My aim is to highlight interesting, empathy-driven choices that I see brands and companies making. While I don’t have any insider knowledge of these strategies, I have been around the business block and seen enough to make educated guesses on how these strategies are addressing real human needs.
For April’s installment of “Strategies We’re Watching,” I am featuring sustainable business strategies in honor of Earth Day this month. While many of us can quickly rattle off the 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), I want to focus today’s post on 3 other “Rs” that are equally important: Repurpose, Restore, and Refurbish.
Read on to see what has caught my attention and then let's have a conversation about the empathic strategies that have caught yours!
The Strategy: Repurposing Food Waste to Make New Products
The Player: Renewal Mill
Why I’m Watching: The founders of Renewal Mill have one major goal: to ensure that “100% of the food we produce is put to its best and highest use—feeding people.” After seeing firsthand how much food can be wasted in the manufacturing process, Caroline Cotto and Claire Schlemme began working on a solution to repurpose those materials for new food products.
Based in Oakland, Renwal Mill converts okara, a byproduct of tofu production, into baking flour. According to Schlemme, about 60% of soybeans used in a tofu factory leave as a waste product. “With an upcycling solution in place,” she explains, “One hundred percent of that soybean makes it to peoples’ plates.”
I have a soft spot in my heart for businesses built around repurposing what others would be happy throwing away. Renewal Mill feels like a brand partner to help eco-minded consumers expand their impact without sacrifice. Now, consumers can bake and enjoy sweet treats with peace of mind that they are made from a “flour that fights climate change.”
What’s next for Renewal Mill? A partnership with Barilla, and I cannot wait!
Why I’m Watching: I have been WAITING for repair and restoration to hit mainstream (technically still waiting, but it’s getting closer!) ever since I discovered The Edinburgh Remakery in 2018. FarFetch is an ecommerce luxury retailer, and The Restory is a London-based company providing luxury fashion restoration services. The Farfetch partnership with The Restory is pure brilliance in my book.
This strategic move can be seen as both great for the environment AND a great win for building consumer loyalty. FarFetch has found a way to monetize extending the life of much-loved products while benefiting from the environmental angle as well. This new avenue opens the door for the retailer to build more long term relationships with the consumers, offering extended value and service. I would love to see this extend beyond the luxury market, but for now, I’ll be keeping an eye on FarFetch to see how it goes.
The Player: Nike
Why I’m Watching: As both an aspiring environmentalist AND an aspiring sneakerhead, this is huge news in my household: Nike will be selling refurbished shoes! Nike will take returned shoe merchandise that passes a quality inspection, hand refurbishing to return shoes to as close to new condition as possible, and sell them at a handful of select stores to consumers for a discounted price. The shoes will STILL be covered by the 60-day wear test, allowing consumers to return items that don’t work out. Shoes that can’t be refurbished will either be donated or recycled using Nike’s proprietary Nike Grind technology.
This strategy to invest in a circular inventory model is a fantastic choice that supports their Move to Zero. Nike Refurbished takes one more step to reduce waste while offering consumers a sustainability partner who helps ensure their sneakers are never wasted. The brand is primed to shift what was once a negative experience, Product Returns, and make it a positive one where consumers feel supported and connected to a higher purpose. I will absolutely be keeping an eye for national and global expansion of this eco-friendly strategic move.