When we first initiated conversations with Gordon (see Road to Relaunch: Part 5) regarding the possible relaunch of Nau, we knew there were some dimensions of the business that couldn’t change. To do so would mean that in the simplest of terms Nau would no longer be Nau. That wasn’t something any of us were particularly interested in. At the same time we knew that some aspects of the business would have to change. Having found a new partner, we couldn’t simply wake up the next day and pretend that nothing had happened and continue business as usual.
As the team engaged, we quickly realized we had to examine the scope and scale of what we were doing. In that regard, the most material decision we made was to not reopen our retail stores. Instead we would continue to sell via nau.com and initiate relationships with a select group of retail partners across the country (more on that to come later). That decision had a series of cascading implications. For instance, the original Fall 08 line had 170 styles in it. Why? Because we had to fill our retail stores. Now, as we move forward without our stores we’ve been able to edit the size of the line. It’s the best of the best and it totals 69 styles. That’s another example of examining the scope and scale of what we were doing and, as a result, focusing our resources.
So, what does that mean for the Partners For Change program moving forward? Well, before we finalized the “deal” with Gordon, we talked with him about the Partners For Change program. We said it was synonymous with Nau, and that without it Nau would no longer be Nau. The program, which was the brainchild of our founder Eric Reynolds, reflected the way we wanted to do business and our belief that businesses have a broader responsibility then simply the singular pursuit of profit at the expense of everything else. And you know what. Gordon agreed.
However, we all concluded that, like the rest of the business, it was prudent to reassess the scope and scale of the Partners for Change program moving forward.
So, that led to two decisions. The first is that as we relaunch the program we’ll be reducing the level of giving from 5% of sales to 2% of sales.
How do we feel about that? Well, its obviously less than what we were doing before but 2% of sales still represents a leadership point of view in the world of corporate philanthropy. It’s twice the level of giving of even the most generous companies and roughly 28 times the average level of corporate giving. It’s also our aspiration that as our business evolves over time and becomes more mature, perhaps we’ll be able to ratchet the level of giving back up one percentage point at a time.
The second decision we made was to reduce the number of partner organizations from thirty-three to six.
Why? Well, prior to the close of Nau (version 1.0) the architecture of the Partners For Change program included having six national/global partners and local partners in each of the communities our stores were operating in. The idea was to give the stores meaning and relevance in their local community. That was a sound idea, but its rationale had to be questioned in light of our decision not to reopen our own stores. Furthermore, when Nau closed its doors we were 60 people, including our colleague Bob Speltz, who’s full time role was to nurture the relationships with all of our partner organizations. And Bob was supported by Jil Zilligen. But now, we’re twelve people. That fact led to the realization that we no longer had the capability to cultivate thirty-three partner relationships in a meaningful way.
When it came to deciding on the six organizations the decision making process became especially difficult. In the end we determined that given our distributed customer base we would work with organizations that were primarily national and international in scope. We also wanted to balance our portfolio between organizations that were focused on environmental issues and organizations focused on social/humanitarian issues. Finally, given Nau’s stage of development as a business, we also decided we’d prioritize organizations that were at a more emergent phase of their organizational evolution so our contribution and support would be meaningful to them.
Tough decisions for sure, because we value and believe in the incredible work that all of our partners are engaged in. It wasn’t about them. It was about us.
So, over the past few weeks we’ve met with and talked with all of our original thirty-three partners. We wanted to explain firsthand why we made the decisions we made. What’s stunning and remarkable was the tone of those conversations. Consistently our partners expressed their absolute delight that we’re back in business and the fact that they were honored to be a part of our initial efforts. They also, without exception, understood the underlying reasons behind the decisions we made. For that, we are thankful. We’re also proud to have been associated with the work that they do.
It’s a small gesture but as we did in the past, we’ll continue to make Nau product available at a reduced cost to full time employees of all the original partner organizations, just as we did during the first phase of our business. That gesture reflects that fact that they’re doing work on behalf of all of us. It’s one small way we can show our support and appreciation for their efforts.
So, we want to thank you for the partnership – the very special you’s in this case being:
Center For ReSource Conservation Christopher House
Colorado Environmental Coalition Environmental Law and Policy Center
Eco-Cycle Heartland Alliance
Micro Business Development Openlands
Woman’s Bean Project Taproot Foundation
Los Angeles San Francisco
We also want to reintroduce 5 of our six partners moving forward (the sixth will be determined shortly). They are:
Over the next several weeks we’ll make fuller introductions to each of the five Partners For Change organizations here in the Thought Kitchen. So, stay tuned.