Special Guest: Steven Gmelin; Vice President Digital Sales & Strategy at ALOHA
On this episode of the Impact Exchange, we were joined by Steven Gmelin, Vice President of Digital Sales & Strategy at ALOHA, to discuss how ALOHA uses their mission to guide their social impact initiatives.
Steven shared insights into their approach on building a brand that’s authentically centered in social impact, and how their commitment to cultivate good impacts their customer relationships.
Listen to the podcast to learn more about Steven’s perspective on the following:
- How ALOHA’s social responsibility initiatives have evolved alongside business growth
- Why businesses need to do well in order to do good
- How social impact initiatives affect consumer sentiment
Listen to The Impact Exchange Podcast:
A Business Built Around Impact
From their founding, ALOHA has been driven by their mission and a commitment to make a positive impact. As an organic plant-based protein company, sustainability and nutrition are important values to ALOHA, and these values guide them in their social impact initiatives. As the company has grown, they’ve been able to expand their social responsibility efforts and evolve their strategy to maximize their impact.
When businesses get involved in social responsibility strategies, there’s not a singular “right” way to do it. Giving back to charitable organizations, volunteering in your community, enabling more sustainable business practices, or a combination of these are all powerful ways to make an impact. To find a strategy that makes sense for your business, enable different strategies until you find the best fit for your business and your customers.
Steven shared insights on ALOHA’s journey to finding their best fit strategy, “We went down this path from an impact standpoint where we had a lot of different and great partners, and we still work with a lot of them today, but it wasn't as near and dear to us as our roots.” For ALOHA, it’s important to support the communities that support them.
With roots in the Hawaiian community, ALOHA partners with a nonprofit organization, KUPU. Through this partnership, ALOHA works with KUPU to educate and empower Hawaiian youth to be involved in sustainability initiatives within the Hawaiian islands through hands-on training.
“Working with Kupu has been an opportunity for us to really give back to a community that helped us start our brand and spread the spirit of ALOHA, which is so important and near and dear to that culture.”
Social Impact is Deeper Than Creating Donations
Social responsibility is more than just a one-off initiative to do good— it’s a commitment to lead with purpose and identify areas throughout your business in which impact can be integrated. Creating an evergreen strategy that’s authentic to your mission and values will help you better identify areas where you can make an impact. Your customers will also be more receptive to your initiatives if they know that your strategy is rooted in your core values, and is not an attempt at a quick-win for social impact.
ALOHA is leading the way in staying true to their mission. As their social impact initiatives have evolved, they use their values and mission as a North Star to guide them along the way.
Molly Trerotola: What ways are you supporting Kupu or other nonprofits? Can you talk to me more about your social impact initiatives and how they're executed?
Steven Gmelin: Yeah, it's a really good question because social impact and giving back is not just raising money and collecting donations on our aloha.com website, which we do a great job with with our partnership with ShoppingGives. But as a company, we're all encouraged to give back individually as well as as a group. As an example, we had a team offsite in the fall and we work with an organization called Conscious Alliance, which has a mission that no child can go to bed hungry. And we did a lot of work in rallying other brands to help fill tractor trailers with healthy and nutritious foods for impoverished areas across the United States.
Molly Trerotola: You mentioned that you've been able to rally other brands and inspire them to also do good. What role has Aloha played in influencing other brands specifically in this space?
Steven Gmelin: I think there's a lot of dated ways in which organizations try to get people to give back. We all get junk mail with the return envelopes, right? But when consumers have a relationship with a brand and that brand can open their eyes to an organization or a cause that's near and dear to them, there's an alignment of values.
With a vision to “leave the world better than we found it”, ALOHA is intentionally building a business that’s built for good, and good for the planet. To bring fruition to this vision, ALOHA has enabled business practices that helped them receive climate neutral certification.
Steven discussed one of their most recent product releases, The Kona Bar, and how they’re making an impact through the product. ALOHA worked with small family owned farms in Hawaii to procure the key ingredients for the bar in a sustainable way. Additionally, they’re donating 10% of revenue generated from The Kona Bar to KUPU.
For ALOHA, social responsibility is deeper than creating donations. It’s a 360-approach that incorporates impact throughout the business, from product procurement, to manufacturing, to customer interactions.
“Impact is all the pillars of the values that we believe our brand stands on. It's the environment, the sustainability piece, the give back component. It's working with Kupu on their education initiatives to educate and to empower the Hawaiian youth to be involved in sustainability initiatives within the Hawaiian Islands.”
To get your business involved in social responsibility, you don’t have to give back in one single way, or only support one organization— you can follow a path that makes sense for your business and is synonymous with your values. As your business grows and evolves, so too may your social impact initiatives.
A Thriving Business Creates a Flourishing Social Responsibility Strategy
One of the most important factors of creating a successful social impact strategy is to ensure that your business is doing well. Starting a business with the intention to do good for society is a powerful way to ensure your efforts are authentic, but the foundation of a successful business needs to be there as well. Businesses that do good, do well— and vice versa.
Molly Trerotola: That concept of being able to do more good while you're doing well, there's a synesthesia there, a sort of symbiosis. Can you talk about that?
Steven Gmelin: A lot of very well-intentioned brands fail quickly because they start out with a mission of just doing good. They're going to start in a category and everything they're going to do is for some very specific social impact initiative, but they don't get the fundamentals right. If you don't get the fundamentals of building a business that's self-sustaining, you're never going to be able to realize that mission of being able to give back and to make an impact.
Social Impact and its Effect on Consumer Sentiment
Having an authentic impact strategy is key for cultivating stronger customer relationships. When a company leads with purpose, consumers are 76% more likely to trust that company, and 72% more likely to be loyal to that company. Consumers are able to tell when a company is being genuine in their social responsibility tactics, which means enabling initiatives that your business truly believes in is crucial.
Steven shared that customers who engage in ALOHA’s giving initiatives have average order values (AOV) that are 13% higher than a non-giving customer. Being able to identify these tangible metrics behind their impact initiatives gives ALOHA the opportunity to create an audience out of their donating customers, and have more intentional conversations with them instead of only promoting sales and discount offerings. It also helps to build more substantial relationships with them.
Customers who participate in a business’s social responsibility strategy are more likely to be engaged with the company, and interested in staying up to date on the impact they’re creating. For ALOHA, they’re able to leverage email and SMS lists to share more details about their partnership with KUPU and Conscious Alliance, and their journey to becoming climate neutral with their previous donor customers.
“Impact is not usually the reason why people start a relationship with a brand, but it's a reason why they maintain one and grow that relationship.”
At the intersection of corporate social responsibility in retail, we at ShoppingGives, along with our partners like ALOHA, have seen firsthand that people want to do good and create impact. As a business, you have the power to lead with purpose and create a new era of retail that’s rooted in social good.
We hope you enjoy this episode of The Impact Exchange, until next time...stay healthy, stay mindful, and create impact.