Consumers are becoming more attuned to the ethics of the companies they patronize, and so it is more important than ever to demonstrate what is known as corporate social responsibility. In short, companies that ensure they are giving back or reducing the impact of their industry on humanity and ecology will enjoy more loyalty from their customers than those that do not. You need to let your customers know that their dollars will be doing some good.
Many businesses recognize the importance of being socially and environmentally conscious, and will often advertise charitable initiatives, such as annual fundraisers for a cause, or a volunteer project their staff worked on. But companies that incorporate social responsibility into their business model prove that a dedication to these initiatives goes a long way, both for the cause and their reputation.
These 15 examples represent just a handful of the countless organizations that put social good at the heart of their business. [What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?]
Many people take their computers, smartphones and tablets for granted, but for those with disabilities, using these technologies can present significant challenges. Accessibility Partners works with private and public IT manufacturing companies, federal agencies and other organizations to test and review products that make information technology accessible to individuals with a variety of disabilities. More than 70 percent of the company's employees have disabilities themselves, so the company promotes disability advocacy in all of its operations.
Kelly Reddington founded his eco-friendly candle company Altered Seasons in 2003 at age 14 with the help of his mother. When he assumed ownership of the company, he shifted it to a one-for-one model to do more for the community. For every candle sold, Altered Seasons provides a meal to an American in need through Feeding America.
Children Inspire Design
Artist and mother Rebecca Peragine began selling her whimsical wall art, cards and posters to promote environmental education for children. In addition to using recycled materials, eco-friendly inks and biodegradable packaging for Peragine's original designs, Children Inspire Design sells handcrafted paper ornaments made by a women's cooperative in Mexico, and a special poster whose full proceeds go to Future Fortified.
Coyuchi aims to bring sustainability to the textiles industry with its line of organic towels, duvet covers, and sheets. Coyuchi for Life, a subscription-based service offered by the company, reclaims and renews old textiles before they end up in landfills, recycling the old products into yarn that can be used in new products. Moreover, Coyuchi only utilizes natural dyes and organic cotton in a bid to reduce or even eliminate the introduction of chemicals into waterways during processing.
Do Good Buy Us
The mission of Do Good Buy Us is to sell "goods that do good." This ecommerce website is dedicated to changing consumerism by selling products made by organizations that support social causes. Additionally, 50 percent of the company's proceeds go toward fighting poverty, hunger, disease and other global issues.
If you've ever donated some old clothes by dropping them into a public collection bin, you know that it's nearly impossible to discover the impact your donation may have had. Fashion Project, a "re-commerce" platform that allows consumers to donate and shop for secondhand clothes, offers people the opportunity to make a tangible difference with their donations and purchases. Founded in 2012 by entrepreneurs Anna Palmer and Christine Rizk, this company gives up to 55 percent of the net profits from every item sold to the donor's charity of choice.
Gift of Happiness
Donating a portion of your sales to charity is a popular way for retailers to get involved in CSR. Gift of Happiness has put its own spin on this approach, donating 5 percent of every purchase to the listed charity of the customer's choice. But what makes this cause-centric marketplace truly unique is its transparent follow-through: Every charity has a "progress bar," and customers can check back to see how much closer their favorite causes are to reaching their funding goals.
Headbands of Hope
After a life-changing internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Jessica Ekstrom decided she wanted to continue helping children with life-threatening illnesses by starting her own business. Her company, Headbands of Hope, sells made-in-the-U.S. headbands and donates a dollar of each sale to childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
This ethically conscious fashion startup designed a shoe inspired by traditional Ecuadorean canvas shoes. For each pair sold, Juntos donates a supply-filled backpack to an at-risk Ecuadorean child to help him or her participate more fully and effectively in school.
Years ago, three high school friends with a shared love of snow sports learned to crochet their own headwear. Though they sold custom creations to classmates, Krochet Kids fizzled out when the guys went to college — until they realized teaching their skill in developing countries could help break the cycle of poverty. The company earned its nonprofit status in 2008, and today, Krochet Kids is helping more than 150 Ugandans and Peruvians make a fair wage through the sale of crocheted goods.
Out of Africa
Customers of cosmetics company Out of Africa do more than just purchase high-quality shea-butter skin care products; they also help improve the quality of life for West African women and children. A portion of Out of Africa's proceeds is donated to organizations that provide education and medical care to children, and the company regularly donates to women's cooperatives that create jobs in West Africa.
How can buying bottled water in the U.S. can provide clean water in impoverished nations around the world? Thanks to People Water's "Drop for Drop" initiative, every bottle the company sells helps to fund one of its global clean water projects, whether it's building a new well, repairing a broken one or establishing a water purification system in an area suffering from poor water quality. To date, People Water has helped bring more than 5.7 million gallons (21.6 million liters) of clean water to people in need.
Prime Five Homes
Homes built by Prime Five Homes aren't your typical houses. Each of these modern, sustainable homes is equipped to use less energy, gas and water, so buyers know they're moving into a property that's better for the environment. A portion of all sales goes to the company's nonprofit arm, the Dream Builders Project, which provides services and monetary donations to select charities.
Founded in 1981, Rainbow Light started out selling spirulina nutritional supplements to health-conscious consumers. In addition to expanding its line of natural supplements, the company has been committed to improving the health of its customers, trade partners, global community and the planet. As part of its Circle of Care initiative, Rainbow Light helps fight global malnutrition with its supplements through Vitamin Angels, a nonprofit that delivers vitamins to at-risk mothers and babies, and uses 100 percent recycled and recyclable BPA-free packaging.
One of the biggest challenges faced by people who have lost their jobs and/or their homes is getting back on their feet. Without the resources to purchase a workplace-appropriate wardrobe, it can be hard to land a position that will bring these individuals back to financial security. That's why men's clothing startup Twillory launched its RE:Purpose program, which delivers donated work attire to underprivileged men. Through its partnership with Career Gear — a charity that offers professional clothing, mentoring and life skills to men in need — Twillory helps its customers clear out their old clothes while contributing to someone else's success.
Additional reporting by Adam C. Uzialko.