you, our panelists that joined us each week, and to our presenting sponsors once again. It’s only when we can all band together as a collective industry, people for action, that we move the needle on the issues we care about and these organizations do it as well.

Chris Davenport (01:02:03):

So, thanks so much to all of you. If you have follow-up questions, definitely send them in on the website. There’s a bunch of resources on the chat right now that you can click on for further reading. So with that said, I’ve been your moderator, it’s been an honor. I’m Chris Davenport, thank you guys so much and I wish you your health and safety, get outdoors and play as much as possible. Thanks again, everybody. Have a great day.

 

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