Five ways retailers are using Black Friday to champion CSR

Today (23 November) marks Black Friday - but while the majority of companies and consumers conform to this spending spree, a select few a using the occasion to champion resource efficiency, social sustainability and environmental conservation. Here, edie outlines how five companies that are turning that trend on its head.

edie has rounded up five ways retailers are using Black Friday to promote brand purpose beyond their products

edie has rounded up five ways retailers are using Black Friday to promote brand purpose beyond their products

While the holiday was originally intended as a time for American workers to spend away from the office with their families, the day is now synonymous with discounted retail shopping and hyper-consumerism, with around 30% of the US’ annual retail sales falling between Black Friday and Christmas Eve.

And the trend towards celebrating the occasion by shopping has been gathering pace in the UK as well, with Brits expected to collectively spend £10.4bn during the Black Friday sales, up 3.1% on 2017.

Indeed, this must be a time of year which has many a sustainability professional clutching their head with despair, watching progress towards their brand’s resource efficiency pledges take a hit from customers keen to buy beyond the point of necessity.

But as big-name brands including Amazon, Argos, Next and Currys PC World prepare to launch strings of discounts, other retailers have taken a different approach and are using the occasion to champion resource efficiency, social sustainability and environmental conservation. With this in mind, edie has rounded up five ways retailers are using Black Friday to promote brand purpose beyond their products.  

Patagonia’s petition drive

US-based outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia is often cited as an exemplary activist brand, having previously used its platform to run adverts encouraging customers not to buy new clothes and to purchase nothing on Black Friday.

And last year, the company marked the occasion by donating 100% of the profits made on Black Friday to grassroots charities across the US – up from 1% on all other days.

For 2018, the brand is marking the event by encouraging customers to sign petitions calling for their local Governments to implement policies that champion climate action, social equality and water stewardship – rather than making a purchase.

Each of the company’s retail stores has partnered with an NGO that is lobbying for positive change in the local area – from Friends of the Earth’s anti-fracking campaign in Manchester to Free Rivers Coalition’s call for more hydropower plans in Cortina. Awareness for these initiatives is being raised through window takeovers, in-store events, social media content and informational emails.

Pukka Herbs’ reforestation donations

Organic tea brand Pukka Herbs has been dominating headlines over the past week or so, after announcing that it had set an approved science-based target in line with a 1.5C trajectory.

Since then, the company has pledged to donate 100% of the profits it makes on Black Friday 2018 to charity TreeSisters, which supports reforestation initiatives across the world.

Planting around two million trees every year, TreeSisters supports ecosystem preservation across eight of the world’s tropical forests, including those in Cameroon and the Atlantic rainforest corridor.

“In the cases of man-made deforestation, we are destroying the very ecosystems that nature has designed for cleaning up excess carbon dioxide that is warming our world,” Pukka Herbs' chief executive Karel Vandamme said.

“As highlighted in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, unprecedented changes are required to reduce our carbon impact.”

TAMGA Designs’ ‘Forest Friday’ event

In a similar move to Pukka Herbs, ethical clothing brand TAMGA Designs is offering a 25% discount coupon to online customers who agree to donate 25% of the profits raised from their purchase to reforestation and forest conservation initiatives.

The money raised will be donated the Sumatran Orangutan Society, which is working to plant trees in Sumatra’s rainforest region, where forest loss is being driven by the growth of the fashion, palm oil and paper industries.

Overall, TAMGA Designs is hoping to donate at least $1,000 to the cause by the end of Cyber Monday (November 26), and estimates that each purchase will fund the planting of four new saplings.

TAMGA Designs’ co-foudner Yana Barankin said she launched the initiative in the wake of recent research revealing that more than 150 million trees are logged every year for the production of cellulosic fibres, with the majority of this resource then being sold to the fashion industry.

More widely, around 2.4 billion trees are thought to be logged annually for the benefit of the packaging and fashion industries.

LDC’s ‘anti-Black Friday’ pop-up shop

At first glance, a pop-up shop may not seem like the most obvious or impactful way of discouraging consumerism and promoting reuse, recycling and resource efficiency.

However, financial giant LDC Managers has used the Black Friday platform to launch a “shop with a difference”, showcasing products from ethical and sustainable fashion brands without big discounts.

The company’s temporary Leicester Square store is showcasing ethically-made clothes, accessories and jewellery from designers such as Gung Ho, Vildnis and Danny Lee, with each brand permitted to showcase a maximum of 15 full-price items.  

The store, which aims to encourage shoppers to lead the drive for greater transparency from large fashion brands, is open until the end of Cyber Monday.

Just A Card’s ‘Indie Week’ campaign

Aside from the negative environmental and social ramifications of Black Friday-led hyper-consumerism, small retailers have often argued that the event serves to detract sales from local businesses with smaller negative impacts.

In a bid to reverse this trend, London-based art and design store Just A Card has launched a campaign encouraging consumers to stop mass-buying goods produced by corporates and instead choose gifts from their local SMEs.

Called “Indie Week”, the scheme has garnered more than 50,000 followers on social media. Indeed, the level of awareness surrounding the campaign is such that more than 10,000 British and Irish retailers are now displaying its logo in their shop windows.

“The Just A Card sticker in a window is a call to arms,” Just A Card founder Sarah Hamilton told The Guardian.

“We’re doing something about what we see as a really big problem, and we want to remind everyone that shopping small is a must this Christmas.”

Sarah George


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