Thursday, June 24, 2010

One for Humanity

This is the story of how a drop in the bucket turns into a flood. That's the foundational notion behind the "one for humanity" movement. Over the course of this week, I'm illustrating the myriad ways in which the "power of one" is slowly impacting the face of business philanthropy. On Monday I profiled the "buy one, give one" model through which businesses donate one product to charity for each one purchased. Today I'm turning my attention to a similar concept, the "one for humanity" model, in which businesses commit 1% of their earnings to a cause of their choice.

As a spark starts a fire, it's easy to see how one 1% could be an acceptable sacrifice for any socially-minded business, and yet still become a potent force for good as the ranks of participating businesses swell.

Credit for this model, at least in part, belongs to 1% For Humanity, an association of businesses dedicated to donating just that fraction of their annual revenues to any of an array of worthy humanitarian organizations around the globe. 1% For Humanity has provided an idea impetus much like that of Buy1,Give1, the organization I mentioned in Monday's post, providing a platform to help businesses give their 1% to nonprofits like CARE, the Hunger Fund, Feeding America, and an organization I've worked with myself, Amor Ministries.
The flagship member of 1% For Humanity was the hip, youth-oriented retailer Jedidiah Clothing, which bills itself as "fusing the beauty of art with the fabric of clothing for the greater good." Jedidiah's commitment to their philanthropy is woven into the ethos of their company. Several years ago, they created a custom line, the Hope Collection, to raise funds for a rotating roster of targeted causes, one for each season of their fashion line. To date, the Hope Collection has raised $328,963 for these groups.

Based on the same idea, 1% for the Planet, a similar business association, encourages businesses to donate 1% of their earning to environmental causes. Created in 2001 by Yvon Chouinard, founder of outdoor apparel mainstay Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, 1% for the Planet aids businesses in paying what Chouinard playfully calls the "Earth tax." Made up of over 700 participating businesses from every continent on Earth, 1% for the Planet fuels nonprofits specializing in a staggering spread of issues, including alternative energy development, environmental justice, wildlife protection, air quality and bike advocacy.

All told, these "one for humanity" groups illustrate the power of collective action, the simplicity with which a tiny splash from many cups can build a tidalwave of change.

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