Loyalty & Rewards, business, and green lifestyle with Lee Marchi


Lee Marchi: Head of Partnerships at Perkbox
Isabella Madrid Malo: Content Manager at Dots.eco

What is this episode about?

During this dynamic conversation with Lee Marchi, we explore the interconnections between the loyalty & rewards industry, business innovations, and the green lifestyle movement. Lee shares her insights as the global and partnership lead at Perkbox, discussing how businesses are adapting to consumer demands for more conscious choices, the integration of sustainable practices in rewards programs, and the broader impact of these trends on the industry.

Questions covered

  • What is Perkbox?
  • Can you tell us about Perkbox’s sustainability initiatives?
  • From a business perspective, how has integrating sustainability into Perkbox’s operations benefited the company, both in terms of reputation and bottom-line results?
  • You work in the L&R industry, what sustainability trends are you seeing rising, and how do you think they’ll affect the industry?
  • From your experience, what challenges do businesses often face when trying to incorporate sustainability into their loyalty and rewards programs, and how can they overcome these challenges?
  • Beyond the workplace, what personal steps do you take in your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint and promote sustainability?
  • How can people get connected with you/Perkbox if they want to learn more? 

Podcast Audio

Podcast Transcript

Isabella: Hi everybody. This is the Land, Ocean, and Business Podcast, and Isabella will be your host for today. This is a super exciting day because it’s our first official podcast of Dots.eco. I’m super hyped about it and about our amazing guest today.

Today, we will discuss many topics, but mainly we’ll talk about the loyalty and rewards industry, sustainability, and get personal with our special guest. I’m happy to have Lee Marchi, an incredible professional, loved by our company, and a woman who works at Perkbox, a UK-based rewards platform.

We’ll discuss how the industry is catching up with consumer needs regarding conscious businesses, the need for loyalty and rewards to integrate growing practices, and the potential challenges the industry faces in the sustainability wave.

Lee is the Global and Partnership Lead at Perkbox, and she’s been with them for quite a few years. Her background is in business development, sales, and partnerships, making this conversation even juicier. I cannot wait to start. Let’s get started. Lee, welcome to the Land, Ocean, and Business Podcast. We’re so happy to have you here.

Lee: Hi, Isabella. Thank you so much for having me. You know, I love Dots.eco, and I love that I’m your guinea pig and first guest, so thank you for having me.

Isabella: Of course, we’re super happy, and I’m glad everything went smoothly. Before we jump in, tell us a bit about yourself, not just business-wise, but also personally. How did sustainability become important to you?

Lee: Thank you. Sustainability became important to me when I started working for a company just before the pandemic called Lifestyle. They are a gift card business and work in our space. Bill, the gentleman there, is an investor who is very eco-conscious and opened my eyes to everything about travel, fast fashion, and more. Greta Thunberg’s activism also influenced me. It’s quite upsetting to see plastic waste everywhere and the stories on the news. I have to do something, and working with partners like Dots.eco is exciting for me.

Isabella: That’s amazing. I fully agree with you. The sustainability struggle is something very close to both of our hearts. It’s crazy to see how sustainability can have so many branches, but also everything that can be done and the role of business in it.

Going back to Perkbox, can you tell us more about Perkbox’s sustainability initiatives? Apart from Dots.eco, what is Perkbox doing in terms of sustainability?

Lee: Absolutely. While we don’t produce physical products at Perkbox, we’re mindful of the environment. In 2020, we stopped using single-use gift cards in favor of digital delivery. In the office, we set up recycling points and ditched single-use plastic. Our drinks fridge is full of cans. We repurpose all our items, and they’re always made of paper. Our Christmas tree is plastic, but we’ve had it for years and will keep it for future years.

What we do at Perkbox is more about becoming a facilitator and working with brands that share our thinking, like Dots.eco and others. We aim to educate and facilitate sustainable partners to our audience.

Isabella: That’s great to hear. It’s important to stop the waste. I think that’s a big step that should have been taken a while ago. I have a question for you, Lee. How has integrating sustainability into Perkbox operations benefited the company, not just in terms of bottom-line results, but also in reputation?

Lee: Great question. Because we don’t offer physical products, the sustainable changes we’ve made haven’t really affected our bottom line. We’ve made a few changes in-house, but that’s it. We highlight sustainability by becoming a facilitator and pushing the brand. It’s a bit tricky because we’re digital, a SaaS platform. We come to the office one or two days a week, but we have employees all over the world working from home. Our landlord is green, with monthly meetings about that. But there’s nothing that really affects our bottom line. It’s tricky.

Isabella: Of course. I also think sustainability doesn’t need to generate immediate results. It’s something every business should start implementing for the good of the planet and industry. I read about the pressure on businesses from the European Union and the US regarding transparency and carbon emissions. There is a pressure, not just from the government, but also from consumers, to start transitioning to sustainability in many ways.

Lee: It is hard for businesses to be sustainable. It’s not easy and it’s very expensive, especially with the cost of living crisis. Businesses and consumers often have to choose between their wallets and the planet, which can be tough. There’s a lot of greenwashing, and it’s hard to manage everything. It’s quite exhausting for businesses, and it puts many off. There should be an easy blueprint for becoming sustainable.

Isabella: Absolutely. The difficulty comes from the fact that we weren’t educated about this. Suddenly, there’s a climate crisis, and we need to deal with it. One big point you mentioned is how expensive it is. For me, as a sustainable advocate, it’s hard to buy groceries that are clean, plastic-free, organic. It’s tough for one person, and even tougher for businesses, especially startups or small and medium enterprises.

The role of business is crucial, but it can be very expensive, especially for SMEs. The big corporates emit the most carbon and pollute the most, so it’s about putting more pressure on them while taking small steps as medium or large businesses.

Lee: Exactly. Businesses need to see it as a long-term investment rather than a quick fix. Take your time, cost it out, navigate through sustainable supply chains, and communicate what you’re trying to do. It’s about openness and honesty. Many fashion brands claim to be sustainable, but greenwashing is a big issue. It’s like a minefield.

Isabella: It is really complicated, the greenwashing, not just from a consumer perspective, but also from a business perspective. Big brands like Coca-Cola sponsoring COP, and Apple claiming to be carbon neutral. What is carbon neutral, and can you actually be neutral? Greenwashing is tricky, both environmentally and socially. My next question, which is related, is about the loyalty and rewards industry. What sustainability trends do you see rising, and how will they affect the industry?

Lee: Trends like circular economy practices, ethical sourcing, and eco-friendly packaging are gaining traction. Embracing these trends offers a competitive edge and attracts environmentally conscious consumers. Prioritizing sustainability can foster loyalty. For example, I buy jumpsuits from a brand called Lucy and Yak. Their products are made from organic, locally sourced cottons. They repair items if you send them back and give you money off your next purchase. They’ve fostered great loyalty, even though they’re more expensive. Consumers go back to them, similar to how Patagonia operates.

Isabella: Yes, brands like Patagonia and Lush have great models. When you’re done with a product, you can return it for repair or recycling. It creates incentives and consciousness. It’s interesting to see loyalty not just in reward platforms like Perkbox, but also in normal brands.

Lee: It’s important to keep that loyalty. Look after your existing consumers while bringing in new ones. Lush’s initiative to return items for recycling is great. Kiehl’s and other brands do similar things with refillable packs and loyalty points. Businesses are trying to do well.

Isabella: These are easy steps and not expensive. It’s about nudging people to change their mindset and become more aware. Lee, you mentioned how expensive sustainability can be. How can companies overcome these challenges?

Lee: It’s a long-term investment, requiring education and patience. For example, Dots.eco’s journey to become a B Corp was long and painful, but you get there in the end. It helps to have leadership that values sustainability and a workforce that drives it forward. Integrating sustainability in loyalty programs is hard, but it can be done.

Isabella: I see many consultancies and organizations pushing the movement and preparing industries for sustainability. Consumers and customers are increasingly concerned about what brands are doing. Humans care more about the planet, and businesses must catch up.

Lee: Right. I was in Italy in February, and the mimosa trees were blossoming unusually early. It’s quite sad. I hope people like Dots.eco, myself, and others can raise more awareness. The climate crisis is obvious. Seasons are changing. London had a crazy heatwave two years ago, and we couldn’t cope. We don’t have air conditioning like warmer countries. It’s going to change, and we must adapt. All we can do is slow it down. There are reports about the Paris Agreement and the 1.5 degrees goal. Scientists now say at least two degrees is more realistic.

Isabella: It’s scary to think about the future. I’m young and uncertain about how things will be 20 years from now. It’s important to raise awareness and take steps. Lee, on a personal level, what steps do you take in your day-to-day life to reduce your carbon footprint?

Lee: I don’t have a car, and neither does my partner. We use public transport. We have a dog now, so flying is nearly impossible unless someone looks after the dog. My dog helps me become more eco-friendly. We use the train a lot, changing how we holiday. I love shopping, especially clothes and shoes, but I’ve pledged to buy a maximum of five new items this year, sourced from vintage shops, Depop, or charity stores. If I need to buy new, it will be from sustainable companies.

It’s important for my daughters to see this as well. We try to avoid fast fashion. I’ve given them many of my clothes. During COVID, I became more of a chef, and we have zero waste food at home. We use everything, often making soups and one-pot dishes. We’ve also reduced our meat consumption to once a week. We use a company called Abel and Cole for groceries, which are organic and locally sourced. These steps are important to us.

Isabella: It’s great to hear. As a parent, your behavior sets an example for your kids. It’s about balance and having the intention to be better for yourself, your family, and the planet. How can people get connected with you or Perkbox if they want to know more?

Lee: I’m on LinkedIn, Lee Marchi at Perkbox. I’d love to talk to anyone, especially sustainable brands or those doing cool stuff. I’m not an expert, but I’m here if anyone wants to catch up.

Isabella: Amazing. Lee, thank you so much for the session today. I’m super happy about it. It’s great to have this space to discuss with you.

Lee: Thank you so much for having me. I had a great time. My first podcast. How exciting.

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