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EP27 – Communicating Your Brand’s Impact with Akhil Sivanandan

sustainable-ecommerce-podcast

EP27 – Communicating Your Brand’s Impact with Akhil Sivanandan

Ep27-Communicating Your Impact

Welcome to Episode 27 of the Sustainable Ecommerce Podcast!

A few weeks ago on the show I was talking about the importance of communicating your impact, and making it super tangible so that customers can see exactly what impact their purchase will have. 

At the time I was waxing lyrical about what a great job Boody was doing by using an app called Greenstory.  Well, today I’m joined by one of the co-founders of Greenstory – Akhil Sivanandan.  

We chat about how Greenstory impact measurements are grounded in science, the importance of making impact understandable and relatable, and positive effect to store conversion brands experience when working with Greenstory.

Of course, we also talk about how you can follow in the footsteps of great brands like Boody and use Greenstory to get this level of impact transparency working for your own brand!

Greenstory

Giles Smith: Maybe you could tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to build Greenstory.

Akhil Sivanandan: Yes. I’m one of the founders of Greenstory.  Two of us founded the company way back in 2015.

Giles Smith: So what is Greenstory? What is it about and what compelled you to come and do this?

Akhil Sivanandan: Well, great question, Giles. Basically, the foundation of Greenstory was kind of rooted in a bit of frustration in general. Before I started Greenstory, I used to be in the sustainability consulting space and there was so much work and information out there that I had put out and I had done, which was really never used. And this was echoed throughout the industry. If you look at how people are talking about the COP meetings, the different sustainability frameworks out there, or even broadly sustainable reporting. It’s a lot of, “blah, blah, blah”. Nothing was done about it. I wanted to see what can be done to make this stuff more actionable and more immediate, rather than looking at 30 year, 50 year horizons.

Frankly, we don’t have that time. I met my co-founder back in 2011 during my MBA in Canada and we started looking around at ways to try and understand this problem a bit more in depth. I don’t think anybody’s willingly trying to damage the environment as an end of itself.

Nobody’s out there saying “Let’s, let’s pollute, let’s make the world more difficult to live in”. So, so there is something more there. I’m sure for the most part, all of us want to leave the world better, but we are not doing that.

When we looked at the problem, we found that there was a mass of issues. The first is that information that’s in front of us is almost never sustainability focused, or set up in a way that we can easily understand it.

So you’re kind of making decisions based on visual cues rather than real data. The reason that’s the case is that brands really don’t have this data. They’re not able to process it. They’re not able to find it, they’re not able to present it.  Supply chain data is incredibly hard.  So let’s say in, in the case of fashion, they’ll know who, the mill is, they might know who’s given them the fabric for their clothes. But that’s about it.

So, getting this data and then understanding how you convert this into your carbon footprint, your water footprint, all of these things is really tough.

So we saw these two big gaps in the market. How do we make it easy for brands to get this information, and how do we make it easy for a customer to understand and know that the information is accurate and credible. When you make the purchase, in short, how do you present it in your customer journey?

2017 we finally launched the system, as you see it now, where we have a backend system to make it easy for brands to calculate their footprint, and then we have a front end system that takes all of this information and presents it along the customer journey.

pangaia - impact

Giles Smith: I think that last piece is the most visible part.  What’s interesting about this to me is that it sounds like what you’re doing is taking the supply chain information that the brand is supplied, and then presenting that in a consumable relatable format that puts it in blocks of understanding. Is that how you would describe it as well?

Akhil Sivanandan: Yes absolutely, so the idea is to take this information, which is calculated in a very complex scientific way using a process called lifecycle assessment, and presenting that simply to the customer.

Giles Smith: So have you had much feedback from the brands that you’ve been working with around the impact that’s had on their performance, on their sales and their engagement from their customers?

Akhil Sivanandan: We’ve seen a huge lift in terms of conversion rates for the brands who have been part of case studies, with some brands who have seen an initial spike of 200% in conversion, which kind of tapers down to about 30, 40% steady.

But also more importantly, I think for the, for larger brands we’ve seen an increase in terms of usage in media, mentions, PR and basically creation of new funnels. So what a lot of the brands have taught us is that this kind of messaging can be used to target a different subset of users as well.

Giles Smith: What do you put down that big spike to?

Akhil Sivanandan: I think it’s because most brands who work with us, we launch it as a new thing for them, it’s a new initiative.  So there is a campaign associated with it.  They announce that they have become carbon neutral with Greenstory or every purchase you make, you’ll get a certificate, which shows the projects that we have invested in.

Giles Smith: I love that what you’ve done is give us this kind of metricized image at the product level, which makes it legitimate, but incredibly compelling from a consumer point of view.

Boody Impact

Akhil Sivanandan: What we try to do is make it really simple and easy to understand. And if you want to dive in deeper, you can click on the image and it gives you more details on that. We have a rabbit hole that you can walk down and actually get as much credibility as you need.  Every individual product that’s offset is individually tracked, the carbon certificate is there, the offset certificate is there, here’s the transaction id. You can zoom in on the satellite imagery of the project.

Giles Smith: So you’re actually giving a whole armoury of tools and a depth of transparency to the brands that you work with, that would be very hard to do on their own.

How does it all work? How, how does a brand actually get set up with Greenstory?

Akhil Sivanandan: So when a brand comes in, we initially look at all the different, products that they have and start looking at the supply chains associated with it. So we work with the brands and the suppliers to understand all the different products that we have. These are the fibers. And there is basically a supplier data list that’s filled out.

That’s step one. We also have a ton of secondary data and estimations that we can plug in, which fill in the gaps to a high level of accuracy. After this is done, our team takes all of this information and we model it out. And then after that, all you have to do is take the APIs which are generated for each different products and plug it into your Shopify or wherever you want it, and the numbers pop up. We make sure that we work with clients so that the look and feel matches their brand.

Giles Smith: What if I’m making phone cases out of bamboo instead of out of plastic, can I still use the Greenstory service?

Akhil Sivanandan: We do focus on fashion for the most part, but we do have other clients like gummies, luggage and all of that. Fashion supply chains are better studied and there’s more data, and we are very open and honest with our clients. We do have some committed clients like that who’ve done an amazing job, but outside of the fashion space, and maybe in some instances, the food space, it’s really hard to get this type of data unless the brand is very committed.

Giles Smith: What sort of costs are are we talking about to do this?

Akhil Sivanandan: I did want to make life cycle assessments more accessible. It’s billed as a SaaS system, so anywhere from $400 to $2,000 per month, which gives them access to various lifecycle systems. For a lot of brands, we might charge up front for the LCA depending on how they want to do this, which again, varies quite a bit. If you’re looking at more screening level lifecycle assessment where we use a lot of our own data and there’s no need for too many boots on the ground, then the cost is about $1000 to $3,000. So it’s, it’s not a significant investment, especially considering that custom LCA with consulting firm, even for standard fibers, starts at about $20,000 to $30,000.

Giles Smith: And so, what’s the timeline for it?

Akhil Sivanandan: It varies depending on the brand and, and the suppliers. We’ve turned it around two days for some brands where suppliers were super willing. The data has been easy to come up with and the calculations for us are quite straightforward & instantaneous.

For medium sized brands, I would say typically say the $5M to $20M revenue range, because they tend to have about 30 to 50 different supply chains, the timeline is more extensive. It takes roughly about a month to two months to get them set up if the supplier is responsive enough.

Giles Smith: In terms of the visuals that a brand can get,  how configurable is it?

Akhil Sivanandan: You can use anything as long as you call out what that is. All of these numbers are abstractions of the scientific number. When you’re talking about days of drinking water saved, driving emissions, we just map that to the underlying science.

Giles Smith: Very cool. I love the fact that you can configure that to be aligned with the brand story.  Akhil, where can people go to get started?

Akhil Sivanandan: Well, you can just sign up for a demo on our website. It’s, Greenstory.ca. You’ll immediately be contacted by one of our wonderful sales folks, and they will walk you through and answer all the questions in much greater detail than I’ve just talked about.

Giles Smith: Thanks so much for spending some time with us on Sustainable eCommerce podcast.

Akhil Sivanandan: Thank you so much, Giles.

Top 3 Takeouts

  1. Greenstory is not smoke & mirrors, in fact there is significant science behind the simple and relatable numbers presented by brands using this service.

    That’s great news, especially since the life-cycle assessment process they use is significantly more cost effective than it would usually be.

  2. If your brand already has some traction, the ongoing costs of using this service will easily be covered by improvement in your site conversion rate.

  3. Perhaps most of all, I love the way the Greenstory team allow you to brand and configure your impact metrics in a way that aligns with your overall story.

    That might seem trivial, but having measurements that are incongruent with or seemingly irrelevant to what your brand does can easily introduce confusion in potential buyers.

Giles Smith - eCommerce Coach

About Your Host: Giles Smith

eCommerce Coach & Mentor
Giles is a serial entrepreneur, eCommerce growth expert, coach & mentor. Views, Knowledge & Opinions shared in this article are drawn from over 20 years experience in building 6, 7 and 8-figure businesses as well as working with agency clients and personal coaching clients.