Who knew buying books online could do so much good for both education and the environment? Founders of Better World Books saw the potential in their piles of textbooks and paperbacks when their started this online bookselling business back in 2002. Now 9 years later, what started as a small textbook-selling site has turned into a profitable triple bottom-line company. Their mission to “harness the power of capitalism to bring literacy and opportunity to people around the world” has allowed for 25 million books to be turned into $6.5 million donated to help fund education and literacy programs and 13,000 tons of books saved from landfills. Better World Books works with 5 main literacy organizations- Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, the National Center for Family Literacy, and Invisible Children, as well as over 80 other smaller literacy partners to help increase literacy and promote their belief in people’s right to education.
The story behind this great company has a sweet start. Students and Ultimate Frisbee teammates, Xavier and Kreece found themselves at a loss after graduation. What were they to do next, they wondered. With jobs scarce and the economy down, they were left tutoring the Notre Dame football team. The job put little money in their pockets and lots of textbooks on their shelves. As the books accumulated, the two friends began to see the potential dollar signs in each Intro Chemistry and Calculus BC book left behind. Once they saw the success of reselling used textbooks to students, Xavier and Kreece branched into book drives and the local community center and eventually drew up a business plan with the help of their new team member Jeff who was familiar with the world of investment banking.
Better World Books does more than sell the newest picks on Oprah’s Book List; they also network with over 1,600 college campuses and partner with 1,000 libraries to organize book drives. These book-drives help save books that would be thrown away get to readers who want them at prices they can afford. Even their shipping methods are set up to help. Each order is not only mailed for free in the United States to help your wallet, but it is shipped carbon neutral with offsets, ways to reduce emissions elsewhere to counteract other emissions that cannot be eliminated, from Carbonfund.org.
At the core of their company, Better World Books is proud to say that being socially and environmentally aware is part of their business’ DNA. Their triple bottom line organization is a direct reflection of their conscious choices to give back while reducing their impact on the environment. They acknowledge that profit should not be the only driving force, but the people and the environment must factor in as well. As a business, Better World Books answers to their stakeholders and not just their shareholders. It is the employees, customers, investors, literacy partners, and environment that makes companies like Better World Books possible, and they understand that.
by Lauren Partain