Sustainability in Action: Smthgood

by Portfolio Magazine
Photography by Zulfadli bin Rahman, assisted by Tracey Nguyen
Shot on location at AIR CCCC
20 May 2024

From producing eco-friendly alternatives of global commodities to championing conscious retail through e-commerce, these individuals are fearlessly forging a path to a more sustainable consumer landscape.

In exploring the interconnected realms of environmental stewardship and social responsibility, we dive into the dynamic landscape of sustainability in action. Through conversations with a handful of changemakers, we discover how their strategies are driving positive change across industries. At the same time, we learn more about the indispensable role of sustainable investments, showcasing how financial support and capital allocation are essential in realizing transformative sustainability goals.

Tony K Tan, Founding Director

Sustainability is at the heart of what you do. Can you tell us what inspired your journey and what the experience has been like so far?
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family sparked my interest in business. I have always believed in the synergy between profitability and social impact, the idea of “doing good” – a belief that was reinforced during the pandemic. That has planted the seed for this journey to start Smthgood (pronounced Something Good).

Founded in 2021, Smthgood’s concept and features evolved from recognizing challenges in conscious shopping. This involved a significant amount of research to understand how shopping habits and consumer behaviours have evolved, including a commissioned survey with 500 online savvy women that guided our approach. We went live in early 2023 to collect user feedback, shaping our platform’s direction, concept and features.

Since our launch, we received positive feedback for our unique platform that combines a conscious shopping marketplace with a virtual styling tool, Lookbook. To further enhance user experience, we addressed tech-related issues and UX/UI concerns, leading to Version 3's development, releasing not just a mobile app update, but also a web browser access as well.

Version 3 represents our most significant iteration yet, reflective of an iterative and continuous approach in advancing user experiences on our platform.

What kind of impact are you hoping to make in Singapore and the region? At the same time, how do you walk the talk?
At Smthgood, our aim is to enable users to "Look Good, Do Good, Feel Good" by promoting ethical consumerism for our nearly 90 brands (and growing) through personalization features, a search engine, and AI tagging. We pride ourselves on providing users with a meaningful online shopping experience rooted in ethical values.

The Lookbook, our visual styling editor, enhances the discovery process, allowing users to create mood boards with products from our conscious marketplace. By sharing their Lookbooks and participating in challenges, users earn cashback coins when others make purchases from their Lookbooks. This gamifies the shopping experience and fosters an eco-conscious community.

Our platform also curates brand partners based on our values, ensuring products align with sustainable materials, production methods, and community impact. Ultimately, Smthgood offers users a chance to explore responsible shopping while expressing their unique style, supporting ethical consumerism, and fostering a positive impact.

The sustainability journey is not always easy. What kind of challenges have you encountered and what difficult conversations have you had in pursuit of doing the right thing?
Smthgood initially launched with women's fashion and accessories, facing challenges around consumer perceptions of conscious fashion being more expensive and less vibrant compared to fast fashion. To address this, we took on a two-pronged approach – we expanded our range of eco-conscious brands and offerings, ensuring customers find items that resonate with their style and beliefs. We also introduced a broad pricing range from USD$20 to USD$200 to accommodate different budgets.

Education plays a key role in shaping perceptions of sustainable products. With our Fashion E-Book, available on our website, it shares insights on how consciously-made product quality often exceeds mass-produced items and how sustainable shopping can positively impact the environment and society.

Sustainable investing is on the rise. Some may see it more as a moral obligation rather than the real value that it can add to an investment portfolio. What are your thoughts on this?
At Smthgood, we focus on the double bottom line: Financial viability and ethical responsibility. Our research shows a convergence of both, as conscious consumption trends rise. Consumers are increasingly willing to pay a slight premium for sustainable products and actively promote them to others.

Key trends that we have observed reveal that nearly 50% of APAC consumers prefer brands aligned with their values, with 60% in Singapore already buying sustainable products in the past two years. In APAC, 90% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainability-focused goods, leading to an expectation of a rise in spending on such products over the next three years.

Globally, 80% of consumers surveyed are willing to pay up to 5% more for sustainable products, with more than 40% are willing to pay more than 10%, and one in ten are ready to pay up to 30% more. Conscious consumers advocate for the products they purchase, with over 80% actively recommending sustainable products to others. This contributes to the virality of sustainable products and underscores the strong business case for conscious-driven businesses.

(Related: Navigating investments for a sustainable future)

How do you ensure that your sustainability efforts are sustained in the long run? What kind of support have you received and what more is needed?
In our commitment to ethical consumerism, we aim to foster a culture of mindful decision-making among consumers through encouraging incremental steps towards meaningful change for more environmentally and socially responsible consumption.

To sustain our role in this journey, it is crucial that we are able to maintain financial stability to continue championing the message of sustainability and conscious consumption. As a self-funded venture, we closely monitor our cost base and operational efficiencies while strategizing for growth. The success of our recent Version 3 launch is a testament of this as we saw more than 60x increase in Monthly Active Users since December 2023.

To advance and scale, fundraising is crucial for any startup. For Smthgood and similar ventures pursuing double bottom lines, it is equally important to establish connections with like-minded stakeholders who share our profit-for-purpose ethos. By enlisting these stakeholders, we can enhance the ecosystem and better champion the message of collective good.