Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So What's Really The Point of a Social Enterprise? Socks For Happy People, Part II

Creating a new business is difficult enough, but creating an ethical and social one and living the principles that one believes in, as Tom , the co-founder said, it means choosing a path that is even harder.

In Part II, we learn more of the story of Socks For Happy People and the ways in which they seek to be an ethical and social business; one that focuses on the triple bottom line; or-as they wrote in their blog post: What's the Point Of This Sock Business, Really?
"Be a shining example of how a business with the well-being of humanity and nature at its core can be inherently sustainable and abundantly profitable."
Q. Tell me more about the social part, giving a proportion of your profits to a cause, and then you have this component of your mission, that of promoting happiness, which I want to talk about later.
A. We are working on a couple different social projects, as Socks For Happy People, as an enterprise, we are a triple bottom line company, social, environmental, economic. So yes, with regards to the social side, we actually are giving a portion of our profits away.We are starting with contributing 10%, or 1% of revenue, but we consider that to be very low, we want to be contributing 30% or more within three years and then ultimately 50%. We want to become sustainable as a business first, because there is no sense in giving away 50% of our profit and then in two years we are out of business. It’s a solid start, we are not really happy with it, but it’s a good start.

And then you may or may not know, on the website we describe a concept, Buy One Give One Free. For every pair of socks that you buy a pair of socks goes to someone else in the world that really needs them. Our first partnership is with the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation. I don’t know if you know, in Mongolia it gets really cold, it gets to -40 degrees below. A lot of kids, especially street kids that have nowhere to live, they lose their toes to frostbite so there is a real need for good quality, thick socks. So we’ve partnered with the only sock manufacturer in Mongolia and we’ve created locally made camel wool socks that work for under minus 80 degrees below zero. Anytime anyone buys a pair of socks from us, they are immediately buying a pair of socks for the Mongolian street children.

Q. What are the other ways you are social venture?

A. With regards to our environmental side, we are partnering with this organization called Weforest, who has a goal of reforestation of 20 million kilometers of rain forest. So one of things we have taken responsibility for raising funds for their project in Thailand. We will be raising funds for them. We will be releasing more details about this.We really want do everything, so we do not want to do much so we end up not helping anyone.

Q. Are your socks being made sustainably?

They are being made with organic cotton. It’s much better for the soil, for the workers, for the customers wearing them. We also have in research and development more sustainable materials, because our socks are mainstream socks, they have nylon in them, because it keeps the shape. Socks For Happy People is about more than that. We have been very conscious and aware that we are about inspiration and transformation.

Now the fact of the matter is that we could have made a sock that was all sustainable but then we would be only selling to people that really liked that type of sock and the others, people wouldn’t buy a sock like that. We would be preaching to the choir in a sense. We decided to create a mainstream sock that appeals to people who are into great socks and to make it as sustainable as possible. They are about 65% sustainable now. We are also in research and development on finding materials that are biodegradeable.

We have people in India who are researching biodegradable nylon. And we use azo free dyes, which mean they can break down naturally, whereas a traditional dye won’t do that. When they get thrown away the azo free dyes means that when they can break down naturally. We are launching with a mainstream sock and we are attracting people that really love great socks and we are creating wider conversations about what it means to be organic and such.

We are getting people on a journey and once they are long the journey, to live our lives as sustainable as we can, and we can educate people on these issues.

In Part III we will hear about how Socks For Happy People truly seeks to be a shining example.

1 comment:

Aira Bongco said...

I think a social enterprise helps more than its target market, it also should help its employees and the people it affects.