IN BOLD PRINT looks to become source of truth on 'sustainable' DTC brandsEmmy Oleary
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What “s” word is a marketers' favorite word and music to consumers' ears? Sustainability.
But sustainability means different things to different people and has become watered down with a lot of B … errr … S. There are, however, a handful of founders who are trying to change that.
In its most simplistic terms, sustainability means using or harvesting resources so they’re not depleted or disturbed for future generations. This word has become a central feature on several brands’ homepages, about sections, and FAQs. It’s easy for consumers to be swept up in the vision of the brand (i.e., headers with ticker tape animation, Sans-Serif font, the use of Pantone’s color of the year Very Peri) and take it at face value that a brand is sustainable.
But once a consumer gets past the eye-catching branding and begins to ask exactly how these brands are sustainable, it quickly becomes murky territory.
Ashley Pradhan and Cierra Valor know this, and that’s why they created IN BOLD PRINT—a platform that evaluates the impact a product has on the planet and gives brands and their products a grade. The grades and badges are displayed on a brand's website and customers are able to sort products by their sustainability score.
The inspiration behind IN BOLD PRINT came from an all-too-familiar scenario—the founders kept seeing brands use sustainability as a marketing tactic and making baseless claims such as “clean,” “eco-friendly,” and “green.” Pradhan and Valor found themselves spending countless hours researching and evaluating what makes one brand’s product more sustainable than another.
Valor says, “We realized that if it was this difficult and time-consuming for us, and knew we couldn’t be alone.” The idea for IN BOLD PRINT was born.
The company in April closed a $500,000 pre-Seed financing round with Jimber Capital and hopes to close its seed round by the end of the year.
Using their data science background, Valor and Pradhan created a framework that breaks down “each component of a product’s lifecycle and identifies metrics that we can use to understand, evaluate, and track progress against.” The goal is that brands can then use this information to make their products more sustainable while consumers can actually understand what makes a product sustainable.
Melissa Minkow, director of retail strategy at CI&T and RetailWire, is excited about IN BOLD PRINT and optimistic about the impact it can have, but she believes brands still need to take it upon themselves to step up and care more about sustainability.
Minkow says, “(AT CI&T), we work with a lot of consumer brands, and we haven’t had the amount of demand for sustainable solutions from brands as we’d like from an environmentally reassuring perspective.”
Brands may be doing themselves a disservice in the long-term by displaying a lack of interest in sustainable solutions. As Minkow puts it, “CI&T is very focused on (environmental, social, and governance criteria) because it plays an incredibly important role in the sustainability landscape. I believe it’s the future of retail.”
While sustainability is likely the future of retail, IN BOLD PRINT advises people to be skeptical of brands that look too far out in the future when it comes to sustainability as this is a key sign of greenwashing:
“Right now, a lot of brands are making claims about their products and/or talking about their objectives. For example, we see (brands say) ‘by 2050 we will have entirely recyclable or recycled packaging’ or more generally something like ‘this is sustainably made’...we want to know HOW those claims and goals are happening. 2050 is a long time from now, and it’s not like the light switch goes on come Jan. 1, 2050.”
IN BOLD PRINT points out that to make a big impact, it’s necessary to make millions of small changes each day, and they’ve found that companies that haven’t been sustainable leaders, or as sustainably focused, are eager to get started, “(These companies) WANT to make changes and be better, embrace us and view us as a way of getting where they want to go.”
They’ve currently seen the most traction from the beauty industry followed by the food and beverage (grocery) market.
Pradhan and Valor use Credo Beauty and Thrive Market as examples of companies that are doing a great job in sustainability. Credo Beauty has a strict set of ingredient and packaging criteria that every brand must meet to even be considered for a spot on the shelf, and Thrive Market allows users to “Shop By Your Values” like biodegradable, recycled packaging, sustainably-farmed, etc. But both Credo and Thrive have room to improve.
IN BOLD PRINT mentions that Credo and Thrive could both do more on the education front. According to IN BOLD PRINT’s website, Credo could “bring more transparency and education to consumers on why each product they carry is a more sustainable option and let consumers compare products on the basis of sustainability” while Thrive should allow consumers to learn more about claims, so “if a product matches the “recycled packaging” filter, they should display how much recycled material is being used in the packaging.”
IN BOLD PRINT hopes to see leaders in sustainability like Credo and Thrive and newcomers to sustainability embrace its platform and make a global impact.