by Ashley Lodato

If you've never heard of cause marketing, you're not alone. But if you believe you've never been the audience for a cause marketing campaign, think again, because cause marketing is all around us.

Now wait a minute--what is cause marketing anyway?

Cause marketing, or cause-related marketing, is an agreement between a business and a nonprofit to raise money for a particular cause. Billed as "win-win" situations, cause marketing allows the nonprofit to benefit financially and the company to benefit by increased sales and by the cache of being seen as socially responsible and interested in the same causes as its customers. 

American companies began embracing cause marketing in the 1980s, after American Express raised $1.7 million to help restore the Statue of Liberty in one of the first large-scale cause marketing campaigns. During this legendary 3-month campaign American Express donated a portion of all purchases to the restoration fund, sales rose 27%, and new card applications were up by 45%. And the iconic statue was restored. 

Although some were cynical about the marriage of philanthropy and commercialism, other American companies followed suit, finding nonprofits to partner with in order to be seen by stakeholders and customers as "doing well by doing good." You may be aware of some of these efforts: Coke raising $3 million for polar bear conservation through the World Wildlife Fund and its Arctic Home campaign; Reebok giving $500 million to breast cancer research and prevention through Avon 39. 

You may not, however, be quite as aware of Bronwen Jewelry's cause marketing. We are a pretty small company and have not raised millions to support the causes we believe in. (Yet.) But still, it's important to us to invest a portion of our business income into organizations whose missions support our values. We like to put our money where our hearts are, so to speak.

Take, for example, our partnership with the Hera Foundation, which seeks to eliminate ovarian cancer. Bronwen gives the foundation 10% of sales of our Hera Lotus Necklace, which we designed specifically for the foundation. We also support EarthWorks' No Dirty Gold campaign, which drives change in the mining industry's human rights and environmental practices.

Many years ago we stopped using coral in our jewelry designs and joined prominent jewelers such as Tiffany & Co. in coral conservation awareness through the Too Precious to Wear campaign. And we support the Bend-based WorldMuse, which inspires women to create positive social change from within. WorldMuse connects women to their own sense of purpose as well as to eachother, and provides the tools and support they need to create positive change in their lives, in their communities, and in our world.

One of our favorite causes is the Conservation Alliance. Located right here in Bend, OR, the Conservation Alliance engages businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values. It's the 1989 brainchild of leadership at REI, Patagonia, The North Face, and Kelty, who wanted to increase outdoor industry support for conservation efforts by funding community-based grassroots campaigns to protect threatened wild habitat.

In fewer than 30 years, the Conservation Alliance has:

  • contributed over $15 million to grassroots conservation groups throughout North America
  • helped save more than 45 million acres of wildlands
  • protected 2,972 miles of rivers
  • helped stop or remove 28 dams
  • designated five marine reserves
  • and purchased 11 climbing areas

All this, largely through funds contributed by member companies who believe in the alliance's mission. Bronwen Jewelry is a proud sponsor of the Conservation Alliance; we feel great knowing that our jewelry sales help protect the wild places that call to us and inspire us.

The unique thing about Bronwen Jewelry is that cause marketing efforts like our partnership with the Conservation Alliance are simply added value for our fantastic products. Our highest priority is making gorgeous jewelry with integrity. We want our customers to buy our jewelry because it's beautiful, built to last, and makes the wearer feel and look great, not because we donate to social and environmental causes. You purchase an artful, high-quality product from us for the sake of the item alone, and a happy by-product of that transaction is the satisfaction we all get out of the environmental or social give-back. 

There are other small things we do at Bronwen that help us feel like citizens of the planet. We use swim suit fabric scraps from Carve Designs in our Swim Wrap Bracelets, for example, and we work exclusively with silver casting companies that use a percentage of recycled silver in their products. We employ local artisans to handcraft our jewelry and we treat them like the valued members of the team that they are. We use only fairly-sourced and traded materials in all of our products.

At Bronwen, we like to think of all of our relationships--whether with employees, customers, vendors, or organizations that we sponsor--as connections that are mutually beneficial and mutually satisfying. They're our most valued alliances: the ties that make us all stronger.