Gaiam Goes Wild For Go Zero: Part I
Part I: How Go Zero® Has Supported Gaiam’s Goal of Sustainability: Q & A with Gaiam’s Chris Fisher
Gaiam’s Chris Fisher, director of customer experience, helped design and launch the partnership with The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero® program. For part one of our series, we sat down with Chris to understand how the partnership builds on Gaiam’s sustainability platform and strengthens its brand as an eco-healthy lifestyle company.
Why partner with The Conservation Fund?
Gaiam is an environmentally sustainable company, so we wanted an environmental partner. We really did our research first.
The Conservation Fund is a top-notch organization that has been rated the highest in its field by independent, third-party charity watchdog groups. Also, individual donors tend to rate the Fund highly. But perhaps one of the biggest factors in choosing our partner for this program was evaluating how the organization uses its donations—how much of each donation goes directly to the programs versus administration. The Conservation Fund allocates a very high percentage of its donations to programs, which is a good fit for Gaiam.
We also wanted to support a program in which our dollars would do the most good. The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero program is a great fit, particularly because it focuses on planting a mix of native tree species to restore high-priority conservation lands. Once those lands are restored, they are managed and protected for the benefit of both ecosystems and society. The donor investment and the permanence of each gift are ensured with public stewardship. This land belongs to everybody — even future generations.
Why offset the shipping, specifically?
We wanted to implement something simple—easy for the customer to use and to understand—that could be easily replicated with each order to tie the shipment of a product to the carbon footprint of that shipping process. So the opportunity to Go Zero with every order is strategically placed at the end of the purchase path to encourage the greatest level of customer participation. The Go Zero donation amount is small compared with the total amount of the order, but the donations collectively make a big environmental impact. Every time they shop, customers can give back to the environment.
Why does the partnership work for Gaiam?
With The Conservation Fund, we have a true partnership—not one that dictates one-sided terms. In this case, both partners sit down at the table together to come up with new ideas and modify existing ones that aren’t working—and then support each other in continually fine-tuning the program. It took hard work in the beginning, but once we invested in the initial brainstorming sessions with the Fund and our team, and in developing the basic program structure, it was really very simple.
Partnering with The Conservation Fund has also helped us better tell our conservation success stories. By educating others about our Go Zero program, we are inspiring our peers in the private sector to follow suit. Since we launched in 2006, Dell, Delta and The North Face have initiated similar customer-facing carbon-offset programs with Go Zero. Our communications with our customers and the general public about this program have resulted in thoughtful, positive coverage since the program’s inception—from articles on Gaiam and Conservation Fund Web sites to joint interviews in the Wall Street Journal, local TV coverage at restoration sites, blogs and viral marketing campaigns, lectures and case studies for MBA classes, and more.
Why does Go Zero work for Gaiam’s customers?
Go Zero is something our customers understand, something they care about and something that’s easy to do. The impact on the customer’s wallet is minimal, and many people are excited and happy to do something small to help the environment with each purchase. All of these little actions add up over time to make real impact.
How has the program grown?
Since our launch in 2006 we’ve grown the program to:
Plant a tree for our Gaiam Best Customers at no cost to them during the holiday season
Offset the carbon impact of shipping our catalog paper from the mill to our printer
Offset the carbon impact of energy used to operate our Colorado headquarters
Cross-market Go Zero on our Web site and in our catalog
Create new eco-friendly Go Zero branded products, including our organic cotton Go Zero “Thoughtful Tees” message T-shirts
Give the “Gift of Zero” by making a donation directly to the Fund to automatically offset the shipping of certain products we offer, including Seventh Generation cleaning and recycled paper goods
What are your measures of success?
Our two biggest measures of success are:
1) how much we reduce overall impact on the environment and
2) customer satisfaction.
We know we’ve made an impact. Approximately 20 percent of customers who make a purchase on Gaiam.com also add Go Zero to their order, offsetting the carbon impact of shipping that order via a donation to The Conservation Fund. Everyone has the ability to add an additional donation to their order, and many do. Already, we’ve helped The Conservation Fund plant more than 120,000 trees across six National Wildlife Refuges.
To measure customer satisfaction with the program, we’ve set up an easy-to-use online review feature for Go Zero so they can review the program just as they can review any of our products. From these real-time sessions, we can answer frequently asked questions and ensure that our customers are getting the most from their donations.