This is part 2 of our online web event “How can online store technology help to save the rainforests?” with Netguru. In the first section, One Tribe CEO Ric Porteus delved deep into the company’s foundations. Now, he’s telling us more about branding, online store technology, and how One Tribe marketed itself to become the team they are today.
But first, credit is given where credit is due – to the One Tribe partners that have been with us from the beginning. They make and continue to make the work we’re doing a possibility.
Netguru’s Senior Outbound Executive and Disruption Talks Host – Filip Sobiecki kicks off the discussiong
Filip: So, speaking of the companies that you partner with, 2 weeks ago we spoke with a founder of a company that’s a little bit like Revolut but sustainable in terms of where the money goes. He told us about the decision-making framework they use when it comes down to choosing who he partners with and who he doesn’t.
Could we do a similar exercise for One Tribe- what makes you tick when you see a partner and what partner is perhaps not the ideal one?
Ric: In terms of client partners or in terms of conservation partners?
Filip: I think answers to both would be great but I’m pretty sure that on the conservation part there are no bad partners in Germany.
Ric: There is! There can be. I’ll go both ways and dig into it a little bit. So, I’ll give you a broad scope of some clients that have joined us right now. These are eCommerce. They’re B2C-focused. They’re generally consumer goods, predominantly fashion brands, and sustainable in many ways.
So their eco-conscious brands, which means either they started out to be a sustainable brand so their entire supply chain is focused on renewable fabrics, reusable fabrics or it’s 100% recycled plastic products, etc. They can’t just be creating destructive products that end up in landfills.
We sort of analyze who wants to join the tribe and we’re open to everybody. They go through the sign-up process that flags up to let us know. So if someone from BP or Shell Petrol joined and they wanted to connect their petrol car garage or something like that, saving trees every time they sell litre of petrol then that’s not gonna work out for us. We’re not going to accept anything like that. That’s a complete contrast to what we’re doing.
Now if Tesla wants to join then happy days. “Every Tesla saves a million trees, now that would be phenomenal! We certainly would take Elon Musk’s hand, so yeah, we really are open to anybody who has that eco-conscious mindset. And it could be the case of a traditional business that’s been operating for years but that wants to move in that direction.
I understand they’ve got a carbon footprint as all of us do. I mean the only true way to stop and get rid of your carbon footprint is to close your business. That’s it. If you want to be completely sustainable shut your business. But obviously, that’s not going to happen, so what we look at is what type of businesses are they, and do they fit with us? Is it the same vibe? And are they serving the same audiences?
To be quite honest with you, probably near 70% of consumer-focused fashion brands are probably now laser-focused on improving their supply chain. Burberry and Prada, I think 3 years ago, were burning all their products.
Now they’re recycling. To burn all of their unused products and their returns is so insane. But that’s the mindset of these big brands who are realizing that consumers are desperate and they want them to take action. So you’ve got like 78% of customers (what we are aware of) that want brands to take climate action.
They want to shop more sustainably and what we see is about 5.6 times higher growth on sustainably marketed products. So that demand generation’s there and we’re tapping into that, and we look at all different types of brands.
Some of the new ones we have got are Traffic People. We’ve got Goose Studios, our first brand, which makes 100% organic cotton t-shirts. They started out with that intention from day one. Mela Comfort is a weighted blanket brand. It’s been fantastic and the guys have grown incredibly well. But they’re now working on the supply chain, so they’re changing all the product ranges, packaging, shipping items, etc.
So it’s people and business owners who are eco-conscious and who are willing to make a long-term change for the future. Brought into alignment with the United Nations Sustainability Goals with some climate action incentives. So those are our ideal brand partners that we’re looking for.
We work with a small number of partners and over a decade we’ve been doing this in different shapes and forms. We’ve always worked in different types of partnerships so you’ve got REDD+ which is the United Nations Red Plus scheme. We’ve been involved in land protection, deforestation protection (that’s carbon credit backed) and then we have the Rainforest Trust who we predominantly work with.
They’re not in the carbon credit industry, which is what’s preferable to us when deciding we wanted to work with them. They work with NGOs on the ground and in Peru for example, with an organisation called CEDIA they are working with indigenous tribes to regenerate large parts of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. They are having a profound impact and the level of climate action they are actually making with the indigenous is incredible.
They’ll go and connect with say 200 indigenous tribes in an area. It could be half the size of Poland for example and what they do is they find those tribes in high-risk areas where the land isn’t titled. Traditionally these tribes have been there for generations so to have a piece of paper that stands up in court to say they own that land is very alien to them.
It doesn’t exist and that’s the loophole where illegal loggers can come in and they can check who owns this land. If nobody owns it it’s free to deforest in their eyes. And so that is exactly what happens.
The Rainforest Trust solves this problem by uniting with local groups together and then funding the legal costs to have their lands ‘title deeded’. Achieved by working as a financially backed consortium. More than that though, the local communities are trained to understand the value of their land and to understand how to legally challenge back anyone who encroaches it again.
For example, if a logging organization tried harvesting in the land, they can now legally fight that, and they can go to their local government, then the national government to challenge it. That’s the kind of partnership we live and breathe now. We are focused purely on these kinds of partnerships.
Carbon credits are very much something from the 1990s. It’s a great thing but they are in very short supply and there are issues with the scheme. The demand for land protection and climate action now far outweighs the supply of carbon credits.
We can go and buy a carbon credit for protected land in Para and Brazil but that’s been protected for years if not decades. It’s not protecting the endangered land. It’s just maintaining what’s already there.
For us and our conservation partners, we’re concerned about the land that is ‘high risk’ and unprotected. The last remaining rainforest. We work predominantly with partners such as Rainforest Trust who have been operating for 30 years.
An amazing statistic they came out with recently is that 93 percent of all land that they’ve protected over 30 years is still fully protected. A mind-blowing statistic considering the amount of commitment that takes. These guys are phenomenal, completely trustworthy, and transparent. They are a 501c3 non-profit so everything is available to see.
Working with such predominant partners are the reasons why we’ve followed a similar direction. We only want to work with the best, most trustworthy, and transparent companies. For us, that’s the Rainforest Trust, The CEDIA organization, and several others.
Filip: Speaking of blown minds, I’m just as mad and sad about the fact that there are illegal loggers and the concept of a tribe not understanding the legal aspect. At the same time, I’m really glad that there are people who are making sure that this doesn’t happen so thank you for that.
You mentioned Millennials and Gen Z. It’s probably not a long shot to say that these are the age groups that are most aware and active in terms of environmental sustainability. By that I mean understanding the importance and doing something about it.
What about the other generations how do we speak to them and help them recognize the importance of deforestation and get them to take part in making a difference?
Ric: Well, the way we look at this is Gen Z and Millennials combined are accountable for about 90 percent of all buying power. Telling their parents what they want taps into the older generations. Now, for One Tribe, our concept of this is- we know we can speak to that audience.
We know we are talking to the converted generation already. The generations above are aware of it but they weren’t brought up like Millennials and Gen Z. They don’t understand it.
The way One Tribe works is we tap into the movement. ‘The Attenborough Effect’ is what we call it- after David Attenborough and the movement that he created with his TV series Blue Planet and Planet earth etc. So what we do is speak to the youth since they have the buying power. That then translates higher up to the older generations.
When we first started it was slightly different; we were speaking to older organizations with CEO’s or directors in their late 50s and 60s. They’ve got a different mindset to say baby boomers so what we did is work in a way that focuses on them (the baby boomers) instead.
If somebody joins One Tribe and they buy a pair of vegan shoes from Koi Footwear (one of our brands that is part of the Boohoo group) they will see that they saved 25 trees through One Tribe.
They’ll learn about One Tribe straight away and the concept is that if they’re not in an eco-conscious place of work where their boss isn’t equally conscious they can recommend One Tribe to the boss and say “Hey this would be good for our business” or “Check this out we should be doing this” or “What are we doing for climate action?”
We instigate that message at Gen Z level who then turn around to their boss or managers to say this could be cool for us. Which in turn pushes that education message further up the line. Especially if they’re not eco-conscious or from a generation that’s not necessarily focused on climate change so that’s how we try and drive that up.
It’s the voice of the youth. They can educate upwards and that’s our approach. That’s not the only approach that you can do but for us, that’s the one that works and that’s our message.
Filip: That’s a wonderful response. I really like it. It’s a very clever solution. You empower the largest number of people with the loudest voice and they become your ambassadors.
Ric: From the last calculations which was in December (2020) and taking into account from January… we’re well over 4 million.
That’s on the new products. Over the years I would say probably several tens of millions. With previous agency work bringing brands on to donate directly etc.
The goal for us is very simple. We want 100,000 global businesses engaging millions of their customers to save billions of trees. That might sound lofty but actually it’s like all SaaS business. Once you get it right you get your product market fit and you can scale that and then get that reach. We believe we’ll save our first billion trees within the first three years of operations.
Filip: You just said it’s a lofty goal- I disagree. We love big goals over at Net Guru. One of our plans is to impact one billion people positively with our software so we are right there with you.
How does one tribe global actually work?
How are you sure that the trees are really saved?
Ric: Okay so the way we work is we gamify rainforest protection with the brands.
“Join our newsletter and save 10 trees.” “If you buy this product we’ll save 100 trees today. “
So we give them a marketing opportunity to drive this attention. Most of the brands want to do this from a climate action perspective some of the brands want to do it from a conversion perspective so that’s the online store technology we provide.
Our API system processes that every time an order is placed it’s 5 or 10 trees that then come back to us in a ledger (according to what’s been selected by the customer). Then what we do is at the end of the month we bill on a monthly basis and we invoice. That goes directly to us straight through to the rainforest organizations.
Let’s take the Rainforest Trust for example. A transaction on our website of around 17 pence will save 25 trees which sits in approximately 100 meters of rainforest. That’s passed through and goes straight to Rainforest Trust or CEDIA to protect an area. It’s a small figure so they will co-fund alongside many other organizations to raise the investment to lock down and protect that area.
Then what happens is if it’s a title D project or a land purchase project depends on what they’re working on at the time, they will have that area protected and it’s done by boundaries.
Like anybody who owns a plot of land, there are boundary lines to that land. Within that boundary is a certain number of hectares owned- that’s their plot and that’s signing a title deed so that’s how it works.
The money funnels through our brand to clients registered within our system. That money is then passed on to the conservation organization. That’s then passed on to get a legal cost to protect an area indefinitely and that’s how we protect the trees.
It’s done on estimations and averages because you can’t track individual trees easily. For example, a tree planting project would say we’re going to plant 1000 trees and they’ll have 1000 seed balls shot from a drone or they’ll plant a thousand saplings. In theory, they planted 1000 trees but 60 of those trees may not make it. So there’s no real calculation to know how many trees were really planted and survived.
Survival is the most important point for carbon sequestration. So, for us, it’s a slightly different concept. It’s an average number of trees in an area. Different areas of the rainforest have different tree density so it’s taken as a solid average from what that project is. That’s then reverse engineered back into the price we charge on a conversion of an ecommerce purchase or a sign up to a newsletter on a brand’s website.
Does that answer the question? It’s a lot to take in for the first time.
Filip: For me it does.
Our story with Netguru continues in our third and final installment. In part 3 of “How can online webstore technology save rainforests?” Ric and Filip discuss new technology within the growing world of eCommerce sustainability.
From sussing out what digital technology brands are using to help them win the climate change battle, to explaining why SaaS technology is going to take the world by storm. Finally, we begin to understand a little more as to how new technology is going to change our world for the better.
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