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What’s innovative about NIKIN is that they not only offer sustainable fashion, but also plant a tree for each product sold. The brand’s mission is to make sustainable and fair fashion affordable, which sets them apart from the competition where sustainable fashion is relatively expensive. The compromise between affordability and sustainability makes NIKIN unique and ensures accessibility of the product for everyone.
“Tree by Tree is our promise and the way we make a difference through NIKIN”
According to Nicholas, one of the co-founders of NIKIN, back in the days, the innovation of the business model of NIKIN or what made them special, was the tree planting per item sold. The tree planting is done through a collaboration with a US non-profit-organisation called OneTreePlanted, who collects funding to achieve its mission of planting trees globally adapting to the most pressing needs. The advantage of the collaboration with OneTreePlanted is that they are affordable and work in a transparent way. Additionally, NIKIN has in mind to introduce a Treetracker that makes it possible to see and find the spot where the customer's tree has been planted and to see how it benefits the local population.
However, nowadays planting trees is not that innovative anymore, according to the NIKIN co-founder, since many companies and people started doing it. Now, the innovative side of NIKIN is more about the combination of different characteristics of the company. On the one hand, NIKIN has a strong e-commerce and social media strategy allowing them to target and reach people of every age group. On the other hand, NIKIN also has control over their entire supply chain, creating the best possible balance between affordability and sustainability. This creates an image of an authentic brand, that can be looked at as a lifestyle.
The inspiration for NIKIN is rooted in the upbringings of its two founders. Nicholas and Robin were both active scouts in their youths, with a love for nature that stuck with them until this very day. Over a beer, the two friends decided they wanted to give something back to nature, so they came up with the business idea of NIKIN. Planting trees as a part of their business model is a way for them to contribute in the battle against climate change, as well as add some additional value to their products. However, the two didn’t just want this sole aspect of sustainability as an attribute to their business, they wanted to develop and produce sustainable fashion. As much of today’s sustainable brands are too expensive, Nicholas and Robin embarked on a mission to create sustainable, yet affordable fashion.
The overall impact of the business innovation can be determined by the contribution to the UN SDGs, the direct impact of the planted trees, and NIKIN’s role model position and commitment to spread their idea.
NIKIN’s business model contributes to SDG 12, 13 and 15, which represent the topics “sustainable consumption and production”, “climate action”, and “life on land”, respectively. This contribution happens due to their focus on sustainability when producing clothing and products, and due to their commitment to planting one tree for every item sold. Recently, their re-use collection was launched, ensuring that as little waste as possible is generated.
So far, almost 1.5 million trees have been planted through NIKIN’s business model, which is an area as big as the entire city of Zürich (Switzerland) or 11’345 football pitches. One fully grown tree produces enough oxygen for about 2 million people, whilst simultaneously absorbing an average of 10 kilogrammes CO2, per year.
The impact even goes further as the business model serves as inspiration for other businesses as well as individuals due to its simple and replicable manner. NIKIN organises tree planting events, shares knowledge through its tree blogs and collaborates with other local companies that show a sustainable business idea.
The two founders, Nicholas Hänny and Robin Gnehm, started with a seed capital of CHF 5’000. Without any investors they could grow their business and have already planted more than 1.3 million trees by now (representing the number of items sold). The financial numbers such as the turnover and EBITDA look positive and show that the company is growing from year to year.
They managed to create a loyal customer base since they represent both a sustainable brand and a lifestyle. The tree logo on all products not only points out the importance of trees in our ecosystem, but also shows how sustainable fashion can be trendy. The business of NIKIN emerged from the two founders to around 50 employees and recently sales grew by 80% despite the pandemic shock. The company continuously expanded their range of products starting with basic shirts and clothes evolving to general lifestyle products. Additionally, sales in other countries were increasing over time and therefore NIKIN wants to strengthen their international presence.
What makes them growing and successful is how they positioned themselves. NIKIN is a community brand, which is authentic and transparent. They differentiate themselves by providing a sustainable alternative to fast fashion that is affordable. The success arises from the consistency and transparency in implementing their philosophy. Some decisions they make, like for instance not offering free shipping, may harm their revenue, but are in line with what they stand for. Moreover, it is certainly important to keep on track with trends and changes in the environment to remain successful, which the company is doing by launching new products and initiatives frequently.
Despite satisfying their bottom line, NIKIN also contributes to the environment and society. By planting a tree for every product sold, the firm has now planted over 1 million trees. NIKIN thereby contributes to increasing afforestation globally, a crucial aspect in the fight against climate change. In addition, the firm is trying to go into circularity whereby leftovers from production are given a new life. For instance, NIKIN have taken old water bottles and created vases, or brought together various leftovers to make cases for sunglasses. This reduces the quantity of waste that they would have otherwise generated. Furthermore, through means of responsible production, NIKIN utilises GOTS certified organic cotton which includes less chemicals and pesticides than many other fashion brands, aiding the preservation of the soil, as well as providing a safer working environment for their employees.
NIKIN provides further benefits for society through their innovation. For instance, through the plantation of fruit trees in India, and coffee plants in South America, the trees can give back to the local communities. However, not only are social benefits provided through trees, but monetary donations are also provided to other organisations. NIKIN supports firms such as Caritas, where the money goes to families struggling with the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. The firm has also succeeded in providing a total of 50 jobs, working with local institutions that aid people with disabilities. For example, NIKIN recently hired 3 people with mental disorders that are finding their way back into the workforce.
Nicholas Hänny, CEO
“Sustainable fashion should be affordable for everyone” - This is exactly what NIKIN stands for. The Swiss fashion company sells their products at an affordable price, bearing the conspicuous tree logo which represents their thrive for sustainability, as well as hints at their innovation that differentiates them from their competitors.