Inspiration from Innocent’s Sustainable Business Model

As part of Magma Digital’s involvement with the BIBAs Academy, we have the privilege of attending some wonderful workshops and masterclasses at Lancaster University’s Management School. On Tuesday evening, we went along for a masterclass on sustainability by Jessica Sansom from Innocent Drinks.

You may be familiar with the brilliant story behind the brand but let’s have a quick recap. Three Cambridge University graduates, who had professional careers in consulting and advertising, decided to give up their day jobs and dive into the deep end of starting a business.

After delivering business presentations at every venture capital fund in London, a stroke of good fortune came their way. Maurice Pinto stepped in after his company turned the opportunity down and he invested his own money to the tune of £250,000. The Innocent brand was born in 1999, which luckily for them, makes them twins with Magma Digital.  Within four years the brand commanded a 30% slice of their market, with a retail value of around £50m. Not bad.

One of the keys to their success with consumers was that they were an ethical and value-led business, with a remarkably strong socially conscious image. By 2004, the company had committed £2.4m to worthy causes, directly helped 530,000 people and launched their Innocent Foundation. This initiative was dedicated to using 10% of their annual profits “to do good things with.”


The overriding principle behind which all decisions are made is to “create a business we can be proud of.” This drives their business values and in turn, their commitment to sustainability. (You can view their report on their approach to sustainability in its full glory here.)

“Leaving things a little bit better than we find them” is the mantra behind their sustainability initiatives. There are short term and long term benefits to Innocent delivering on their sustainability promises, as shown below:

sustainable strategy innocent

We were made acutely aware of the risks of not paying proper attention to sustainability, through the example of Weetabix. Last year, the weather turned ‘cereal killer’ for the company, as a cold and wet summer hit their wheat harvest hard. The manufacturer had to halt production of two popular products.

Innocent rely on a successful mango harvest in India for some of their products and understood that farmers were becoming increasingly wary of worsening monsoons.  Showing that their sustainable strategy wasn’t just business posturing, Jessica showed us this fantastic clip of their philosophy in action on mango farms in India:

Jessica made a concerted effort not to harp on about Innocent all evening and she discussed, at length, the best practice examples from brands such as Chipotle and Timberland. Special praise and admiration was reserved for Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living Plan.’ The FMCG conglomerate set themselves incredibly ambitious targets to reach by 2020 and are currently well on their way to reaching them.

magma digital inspired innocent

We left the masterclass with a renewed sense of purpose, for stepping up Magma Digital’s corporate social responsibility initiatives. Jessica’s call to action to the attendees was to re-invent our businesses with sustainable models and practices. On our journey home, we discussed the many possibilities for Magma Digital. Inspired by Innocent.

Let us know what you think of Innocent’s sustainable model in the comments below. If you have any other case study examples, then please share!

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