Shopping for a Better World
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
To be successful in business today, a company must do more than just sell a good product. According to a recent study (pdf), 80 percent of Americans are likely to switch brands, if comparable in price and quality, to one that supports a social cause.
In response, many businesses have changed their practices to be — or at least appear to be — more connected to social causes. Some companies give a percent of their profits to charity. Others host lavish philanthropic galas. More recently, some companies have begun adopting a charity model known as “buy one give one” (B1G1).
Toms is probably the largest and best known of the B1G1 companies. For every pair of shoes someone buys, a second pair is donated to a child in need. The eyewear company Warby Parker employs a similar model. Every time it sells a pair of glasses, it sends money for another pair to a social enterprise that then sells them in poor countries. Established brands like Ikea have tested the model, as have nonprofits like One Laptop Per Child and a growing number of start-up companies — including ones that sell vitamins, blankets and children’s clothing.