The client: Part sustainable design store, part online magazine, YUME CPH was founded to make sustainable living easier – and a whole lot more fun. The online magazine, The YUME Edit, offers up inspiring content about people, places, products and solutions that embody sustainable living.
The project: As the content editor of The YUME Edit, I work with YUME’s co-founders to discover, research, and write stories about sustainable living and design. Whether covering a company that plants 100 trees for every product it sells, or interviewing an entrepreneur who is disrupting the travel industry with a sustainable, charitable new model, the goal is to inspire readers and offer up new ways to make choices that help the planet while supporting an adventurous lifestyle.
If you’d like a dose of sustainable living inspiration, click here.
Feature Story 1: An interview with the founder of Goodwings, a hotel booking site that invests its would-be marketing budget in NGOs.
GOODWINGS: SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL THAT’S TRULY GOOD
November 4, 2017
SHAKING UP THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY
After a few years in the Danish military, followed by studying business and philosophy at Copenhagen Business School, Christian knew he wanted to dive into business. “But not the traditional way,” he says.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) came to play a key role in his career. He co-founded WELL, a non-profit that integrated CSR into higher education institutions, and then the consultancy Healthy Company, which developed programs to keep employees healthy, providing healthcare devices, lifestyle campaigns, on-site health checks and other services.
A little over two years ago, after selling Healthy Company and, in Christian’s words, “having a second kid, getting married, and just enjoying life,” the entrepreneurial itch returned, and Christian and his business partner began to take a closer look at the travel industry. “My interest was really sparked by the fact that the industry is growing at a very rapid pace – up to 10% a year. Middle classes are growing and small and medium-sized companies are becoming increasingly global, with employees traveling more,” he explains. “But, the closer we looked, the more we saw that there has been very little change toward a sustainability agenda in the travel industry.”
“I had long dreamt of building a business on a foundation of sustainability and CSR,” Christian says. “I knew that companies are looking for sustainable solutions, or ones that can have a positive impact. The challenge is that CSR often costs money, takes time – and consumers don’t want to pay extra. We wanted to solve this problem.” The answer paired a passion for travel with a passion for making a positive impact on the world, and Goodwings was born.
INVESTING IN CHARITY, NOT MARKETING
The world’s major travel booking sites spend a whopping $12 billion on marketing. Expedia alone, with one quarter of the world market, spends $3-4 billion. “And there is no added value for the customer,” Christian adds. “So, our idea was to disrupt the distribution of travel,” he says. Simple as that. “Instead of marketing with TV ads or Google ads or AdWords, we offer customers the option to fight cancer, eradicate poverty, educate girls and much more – at absolutely no extra expense.”
GETTING PEOPLE AND COMPANIES TO CHANGE THEIR HABITS (NOT THEIR SPENDING)
Today, over 200 companies are booking their corporate hotel stays exclusively through Goodwings, and that number keeps growing – as does the number of individuals opting for hotel stays that give back.
How has Goodwings gotten to this point without paid advertising? And how does it live up to the promise that its prices are not a penny higher than competitors’?
Counter-intuitive as that may seem, Expedia.com has an affiliate network and allows its partners to use its hotel and pricing data. Goodwings became an Expedia partner, meaning that that at any given moment, Goodwing’s booking costs are exactly the same as Expedia.com’s. The difference is this: where Expedia rolls approximately half of its commissions into marketing, Goodwings rolls that into charitable donations. It sounded impossible to us, too, but an ingenious sustainable model makes it possible for Goodwings to scrap advertising and instead donate 50% of its gross revenue from bookings to charities.
Individual customers like you and I are discovering Goodwings through word of mouth – while companies typically learn about it through the NGOs they already support. “We’ve partnered with NGOs like WWF, CARE and Plastic Change – and the list keeps growing. Our NGO partners connect us to the companies that support them, opening the door for us and encouraging the companies to switch to Goodwings as their booking site. And when they do, the proceeds all go back to that door-opening NGO. The corporation actually gets to choose the specific project they want to support.” A perfect circle, in other words.
On the GOODWINGS WEBSITE, heart ratings show you just how great an impact booking a particular hotel will have. This is based on each hotel’s own decision about how much commission to offer to Expedia.com (and, ultimately, to Goodwings – and its NGOs.) So, say you’re headed to London and want to stay near Buckingham Palace. One four-star hotel a few blocks from the royals may offer a commission of, say, 8%, earning two or three hearts – while another hotel just down the street and with the same rating offers 16%, earning all five hearts. Same prime location, same great experience – but with a double the impact.
At checkout, Goodwings tells you the exact amount your booking will contribute to charity. But the company also does more. “For companies, we create free impact reports that say, for instance: ‘Your company has donated $100,000 to WWF, and has planted 412 trees. Now, endangered tigers can hide more easily from poachers.’”
“We also let people know: with your choices, you’ve supported sustainable development goals 1,2, and 14,” says Christian, referring to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals framework. Something that’s very close to our hearts here at YUME as well.
THE FUTURE OF GOODWINGS: FLIGHTS – AND EVEN GREATER IMPACT
“While at the moment we are only booking hotels, we plan to launch a flight booking service so we can provide everything the competition does – but better,” says Christian.
We can hardly wait. Another thing we’re excited to check out: Goodwings’ recommendations for a few of its most sustainable hotels. We’ll share those with you here in the coming weeks.
Feature Story 2: A story about the co-founders, Marie Engberg and Anja Holm, instantly became a top site hit. After all, we all love a good story about people who transform their lives to follow their passions and change the world.
MEET THE FOUNDERS: MARIE & ANJA
September 27, 2017
What began as two women’s dream – yume, pronounces you-meh, is Japanese for dream – began to morph into reality in early 2017. YUME founders Anja Holm and Marie Engberg both had established careers in the corporate world, but felt the pull of a vision-driven business that would bridge their passions – while doing good for the world. A sustainable design concept was born: part shop, with a vibrant portfolio of home products and accessories, part online magazine, brimming with inspiration to help others make sustainable life dreams a reality, too.
Here, YUME’s founders answer some pressing life questions.
How did you two meet?
Anja: We were studying at Copenhagen Business School, where we both did our Masters in Marketing Communications Management. Then we did our thesis together and became friends. After graduating, Marie went into communications, working for Scandinavian lifestyle and design brands, and I became an in-house business strategy consultant, working for large Danish firms.
How did you come up wit the YUME concept?
Marie: I’d been contemplating a way to fuse my love for design with a way to do something good for some time. I spent half a year writing notes in a book, trying to figure it out. I got to 58 ideas, all centered around design and sustainability.
Anja: We were walking around the Copenhagen lakes one day, Marie told me about her sustainable design hub idea, and I immediately knew that was the one. We were in a similar place in our lives, both ambitious, both with two young children, both looking for something that would allow us to work for ourselves and give something back to the world.
Marie: YUME was born out of our dreams – and also some very tangible gaps in the market. My husband, kids and I had moved into an old townhouse by the lakes, and were looking for things to decorate our home. But we couldn’t find something that looked good and did good. There wasn’t a single place to browse through and find beautiful stuff we’d feel good having in our home, both from environmental and aesthetic standpoints. I was looking for a lamp, and after 33 hours of research (I started keeping track!), I finally came across TALA’S BEAUTIFUL LED PENDANTS, which we now carry in our shop.
How do you source products from around the world and find collaborators?
Anja: It’s a combination of desktop research, speaking to people in the industry, visiting fairs, and looking for parternships, LIKE WITH UNIDO. They opened up a world that we couldn’t have delved into otherwise.
Marie: Our ultimate goal is to source from around the world. Unido created a bridge for us – to the Middle East, for instance. We’d also like to expand our network into Asia and Africa. We’re always looking for collaborators, and really welcome any ideas on our TIPLINE.
What was the first product in the YUME portfolio?
Marie: That was the GREEN TAMEGROUTE CERAMICS from Morocco. The unique green color comes from the region’s clay, which is mixed with naturally occurring copper. So you can only get this look there. My husband and I travelled to Morocco in March and met Mourad, a shipping and logistics expert who’s been absolutely invaluable to our team since. He wanted to do something for local regions in Morocco, and found a way to help the women who produce the ceramics. Now, he brings the ceramics directly from the Tamegroute region in southern Morocco, by the Sahara Desert, to Marrakech, and ships them to us.
What’s your favorite design piece in your home right now and why?
Marie: Hands down the GREG EASON POSTER from Paper Collective. And the MAGNETIC STICKS that frame it, which are made from FSC-certified wood. They’re just so cool. You can use them forever, and put up a new piece of art in the same frame whenever the mood strikes.
What alternative/green materials or objects are you most excited about?
Anja: The cardboard box from La Petite Papeterie Française. They made this beautiful box out of organic cotton and recycled cardboard fibers leftoever from cardboard industry. We just used it for our press kits. It’s in our Office Supplies section and can be used in a thousand different ways.
Marie: And Tala’s LED lightbulb, which is actually really nice to look at.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Marie: Before I left my previous job, my boss – who has single-handedly built the fastest-growing communications blog in Denmark – told me: “Always give lots of gifts, and people will give them back to you.” We’ve really taken this to heart in building YUME. We want to create a global sustainable design community, and that means working together not only with designers and manufacturers, but also with our competitors. We want to know what boutique shops in Boston, Tokyo, and Rio are doing to promote sustainable design. We want to have conversations about what customers are looking for and get better at offering easy, green solutions. We should be looking at what each other is doing and learning from it to collectively achieve greater good.
Who are some of your favourite designers working today?
Anja: Matias Møllenbach is definitely one to watch. He graduated from St Martins School of Design in London, and has designed A GORGEOUS, MOUTH-BLOWN LAMP we now carry, as well as lead-free drinking glasses.
With two small children each and a new business to grow, what do you do to try to live a balanced life?
Marie and Anja both laugh. But then consider.
Marie: I try to use my newfound freedom to prioritize a bit differently and be spontaneous. I’ll drop the kids off at kindergarten late and have a few hours with them in the mornings and go to our favorite cake chop, Lagkagehuset, here in Copenhagen. Or just take a random day off. It’s been a while since that’s happened, but that’s the dream.
Anja: We live close to Kastellet [a star-shaped fortress in Copenhagen], so we often go and have picnics there. It’s a beautiful place with gorgeous views of the harbor, and it lets you just completely disconnect and feel you’re living in another time.
Where do you hope to be one year from now?
Marie: Steadily building a sustainable universe with followers from all over the world.
Anja: And building a community to help make sustainable design more attainable.