By Maryclaire Manard
But first, a refresher on why Cluey exists
When I set out to build Cluey, I was driven by the knowledge that, collectively, consumer behavior had the potential to transform industries. Change doesn’t happen through individual action alone, of course, but time and time again throughout history we’ve seen the power of collective action taking hold, particularly when there is money (spending power) on the line. For example, ten years ago, SC Johnson developed plans for a refillable Windex product, where consumers would just buy the solution refills but not the container. They shelved the plans because, at the time, consumers weren’t interested. Now, with consumer concern over plastic pollution at a historic high, they’re bringing it back. Instances like these prove it’s 100% possible for companies to make concrete changes in how they operate for better outcomes for people and the planet, but the incentives to operate in such a manner need to be there, and that’s where consumer behavior comes into play.
There’s no doubt that the conscious consumer movement is larger today than it has ever been, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still barriers to consumers looking to spend their money more consciously. Of all of the barriers, none are as imposing as the lack of access to centralized and reliable information on what companies are actually doing, and their associated impacts on the world around them. Cluey’s first mandate became clear: democratize access to this type of information for everyone.
In order to do this, we sourced and aggregated the best available information that’s out there today on companies and brands to help consumers discover what’s really behind the products they’re buying. Also, to ensure we were truly “democratizing” this information, we knew that it had to be free to access, without any prohibitive costs. So the next question we had to tackle: how would we keep the lights on?
Running an operation like Cluey is not done cheaply. For starters, getting access to some of the high-quality information we source requires licensing fees in order to ensure those sources are compensated for their work. Next, we need our own team internally to aggregate and translate all of these various information sources into our own ratings methodology so that it could be easily understood by the everyday consumer (another win for accessibility). And of course, we need the technical expertise to build this information into a platform that is user-friendly. We considered leveraging a non-profit model, but the issues with that model were many (nonstop fundraising, access to talent, the potential for special interests to creep in, and more.) Plus, that model wasn’t even really attractive, to begin with because a huge thesis of what we are building is that, as a company, it’s 100% possible to do well, by doing good, and we want to model what we are preaching. We want to accomplish our world-changing mission as a for-profit company.
That is how we ultimately came to the conclusion on how we plan to make money (and keep the lights on).
How Cluey Makes Money
Some of this has been our intention for a while, and some of it is new, as we are still a young company and how we achieve our mission continues to evolve. Given the premium we put on transparency, we want to make sure we continue to communicate these changes to our users as they happen.
The first way we will make money is through affiliate partnerships with certain brands. This means that in some cases, there may be an affiliate link attached to a brand on our emails or on our site. If a user were to click on those links, and make a purchase, we would get a small commission on that purchase. In order to maintain incentivizing good behavior, we are limiting these partners to brands that score a B- or higher on both people and planet impacts on Cluey. Additionally, given our ratings derive from third-party data that we cannot influence, we are able to maintain objectivity in the process of partnering with high-performing brands.
The best part about this model, however, is that via these affiliate partnerships, we will also pass along savings and discounts to our users when we can negotiate that option with our brand partners (and when we can’t negotiate a discount, we will opt to donate to our charitable partners for every purchase made). And that remains core to our mission: making conscious consumerism accessible. We made the information accessible, and now we want to help make the prices more accessible too. In the same way, we believe companies who are operating more responsibly should be rewarded with more business, we also believe the same is true for consumers, and it’s no secret that another barrier to conscious consumerism can often be the prohibitive cost of more sustainably made goods. So we see this as a win for the brands who are doing well, a win for Cluey for helping conscious consumers discover those brands, and a win for our users wanting to buy better and save some money while doing so.
Example of a brand, Uncommon Goods, that is an affiliate partner of Cluey
The second way we will make money is by licensing access to our data-driven insights powered by our users. What this means is that when our users choose to like or dislike a brand, or indicate that they are swapping brands out of their household based on what they learned via Cluey, we will anonymize and aggregate those behaviors in addition to the high-level values data provided by users (how much you care about environmental issues, social issues, political leanings, basic demographic info, etc.) and share that with brands. Brands will pay money to access those insights, and ideally leverage them to make better decisions on how they operate in order to keep customers coming back. Essentially, you tell us how you feel, and brands pay to listen to that. But the “you” in that case is anonymous alongside numerous peers. This is key to maintaining the privacy of our users and their data.
I hope this post makes it extremely clear how we plan to sustain our business operations here at Cluey. Finding the answer to many of these questions was and continues to be a process, and we want our users to be informed every step of the way. With that in mind, I want to make myself available should there be any questions or feedback. You can always reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, let’s change the world.
Maryclaire is the CEO and Founder of Cluey Consumer. She started Cluey out of her personal frustration with the inconvenience and difficulty of aligning consumer behavior with personal political, social, and environmental values.