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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Apparel Startup Forgoes Ad Budget to Plant Trees, Feed Kids, Provide Water

When you’re shopping for your next hoodie, this startup is hoping you’ll choose to plant as many as 93 trees: ch8se (choose) is a new experimental fashion brand from Amsterdam that has decided to donate its would-be advertising budget towards planting trees or providing food or water to those in need.

“This is an attempt to democratise consumer activism. We believe that conscious consumerism is our most effective tool for making a change and it's currently extremely under-utilized,” ch8se co-founder David Eros told Sustainable Brands in an e-mail.

Eros, an engineer of financial mathematics by trade, and his fellow co-founder Atila Uri, an industrial engineer, crunched the numbers to find out just how much good a fashion company could do by replacing some of its marketing spend with donations to non-profits. The pair spent about a year learning the ways of the fashion industry, researching various industries’ spend on advertising, and making calculations.

“The price of a single ad in a top fashion magazine could plant 1.5 million trees; a prime time TV ad could provide clean water for 30 communities; one month of display time on the Times Square mega billboard could feed 27,000 children for a whole year,” the ch8se website reads.

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They decided to create an apparel company that embodied ‘the change they want to see,’ and could help make the world a better place. They paid careful attention to detail to craft the products, their supply chain, and make their donations as transparent as possible. Eros said they also prioritized offering ch8se’s products at comparable market prices, “so that the impact of our products is not the result of an increased price but merely of a conscious consumer choice.” The brand is being launched through an Indiegogo campaign that has about a week remaining.

Each item comes with a unique impact code linked to its corresponding donation, and customers must redeem their code online for the donation to be delivered.

“We had several reasons to go this way,” Eros explained to Sustainable Brands. “Firstly, and most importantly, starting from our next collection, we are planning to enable our customers to choose the cause they would like to support with their purchase.”

Currently, each product available through the Indiegogo campaign is tied to a specific donation. For example, customers who select the “Ethos” T-shirt design will donate 30 trees, while those who select the “Aether” design will donate 12 meals to children in need.

“Secondly, we think that a redeemer system is the best way of making the whole process fully transparent, intuitive and engaging,” Eros continued. “It would make the transparency a lot less user friendly if our impact reports had to rely on financial documents about the monthly sales. This way they just type in the code and it appears right away in our impact report, which is verified by the partner organisations.”

“The redeemer also makes it more interactive, people can track their impact through the counter on their profiles, get achievements etc.,” Eros added. “And finally there is a technical consideration, as we are planning to enter retail stores, ensuring full transparency (and the option to choose the cause) would be really difficult without the redeemer.”

Eros and Uri are hoping that the “sheer goodwill” of conscious consumers – or “ch8sers,” as they call their advocates – will be enough to support their business through word-of-mouth and social media. But that doesn’t mean they are overlooking marketing altogether.

“For example, two weeks ago we launched a campaign on Instagram, in which Influencers are mentioning our project in their posts and we pledged to plant a tree for every 100 likes these posts get. In just two weeks we planted more than a thousand trees through Instagram alone. This is one of the ways we plan to get exposure without spending on traditional advertising,” Eros told Sustainable Brands.

For every 10 shares of the ch8se Indiegogo campaign page, ch8se will plant a tree. The campaign will close on April 16, 2016.


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