Socially Responsible Retail Gains Momentum

Purpose-driven retailers show how good practices make for good business.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
Elizabeth Christenson profile picture

Pro Tip: Consumers demand more from retail brands than just being merchants in today’s society. Brands that create physical environments that promote not only products — but also what the brands stand for — is key to creating meaningful connections with shoppers.

New purpose-driven brands are expanding via brick-and-mortar footprints to tap the growing number of conscious consumers, whose buying practices are driven by a commitment to make impactful purchasing decisions.

Key Growth Drivers

  • Consumers’ awareness of climate change is surging, as two-thirds of global consumers mentioned they were concerned about the topic in 2022, according to Euromonitor’s “Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles” survey.
  • 64% of consumers feel a brand’s social responsibility efforts are important to them. This number rises to more than 67% for millennials and Gen Z, according to 360 Market Reach.
  • More than two-thirds of younger generations say their choices are influenced by environmental, social and governance factors, according to McKinsey & Co. Paramount among their concerns is that companies are transparent and show they care for employees, customers and others in their communities.

Here’s Retail Leader Pro’s roundup of new brands that are retailing for good:


UpWest, a direct-to-consumer brand founded in 2019 with the purpose to provide comfort for people and planet, has opened two physical retail locations this year in New York, with a third one slated to open this fall. This year, UpWest’s Comfort for Good philanthropic and sustainability initiative has planted more than 25,000 trees through its partnership with One Tree Planted, as well as provided more than 20,000 showers to those in need through its work with Showers for All.

Jamie Schisler
Jamie Schisler, UpWest’s chief comfort officer

“We use this to drive not only our short-term decision-making, but also our long-term strategic investments,” explains Jamie Schisler, UpWest’s chief comfort officer. “We believe to be a purpose-driven brand, the purpose sits at the core of everything that we do, from the fabrics we select to the charities that we support. It all has to be in alignment with our brand purpose.”

Being a new brand, the retailer is working to create awareness, and the physical store allows customers to engage with UpWest products in a way they simply can’t by shopping digitally. 

UpWest store interior

“Stores not only acquire new customers to the physical location, but having a physical presence also lifts our digital sales in those markets,” Schisler says. “It also helps customers access brands more easily for things like online returns.” 

As far as engaging the community, UpWest opens each store with a local partner charity and donates 100% of the opening weekend proceeds from the store to support their mission. 

“Additionally, we regularly look to bring in various local vendors in specific markets, from musicians to coffee carts to local artisans,” Schisler adds.

UpWest store merchandising

UpWest’s store design is inspired by a tiny cabin that the retailer built and used to travel around the country when it first launched. 

“The design is wrapped in a neutral color palette, and we use various elements throughout the space to create a warm and inviting environment,” Schisler says. “As far as how the store design supports our sustainability initiatives, we only use recyclable shopping bags and encourage digital receipts over paper. Additionally, we have piloted a clothing take-back program in one of our stores that we are looking to roll out to additional locations.”

The Good Pour 

A brand derived from 15 years of wine and spirits business experience, The Good Pour donates to charity with every sale. Currently, The Good Pour has five store location openings in the works, with plans to open more locations in central Florida along with franchise expansion throughout the East Coast.

Ray Horal
Ray Horal, co-founder of The Good Pour

Fueled by its purpose, its focus from the beginning has been to deliver an experience for each of its consumers that has empathy and soul.

“We have worked tirelessly to dissect the traditional retail experience in support of creating a more emotionally engaging and fulfilling guest experience,” says Ray Horal, co-founder of The Good Pour. “While many believe in omnichannel domination, and the significance of frictionless experiences, we believe winning at retail today entails so much more. For us, it’s about showing up in the moments that matter in remarkable ways for each of our guests.”

At its brick-and-mortar locations, The Good Pour plans to host a variety of events and provide “edutainment” opportunities for the community to connect with one another and learn from industry leaders, brands and charities united by the purpose. In terms of special services and departments, the retailer plans to become a destination for turn-key, personalized gifts.

The Good Pour
Rendering of upcoming The Good Pour location

In turn, the retailer’s in-store experience is focused on:

  • Guest engagement: The stores will immediately communicate the mission of The Good Pour through various messaging mediums, taking advantage of surfaces to do this thoughtfully, with an eye toward education, inclusion, humor and humility.
  • Sensory engagement: Crafting a consumer experience, the retailer will engage all senses through music, lighting and scent. The sensory guest experience will be further supported through the use of authentic materials, finishes and furnishings that include elements such as brick, concrete, steel, wood and leather.
  • Communication: The store will support the brand’s marketing strategies to connect with guests across multiple communication platforms, creating both permanent and flexible opportunities for signature moments within the space to enable curated, memorable experiences.
The Good Pour
Rendering of upcoming The Good Pour's tasting entry
  • Visual cues and wayfinding: The stores will use visual cues and wayfinding deliberately to support uncluttered merchandising solutions that provide clarity and inspiration to each guest.
  • Outdoors to indoors: Viewed from the outside, The Good Pour will be both welcoming and captivating, with the transparency, brightness and warmth of the space setting the expectation of an elevated shopping experience while developing a recognizable brand presence.
 Giuliana Rossi
Giuliana Rossi, co-founder of The Good Pour
  • Scaled sustainability: With future goals of growth, the retailer will develop a strategy to scale sustainability efforts in both leased and owned properties, employing solutions that will have the greatest impact and ROI in both first and life-cycle costs.

“Overall, we will design a mission-based, hospitality-driven wine and spirits retail environment that will deeply connect with guests’ and associates’ desires of service to their community and a sense of belonging to something with a greater purpose,“ says Giuliana Rossi, co-founder of The Good Pour.