New domain offers a chance for sustainable brands

In the details, lies the beauty”, and a tiny bit of detail that rarely gets our full attention could start to offer a small but mighty sustainable branding opportunity.

Dot com. Those three letters at the end of a website’s URL rarely get much attention but implicitly tell us key information about how the owner of a website wants to be seen and what kind of page we might find when we hit enter: dot gov (a government organisation), dot com (a commercial business), dot org (a non-profit organisation), dot uk (the country of origin). Okay, maybe they’re not quite beautiful, but useful, and arguably hold the potential to be very powerful…

One form of power they hold is the power to validate. While consumer interest in ethical and sustainable brands is growing, not everyone has the time for the research required to validate the cream of the crop. Shortcuts to distinguishing genuine social purpose from the marketing bandwagons are therefore hotly demanded. Moreover, our trust in business, and even NGOs and charities, has seen brighter days. With the sustainable brands conference happening, it is interesting to consider whether those three letters at the end of a URL can validate a brand’s social purpose. Even enhance our trust in it.

"The .eco domain immediately demonstrates our commitment to environmental sustainability"

Sandra Capponi, Co-founder, Good on You

Trevor Bowden and Sandra Capponi, founders of the new domain dot eco, believe they can. In April, the new domain became available for "any business, government, non-profit or individual working toward a sustainable future” to use as their URL.

Of course, to say something truly meaningful about a brands social purpose, the domain, .eco, would have to attain a reputation as representing a real and honest commitment to the planet, in the same way that B-Corp has become trusted for representing companies aiming to benefit society. Already, the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and United Nations Global Compact have committed to .eco, taking .eco halfway there already.

To add further value, after a long battle over the three letters, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) granted control of .eco to a coalition of 50 environmental organisations who were up against numerous other interested parties. This decision was  made due to fears the domain might be used to bring unwarranted accreditation to commercial activities. Now, environmental groups will always have control over the name. This level of authenticity – acceptance by key environmental players – could provide an opportunity for brands to really show how their social purpose as integrated through the business and a genuine commitment; something that would help to begin closing the trust gap growing among consumers and ethical or sustainable business.

In time then, these three letters may prove to be more powerful and more purposeful for brands than they first appear. The success of dot eco could also bring other forms of branding through URLs into the mix. Dot sport, dot health or dot nyc would all help get an instant and clear brand message across in seconds.

Matt Taylor, Flamingo

Image source: .eco