What does successful sustainability marketing look like in 2023? With Sustainable eCommerce’s Giles Smith (episode 415)

Giles Smith is the host of the Sustainable eCommerce Podcast and eCommerce coach helping sustainable brands to build and scale profitably. He’s been in eCommerce since 2015, co-founded one of Australia’s leading eCommerce marketing agencies, grown an 8 figures SaaS business…. AND created THREE online brands from scratch including a mid-7-figures brand with retailer distribution in SIXTEEN countries.

Giles Smith Sustainable eCom on eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast

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Why Sustainability in eCommerce is So Important

With a PhD in Earth Sciences, Giles always knew he wanted to do something to help the world, but it did take a while for him to get to where he is.

He built eCommerce brands over the years but realized he wanted to do more in making a positive impact in the world while helping brands grow.

Understanding that governments won’t be able to fix the problem, as well as charities and big corporates, Giles concluded that it’s the consumers who can actually make a difference, and it’s the brands that can educate them and drive them to make the decisions that would be right for the planet.

So he set out to help brands communicate their sustainability messages clearly to get their customers on board with what they’re trying to achieve.

The Quickest Sustainability Change You can Make to Your Business

The easiest way an eCommerce brand can incorporate sustainability and make an impact is through their packaging.

A lot of packaging suppliers now use sustainable materials, so it’s a shift that would be easy enough for brands to get into. The first place to start is with your shipment packaging, followed by your primary and secondary packaging.

Shifting from Purpose 1.0 to Purpose 2.0

In looking at building sustainability impact directly into business models, Giles came up with Purpose 1.0 and Purpose 2.0.

Purpose 1.0 is where brands take a portion of their profit and donate it to a cause, while Purpose 2.0 builds impact in two ways.

  • The first is impact through customers using your products. One example Giles gives is the brand Zero Co., which makes cleaning products out of recycled ocean plastics.
  • The second is impact through the order interactions. An example of this would be the idea of planting a tree for every order or making a donation for every purchase.

For Giles, brands should be shifting from Purpose 1.0 to Purpose 2.0 to create more impact when it comes to sustainability.

The 3 Pillars of Active Transparency in Marketing

Giles says transparency is an essential element for anyone trying to claim sustainability. And in his analysis of sustainable brands, he has come up with the three pillars of active transparency.

  • The first one is about mission updates. As a founder, you have to personally tell your audience what you’re doing, what you’re trying to achieve, and how your customers can help you get to where you want to go on your sustainability journey.
  • The second layer has to do with being able to show or demonstrate to the customer the impact they have with every interaction they have with your brand and how adding up their activities actually makes a difference. There are apps that can help you do this and share details that puts the customer at the center. It’s a subtle but powerful message that the customer is the hero in this story.
  • The third and last layer recognizes the fact that sustainability is a journey and no one can do it perfectly. The science of sustainability is constantly evolving, so invite your customers to join you on your journey towards achieving sustainability.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Understand your customers and what they need for both their functional and sustainability problems. When you understand that in a fundamental way, you then overlay that with the reality of the current situation in the world. Then revisit this every quarter and make sure your messaging is aligned with what’s happening.

Tool Top Tip

  • While Giles and his team use apps like Asana and Trello, one of the best things he uses is a whiteboard wall where he writes all of his strategies. Another is a weekly planner that gives him instant visibility on the things he needs to get done.

Growth Top Tip

  • First, you need profit and cash flow to get you from a hundred to a thousand orders. Second, you need repeat business. The way to measure it, Giles suggests, is using ACV or annual customer value.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • 359 Our New Net Zero Focus
  • 377: Taking a Sustainable Products brand to 2million+ customers with Jennie Perry from Grove Collaborative
  • 388: Taking a sustainable, money saving brand to £5m a year with Helen Rankin from Cheeky Wipes
  • Double Your Shopify Sales every Year with Story and Product – SOLIOS watches’ Samuel Leroux (episode 403)

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