Brands That Are Redefining Black Friday

Black Friday brings sales, consumption, and a heavy footprint on the environment. But some brands are using it as a day to give back to charities and talk about social and environmental challenges.

For Icelandic brand 66°North, Black Friday sales will be tied to a cause very close to home:  The Icelandic Wetland fund. 25 percent of every online sale from November 27th to December 30th will go towards protecting the glaciers of Iceland. They’re opting out of the shopping extravaganza, passing on sales, and instead shifting the focus to the state of glaciers and wetlands in Iceland (which are on the decline).

In fact, last year, in August, the company helped facilitate a memorial for the first glacier lost in Iceland. Named “Okjokull,” the glacier is located in western Iceland and had been deteriorating since 2003 according to some reports; by 2014, it was considered “dead.”  A group of ministers, activists, local residents, and members of the 66°North team hiked up to the glacier last summer in remembrance. A sign at the spot read: 

“Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path.⁠ This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done.⁠ Only you know if we did it.⁠ — August 2019, 415ppm CO2”

Helgi Oskarsson, CEO of the 66°North, says they’re even noticing the ripple effect of this in their supply chain as the company sources wool from local farms: “Glaciers are disappearing across Iceland, and we see the impacts of that every day….we see our Icelandic wool suppliers now having to float their sheep across rivers by boat when not long ago they could just walk their herds across the solid ice of a glacier. It is an urgent reality in Iceland.”

To pay tribute to Okjokull, the brand came out with a jacket in the lost glacier’s name. But 66°North wants to go further: Oskarsson acknowledges that as a company manufacturing goods, they too are leaving behind a footprint. Thus, in 2019, the company went climate neutral. 

With the help of green energy sources for their offices, electric cars, more eco-friendly practices in manufacturing, and tree planting, 66˚North claims to be a fully carbon neutral company. Since 2019, the company has planted over 2700 trees. But there’s a caveat: Oskarsson doesn’t want them to rely heavily on carbon offsets. Rather, they will do carbon offsets at “a human scale,” he says. “That means we will always ensure our need for offsets is so low that we can offset our annual carbon footprint in a single day, with trees planted by our own staff. If our need for carbon offsets has grown beyond that scale, we have become too big.”

Backpack brand Freitag, famous for repurposing tarps used on trucks into accessories and bags, is opting out of the Black Friday bonanza all together by shutting down its online store on November 27th. Rather, they’ll be redirecting customers to SWAP, an exchange platform built by Freitag. 

Here, consumers can connect with another Freitag bag owner and make a swap. By encouraging the use of pre-loved items, Freitag hopes to increase the total number of “swaps” on the site. To date, they’ve had over 1000 bags swapped on the platform.

MiiR, a fellow outdoor brand, started to donate 100 percent of the sales on Black Friday last year. In 2019, they collaborated with the Kula Project in East Africa, a non-profit that works with women in the region on entrepreneurial opportunities. That turned out to be the second-highest day of revenue for the company, suggesting that consumers came flocking to support a cause. 

“Black Friday is typically a day of massive discounts fueling unconscious consumerism. At MiiR our vision is to create more beauty and generosity in the world,” notes Bryan Papé, MiiR founder and CEO.

This year, it’s Black Girl Ventures whose mission is to provide Black/Brown woman-identifying founders with access to community, capital and capacity building in order to meet business milestones that lead to economic advancement through entrepreneurship. 

 “MiiR exists because of an unrelenting entrepreneurial spirit and a passionate community of mentors, advisors and dreamers,” says Papé. “Every dollar spent with MiiR this Black Friday will go directly to support Black and Brown women founders in building their businesses and strengthening their networks. We are so excited to partner with them and support fellow entrepreneurs.”

So could a day known for excess be transformed into something meaningful? This year, compounded by the impact of the pandemic, could be the beginning of a transformation.

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