Monday, June 21, 2010

Buy One, Give One Gains A Lot

Who says one can't make a difference? Among the many innovative new concepts entering the zeitgeist of business philanthropy every single day, none is as blissfully simple and efficient as the concept of "buy one, give one." All this week, I'll be examining the philanthropic "power of one" movement, starting today with the "buy one, give one" concept that's quickly entering the lexicon of entrepreneurs and philanthropists all around the globe.

As Lalia mentioned in her piece last week, the whole notion has a built-in simplicity to it: central to the "buy one, give one" concept is the guarantee that for every item of product sold, a business donate an equivalent item to someone in need. In essence, the business and their customer become partners in philanthropy when customers purchase great products at low prices and sponsor the business' matching gift.

The model was conceived by Masami Sato, an entrepreneur based in Singapore. Inspired by her own globetrotting travels, encountering different cultures and the excess of need many of them experience, Sato pioneered the "buy one, give one" concept with one of her own businesses before founding Buy 1GIVE 1, or B1G1, in 2007. Led by an executive team from around the world, B1G1 is a social enterprise designed to recruit businesses for their "buy one, give one" model. Working through their nonprofit arm, B1G1 Society, businesses can register with B1G1 and get start with this "embedded" giving by helping to fund any of an array of projects. So far member businesses from 28 countries have donated millions to over 600 different projects, all dedicated to "impacting the world one transaction at a time."

And the concept, so well-branded and refreshingly uncomplicated has spread at wildfire speeds, even outside the domain of B1G1. Of course, we've mentioned TOM'S Shoes, the darling of the "buy one, give one" movement, but others have followed their blazing lead.

Figs, a boutique company specializing in stylish ties and bowties, has spearheaded a unique "threads for threads" concept. For every tie sold, Figs donates a school uniform to a child in the developing world, particularly Africa, where uniforms and good appearance are required by custom for children who attend school.

The online wine vendor CellarThief has chosen clean water as their company's pet cause. Offering - true to their name - great wines at stellar low prices, CellarThief makes a donation for every bottle sold, contributing to causes that support potable water in the Third World. According to their site they've so far funded 223,200 days of clean water since the company's launch.

In the same way, my favorite of the "buy one, give one" companies, online eyewear retailer Warby Parker has a knack for designing and peddling hip, cutting-edge eyeglass frames. Founded by four Wharton grads and longtime pals, Warby Parker utilizes a straight-froward "Buy A Pair/Give A Pair" practice, wherein they partner with to donate one pair of glasses for every pair sold. So far they've distributed needed eyewear to a dozen countries, including Afghanistan, Ghana, El Salvador, Peru, Ethiopia, Mexico, and even several locations within the US.

With results like these, who says one is the loneliest number?

1 comment:

Olivia Khalili said...

I still love the B1G1 concept. One of my favorite examples is BoGo Light (formerly Sunnight Solar). The company makes portable flashlights that are solar powered and focuses on distribution (for the Give Ones) to Africa. Awesome company. Thanks for the post!