A hugely proud moment…together with your support we’ve reached the amazing milestone of £1 MILLION charitable donations!
£1 MILLION of charity donations all before our 18th birthday! We’re proud of lots of things we’ve achieved but we’re probably the proudest of this. We couldn’t have asked for a better celebration of past efforts this New Year’s Day along with a charged boost for the future. As we cross the bridge from one year to the next, we celebrate this amazing milestone and speak with Frugi Founder, Lucy Jewson and CEO Sarah Clark, to talk about all things charity and why it always was and will continue to be key to doing things the Frugi way.
When the brand was born back in 2004, Frugi was part of ‘1% for the Planet’, where we donated to environmental charities that focused on our Seas, Bees and Trees. As the brand grew and our donations of 1% turnover did the same we wanted to be able to also support children’s charities (being a children’s clothing brand after all) and so Little Clothes BIG Change was born in 2016. You can read more about some of the charities we have been fortunate enough to work with HERE.
£1 Million in donations to charities, can you believe it?
Lucy: This is just an awesome goal to have reached!! It’s probably the thing we feel most proud of, to be honest. That is a seriously BIG amount for a small company in Cornwall to have raised for charity. AND as we give 1% of turnover to charity – even with my not brilliant maths – I can work out that that means we must have sold £100M worth of beautiful GOTS organic clothing since we started! That’s a lot of happy organic farmers that have had a better environment to live and work in; it’s vastly more healthy soil on those farms too which in turn helps support more biodiversity and better water quality and by no means least it means a lot more people in the garment industry have had better pay and conditions to work in! That’s got to be a better way to do business?
Where did it all begin?
Lucy: Right from the start, we knew we had something to prove. My dad was a very traditional businessman, who believed in the “bottom line” being king and in my teenage years I found my ways of rebelling against that.
When I was on maternity leave starting a business from scratch was a chance to go back to those inner principles I’d held so dear in my earlier life. I was determined to prove that running a business along environmental and socially friendly lines could actually be BETTER for business in the long run, rather than just focussing on profit alone.
Kurt felt really passionate about that too and I think when you have your first child it’s a real watershed moment in life, where you think about the world that your child is going to inherit. That sounds really cheesy, but I think that’s the case for lots of new parents. So we started thinking how do we do that? Using organic cotton was the first decision, but we quickly realised that giving a percentage of our turnover to charity was an incredible way to fund real change in the world – as long as we could make a success of it of course! There are so many amazing charities trying hard to make a difference but they are nearly all hampered by a lack of funds.
Back then, in the early noughties, people wanted to see business behave differently – and hopefully, we showed that you could still grow quickly whilst giving money away! There is a much better appreciation of that now in the business community I think, but back then we stood out as being pretty different!
What made you initially choose 1% for the Planet?
Lucy: Quite simply it was reading the hugely inspiring book “Let my people go surfing” by Yvon Chouinard – which we read right at the start of running our business. Yvon is the founder of Patagonia and was a true pioneer in the ‘60s of sustainable business. He started the movement 1% for the Planet which has swept all around the globe. Every business signed up and audited by the organisation gives 1% of its turnover (whether they make a profit or not – which is why it’s more powerful and reliable than a percentage of profit) to environmental charities. It was set up to prove that business could be a powerful instigator of change within the environment and that there was far more about business than just the bottom line. It hugely resonated with us, and we joined up immediately!
What spurred the change to Little Clothes BIG Change?
Lucy: We loved being part of the 1% for the Planet movement but it had one limitation that we found a little bit frustrating. That was that we could only support environmental charities through it and as a brand with children at its core, when we asked our team and customers, they felt that we should also be supporting some charities that directly benefited children. We were bigger by then and so our donations had grown and we felt there was now room to help both – so Little Clothes Big Change was born. Still very much committed to giving 1% of turnover and also to donating to charities that were making a difference at a grassroots level. It’s been great to get customer and team input to who those charities should be all the way along, we’ve found out about and helped quite a number of charities that way, that we may never have known about otherwise.
How did you meet the lovely Stella?
Lucy: Stella is the most amazing lady looking after around 50 orphans just down the road from the original factory that we worked with (and still do!). We met her when Amit, the factory owner and good friend, took us to meet her and the children as he had been supporting the orphanage with school equipment and shoes. The children were just awesome, and I couldn’t believe that just one lady was running the whole shebang with no state help whatsoever! They were having to wash their clothes in a nearby stream, had no computer, very basic cooking facilities and no transport to help get the children to school. We started by buying them rice cookers, a washing machine, a computer and a tuk-tuk and have been supporting the children by paying for their education for many years. It’s been an honour to be able to help in just a small way but none of it would have happened without the extraordinary Stella!
What charity Frugi supported was closest to your heart?
Lucy: Ooooh, that’s difficult as I’ve felt really passionate about all of them! However, if I’m pushed, for me it’s been the charity I’ve now got involved with as a Trustee, and that’s Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Kurt and I both had a Marine Biology/Science background and Frugi funded their Marine Strandings Network and their “Pinger” trial – that has helped save hundreds of dolphins from being caught in fisherman’s nets around the Cornish coast and beyond.
Supporting that vital scientific trial work felt that we were making a real, innovative, scalable difference to the world. I spend a fair bit of my time now on CWT’s behalf trying to persuade other businesses to do the same! I have to say though, I never left Stella’s orphanage without a tear but also a vivid sense of hope and inspiration at the impact that relatively modest sums of money can make in a very real way to the life of all those children. You’ve never met such a warm, smiley bunch of children and singing and dancing with them has to be a life highlight too!
Why is giving back so key to Frugi?
Sarah: As you’ve heard from Lucy, giving-back has always been at the heart of Frugi. Even our supply chain – 85% of our products are made from GOTS cotton, which means our organic cotton is entirely traceable, with workers treated in the right way, and with less water and chemical usage, ensuring that the soil is also much more productive for farmers throughout the year. Our 1% donations are used to create change for both our planet and its people. Working with Eco-Schools helps to inspire the next generation of eco-heroes to protect our planet, whilst LEAF gives children the much-needed connection to nature. In addition, The Happy Childhood Fund reaches right into the heart of communities, open to charities requiring funding to support Shelter, Nature and Hunger.
Why 1% of turnover instead of a percentage of profit?
Sarah: It is a powerful commitment to give back whether we make a profit or not; it is much more reliable for our charitable aims… and also a bigger number! We have a fantastic group who oversee our charitable giving and work closely with all our charity partners. In our big company meetings, it is a highlight for our staff to be able to hear the powerful stories of how we have managed to help charities and communities with their important work.
What’s your advice to companies looking at giving back?
Sarah: Just do it. Find what matters to your brand and all those involved and start donating. The pride and drive that this creates will ripple through all involved. As a mainly online brand, our charitable giving has also helped us to keep connected and strengthen our ties to communities. There are so many great organisations out there to support brands getting started, that there’s no reason not to. Businesses need to dig deeper; create the best product or service you can, but also use your brand to create positive change – in uncertain times, whatever your political allegiances, research has shown that our communities are relying on powerful brands to drive change. Joining as the CEO in the brand’s 17th year, it’s refreshing to be able to have such a rich and genuine heritage that everyone in the business is committed to and proud of. Our charitable giving definitely makes this a special place to work.
What does the future hold?
Sarah: Pledging 1% of turnover for charity is firmly in the brand DNA and we wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s a complete honour to work with amazing charities that are helping those who need it most. We are continuously innovating and looking at how we can do things better for our planet and people. We will always take the time to seek out ideas to continue driving positive change; this not only inspires our teams but hopefully inspires others to do the same.