Amazonia: Leveraging social responsibility to build a multimillion dollar business
Businesses are beginning to notice a link between environmental and social awareness and profitability. In fact, a recent study conducted by Di Marzio Research, and commissioned by Cavill + Co revealed that Gen X and Y are increasingly switching over to socially conscious brands with the same offering – pointing to a ‘conscious consumerism’ trend and proving social responsibility to be a unique selling point.
The importance of ethical business practice is underscored by the recent launch of United Nations Environment Program new initiative to drive more sustainability in global markets; and programmes such as Richard Branson’s B Team continue to highlight the value of sustainable and responsible practice.
Launched in 2008, Amazonia is an Australian organic health food company embracing sustainable business strategy. The business is a response to one of the most serious global problems of our time – the deforestation of the Amazon forest. In 2013, illegal and irresponsible logging peaked with 5,843 square km, an area more than twice the size of the ACT, being destroyed.
Dwayne Martens, CEO of Amazonia, believes that environmental sustainability is a vital business practice in today’s world: “It is simply imperative that modern business understands its social and environmental impacts. Sustainability is not only cheaper but ensures long term business practice.”
Since its inception in 2008, Amazonia’s business strategy has been carefully designed to provide natural, organic acai berries to Australians whilst protecting the Amazon forest and the economy of Amazonian communities.
Over the past six years, Amazonia has grown from a single market stall to a multi-million dollar enterprise, whilst maintaining a strict ethos of social and environmental responsibility. And for Martens, the social advantages far outweigh the financial benefits.
“Never before have local Amazonian families had so much financial incentive to keep their local rainforest standing,” he said. “Seeing the positive impact first hand this industry is having on local communities is by far the most rewarding aspect.”
Amazonia’s sustainable business practices include:
- Direct engagement of over 4000 Amazonian families to harvest natural acai
- Preservation of over 4000 acres of Amazon forest
- Using rivers as roads to protect the natural environment
- Education and financial incentives to locals, to protect against illegal logging
- Recycled use of harvest waste as building materials
- Regular donations to the Sustainable Amazon Project
- Waste acai seeds used to make Fair Trade bracelets – 100% of profits returned to local communities
- Recycled and recyclable packaging and non-toxic ink (Raw Range)
Martens was 22 years old when he founded Amazonia. At the time it seemed reckless, but he quit his health science degree at the University of Western Australia – just a semester away from graduating – to follow a career path of social entrepreneurship. He discovered a berry called Acai from a Brazilian Acai distributor and spent countless hours at the back of a Fremantle, WA organic restaurant, packing his first ever Amazonia products.
Driven by ambition, Martens took his first business trip to Queensland to strike up a deal with Chris Norden. Together have been building Amazonia into a unique health movement.
With Acai booming, Martens and Norten knew the true future was in direct sustainable supply of Acai. This saw them pack up the rations and go on a eye-opening adventure into the heart of the Amazon.
In a slum town in the middle of the biggest rainforest in the world, the duo discovered unique produce and have since paved the way for the first-ever certified organic, certified fair trade Acai into Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Bali and South Korea, Greece and more.
”Seeing the positive impact first hand this industry is having on local communities is by far the most rewarding aspect,“ said Martens.
It seems Martens and Norten practice what they preach; they live and breathe the lifestyle they advocate. On the company website, they’ve stated,”We are playing a strong part in the health movement to build a community that understands that good food, health, sustainability and a balanced lifestyle contribute to a more fulfilled life.”
“To us the most important job we have is simply providing the options so that people can make a healthier choice. With time we know people will find their way and sift through the health propaganda modern day society is faced with.”
Though no revenue numbers have been revealed, from a distance Amazonia demonstrates that social responsibility and profitability aren’t mutually exclusive in the high-growth business world.