Some(green)thing for Everyone

Originally posted on October 21, 2011. Valuable feedback from two different professional marketing consultants last week made me pause, and re-think how we are designing Working Wonders to serve all of our stakeholders as a business concept and  a benefit corporation change agent.

Natural Marketing Institute’s great research about who’s buying green products now led us to design Working Wonders, on the business concept side, in a way that it clearly serves the needs of the green consumers who are most able and willing to prioritize buying sustainable for the greatest diversity of products.

In my day-to-day quick elevator speech interactions, I identify the Working Wonders clientele as the same people who are grocery shopping at the new generation of healthier grocery stores. While it is true that is the group that gets the most excited about Working Wonders, feedback from one of the consultants has made me want to work harder to get out the larger concept and core messaging of Working Wonders as a benefit corporation.

Doing that effectively will allow anyone who wants a green economy to see ways they can support a sorely needed new generation of sustainable home and lifestyle retail. Sound idealistic? Maybe, but entrepreneurs need to be at least a little idealistic to do what we do in the first place.

Unfortunately, before we can grow up this new generation of sustainable home and lifestyle retail, we have to bring it into existence. Right now, it’s not easy to access vetted green home and lifestyle products.

I know this because during the past six years I’ve listened to countless stories from people about not being able to find or distinguish green products in the stores where they shop. They also relate their frustrations about not having the time to do a masters level research project every time they need to buy something for their home.  If we are supposed to be transitioning to greener homes and lifestyles, leading green consumers have the right to expect the retail industry will vet and provide transparency, as best they can, regarding the green attributes of their products.

Unfortunately – and here’s more about what I was getting at in the last post – the reigning brands of home and lifestyle retail are not benefit corporations. They started and have become very successful in ways that are not conducive to changing gears. It would be difficult for these brand giants to take on any kind of leadership role of championing sustainability with substantive gains in their core product mixes in industry sectors like furniture, bedding, mattresses, window treatments, and in regard to how they function business-wise.

The common business practices of these brands, from my perspective, actually have a lot more in common with theatrical productions than they do sustainable retailing. They go to great lengths, like theater, to produce exciting experiences for us on their store “stages” when we go shopping. And, like good theater goers, it hasn’t been our place, or seemed relevant to anything, to know exactly what’s going on back stage. In the retail store context, the “back stage” equates to “supply chains.”

So the supply chains of products – how and where they are sourced, produced, packaged, and shipped – have usually been hidden from our view.  This has enabled retailers to easily use “blind supply chains” as a way of gaining and maintaining an advantage over their competition.  Unfortunately, these blind supply chains hide from our view a lot of practices most people would find objectionable, practices they would not want to support with their consumer dollars.

Working Wonders is at the forefront of modeling the kinds of transparent supply chains people want now, with no compromise in “the shopping experience.” More next time, from the benefit corporation perspective of this “nothing like it exists” home and lifestyle destination where, if I have my way, there WILL be something for everyone.

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