Ace Hardware Stores Get Hyper-Local with Orca-Friendly Labels

Today, many consumers are looking to shop small, eat slow food and fundraise for people in their own neighborhood. And this focus on local also applies to where consumers think companies should address important issues, as 43 percent of Americans say they want companies to prioritize quality of life in their local communities (vs. 38% nationally or 20% globally). Now, one business is partnering with a nonprofit to bring a hyper-local label to a community, tackling a unique issue while empowering consumers to make educated purchasing decisions.

If you head to Ace Hardware stores in Washington's San Juan Island area, you may notice a unique label on products in the stores – one that was created specifically to address an issue of that area. The stores' manager, Randy Burgess, partnered with the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) to launch an "orca-friendly" label. What's the connection between hardware and orcas? When individuals use harmful products on their homes or lawns, those chemicals can end up in watersheds. "It just so happens that our watershed here in the Pacific Northwest has endangered orcas in it," said Michael Harris, executive director of the PWWA to Fast Co.Exist. The label helps consumers make educated decisions that directly impact their local area. The idea was initially suggested by Captain Hobbes Buchanan, owner of San Juan Island Whale & Wildlife Tours and Black Fish Tours of Friday Harbor. He said, "We know there's a big constituency of consumers especially here in the Pacific Northwest who want more information to inform their buying behavior, to make sure what they're putting on their lawn or using to clean up around their house isn't harming our endangered Southern Resident orcas – or any creature out there." The label can now be found on more than 100 cleaning and garden products in the Ace Hardware stores.

Although the "orca-friendly" label is at a grassroots stage (currently based on Burgess' knowledge of the products he carries, not scientific evidence), it shines a light on how companies can use labels to engage and activate consumers at a community level. Nearly nine-in-10 (86%) Americans say they think companies need to do a better job showing how social or environmental efforts are personally relevant – and hyper-local labels and communications can help show consumers how issues can have an impact, oftentimes right in their own backyard.