Philadelphia-based United by Blue (UBB) is bringing together a group of like minded brands in hopes of channeling funds to businesses that are thinking about more than just the bottom line, and building what founder of UBB, Brian Linton calls, “a mission-brand economy.”
“If those dollars and customers circulate in a mission-brand economy, then we can propel this movement of mission-driven businesses forward. The more we can grow that, the better it will for the world.”
Linton and Mike Cangi, fellow co-founder of UBB, piloted this idea earlier this year, sharing like-minded brands through their marketing platforms. In April, when companies were struggling to keep going, they were able to push customers to other small and eco-conscious businesses like themselves.
“That idea of cross-pollinating worked really well. We were able to drive a lot of traffic to these businesses, and create a sense of unity and camaraderie,” says Cangi.
Now they’ve formalized it into the Mission Brand Alliance. They want to turn the holiday shopping season into a fruitful one for businesses that are touting recycled materials, thinking circular, reducing waste, and paying closer attention to their supply chains, much like themselves.
The brands include Patagonia, La Colombe, Faherty, Bathing Culture, and about sixteen more. The nuts and bolts of it right now pertain to marketing primarily. The full collective came together sharing resources — customer and email marketing lists as well as funds — to put this initiative together and get catalogs printed for the busy holiday season. Starting in December, over 250,000 customers, that span across these brands, will be receiving that holiday catalog on their doorsteps.
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“As much as we would love our customers to have a wardrobe full of UBB product, that’s not realistic. So our goal is to expose these customer to other great products and businesses that stand for more than just selling something and making money,” Cangi says.
“If you’ve bought from us, you’ll be interested in buying from others in the coalition,” Linton adds.
As veterans now in the B Corp and mission-driven world, Linton and Cangi drew on their experience, networks, and knowledge of other brands that are looking at the footprint of their businesses as closely as they are. While the coalition right now features fellow Philly-based brands and primarily companies in the outdoors space, they’ll be looking to expand that offering with other consumer-facing brands and make it more inclusive.
When it comes to criteria, there’s a litany of certifications and benchmarks, but Cangi is keen to point that “sustainability is not perfect.”
For example, he says, “We are not climate neutral certified, so we’re learning about that from another brand in the alliance. There is an opportunity to learn, push each other to do better, and that helps us all improve, including the customer, And we’re speaking to a very educated, discerning customer.”
While the current emphasis is on cross marketing, Linton and Cangi see other possibilities for the alliance such as a trade show that’s centered around mission-driven companies. They explain that though there are existing marketplaces and loosely-defined communities for such entrepreneurs, they’re interested in building a more “curated” group that can really drive this movement forward — with their values and their dollars.
So, this holiday season, they ask consumers to think about where their dollars are going: “If we want change, we have to support one another and those who are committed to bettering communities and the environment,” says Linton. “This is just the start for us.”