business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Good News Network has a story about seven-year-old Benjamin Ball, who while visiting LL Bean’s flagship store in Freeport, Maine, requested a paper straw at the café … only to be told that they only had plastic straws.

Upon returning to his home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, young Benjamin wrote a letter to Steve Smith, LL Bean’s president/CEO, in which he said, “I’m writing to you because I’m a friend of the Sea Turtles and I want to protect them. Marine animals get killed by plastic in the Ocean. The Sea Turtles are important to the ecosystem and me … I know that L.L. Bean cares about the Earth too. If it is possible, could you use paper straws instead of plastic straws, please?”

Smith wrote back within 24 hours, promising the young man he’d looking into the situation.

““It made me smile,” Smith says. “It was a really articulate, well-reasoned, polite, yet passionate and emotional note about saving a species that no one is speaking for. It hit me in a really emotional way.”

And, the letter got results: “L.L. Bean has announced that its retail affiliates and employee cafeterias are converting to 100 percent corn biodegradable straws,” the story says. “The retailer is the latest to join the growing anti-straw movement that includes Disney, Ben and Jerry’s, Starbucks, Major League Baseball, and McDonald’s.”

I love everything about this.

I love the fact that a seven-year-old wrote a letter.

I love the fact that Steve Smith responded so quickly and so well. (No surprise here, by the way. He’s one of the best CEOs out there.)

Putting itself on the side of the whales, not to mention responsive to the concerns of its shoppers, reflects well on LL Bean’s culture. Also, it suggests that LL Bean understands that seven year old children are its future customers … and that it must be in synch with their concerns if it is to be relevant and resonant in the near and distant future.

That’s the Eye-Opener.
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