Ethical Marketing: Innocent Smoothies

In a world dominated by constant advertising across multiple platforms, brands are under increased pressure to promote their products responsibly. This week we will be looking at the world of ethical marketing and a number of household brands who have proved that marketing and ethics can go hand in hand.

Today’s instalment is taking a look at Innocent Smoothies, who since their launch in 1999 have promoted themselves as a down to earth and ethical company. The company was founded by three Cambridge University graduates, who sold their smoothies at a music festival and asked the customers whether they thought the trio should quit their jobs and make smoothies. The rest, as they say, is history. Innocent has gone from strength to strength, receiving investment from a wealthy American businessman and later huge investment from Coca-Cola, who as of February 2013 owned a 90% stake in the company.

As the name would suggest, Innocent aims to use natural, healthy ingredients in their products and espouse key values of healthy eating and sustainability. The brand itself is built on these values and has taken a number of simple steps to ensure the company lives up to its ethical claims. Innocent ensures its ingredients are sourced from suppliers who ensure minimum standards for workers and work to improve their environmental credentials such as those approved by the Rainforest Alliance, and aim to continue sourcing products from a wide range of suppliers worldwide.

As the Innocent product range has expanded into other healthy eating areas including fruit juices, veg pots and squeezy fruit tubes for children, the key values of the company have also grown to accommodate their expansion. Not only does Innocent now encourage healthy eating and lifestyle, they utilise the popularity and leverage of their brand to support sustainable projects in the undeveloped world.

The Innocent Foundation, set up in 2004, aims to redistribute some of the wealth the company generates by supporting rural development projects in the key countries from which Innocent sources its fruit. The main vision is to support people who are dependent on subsistence agriculture and to build a sustainable future for these communities. To this end, Innocent has committed to donating 10% of its annual profits to the Innocent Foundation which then allocates this money to a number of long-term NGO projects in developing countries. Since 2004, the Innocent Foundation has supported 37 projects and committed almost £1.3 million to community projects.

Not only that, but given the increased leverage of the Innocent brand as it continues to grow into a household name the company has leveraged an extra £5.8 million from grants from the European Union and other organisations. Just some of the projects include supporting the Hope for Children team in Uganda which helps refugees who have fled civil war set up new lives in Uganda and create a sustainable source of food and income for themselves. Others include supporting the work of IDE Vietnam which helps rice farming families utilise fertilisers and optimise their production, and the Practical Action campaign in Peru which helps improve forest sustainability.

The Innocent brand and its Foundation have proved that within a small space of time a phenomenal amount of business growth can be achieved and utilised to help others who are less fortunate. The work of the Innocent Foundation has provided funding and volunteers to ensure that the countries who provide the ingredients which make the brand so successful do not suffer from their success, and hopefully their focus on long-term sustainability as opposed to short-term relief could provide a lasting impact for these communities and pave the way for more ethics-driven brands in the future.

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