For many consumers today, the decision to buy groceries, clothes, electronics — or any product, really — is a lot more complex than just comparing quality or prices. Most of us want to make sure the companies we buy from are aligned with our ethical beliefs, so that we can shop or use services with a clear conscience.
35% of Canadians want companies to change the way the operate to drive impact on social and environmental issues.
Nearly nine-in-10 global consumers feel a responsibility to purchase socially and environmentally friendly products.
87% of global consumers rank where they shop and what they buy as very important.
In this new age of the informed, socially conscious consumer, companies have to follow suit and connect the dots between social issues and the products they offer if they want to be seen as leaders in their industry. That means taking responsibility for their impact on the environment, communities affected by their work, or their own employees.
Today, many companies in Canada have made it part of their mandate to give back and show corporate social responsibility: from reducing a company's ecological footprint by using environmentally friendly materials or technology, to partnering with charities by starting a community program.
Visionaries That Go Above and Beyond
And then there are those visionary founders who take their company above and beyond standard definitions of corporate social responsibility by fully integrating giving back into their business model.
The benefits are manifold: It allows companies to amplify their social impact by leveraging their resources — whether that’s an innovative product, employees’ skills or by putting smart financial strategies in place that grow a company’s ability to give back. It also contributes to employee satisfaction and helps create a loyal tribe of consumers.
Airbnb, Zynga and Obindo are three of those innovative companies that have made giving back part of their DNA.
The poster child of the new sharing economy doesn’t just get its product and marketing right, it also developed an amazing disaster relief initiative that makes it easy for hosts to offer their place for free and connect with people in need.
When tidal waves or hurricanes strike, Airbnb can activate their disaster response tool to ask hosts in a specific geographic area to help out, and hosts can rent out their places at no cost and fee-free.
The idea for some sort of emergency relief mechanism embedded in Airbnb’s product started back in October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit the Caribbean and the Eastern Seaboard, and hosts started to get in touch inquiring about ways to offer their places through the Airbnb website to people whose homes had been flooded or destroyed.
Since its inception in 2013, the tool has been launched in various cities around the world and Airbnb hosts have been able to help their neighbours during a series of emergencies caused by natural disasters.
The public discourse around gaming usually focuses on the negative impacts of video games: sedentary lifestyles that include cutting back on sleep time, as well as a potential link between violent games and aggressive behaviour.
Social game service Zynga, however, believes that the right games can actually have a positive impact on people.
Through its independent non-profit, Zynga.org, the company wants to inspire players and game-makers to make the world a better place through games.
Since Zynga.org was founded in 2009, eight million players in almost 200 countries have raised over $20 million for various causes and charities, including World Vision, Heifer International, charity: water and disaster relief in Haiti and Japan. In 2013, Zynga’s number one hit, Farmville, raised more than $1 million alone through sales of a Farmville “Holiday Lights” expansion pack to feed families in need during the holiday season.
And not just the players help spread the love through their purchases: Zynga employees have donated over 9,000 volunteer hours to build the in-game features that enable those donations.
Obindo & The Founder’s Pledge
Obindo is a small San Francisco tech company with only a handful of employees, but that doesn’t keep the company from giving back in a big way. Founders Joe Kleinschmidt and Chuck Kreuser have pledged to donate 1% of their company’s equity, 1% of their employees’ time, and 1% of their product to charity. And they are encouraging other companies to follow their lead.
Together with Full Circle Fund’s Tim Smith and Josh Becker, Obindo has created the Founder's Pledge, a giving pledge that challenges company founders all over the world to make giving part of their organization by contributing a combination of funds, expertise and equity at a level that makes sense for a startup’s stage of development.
When it comes to getting startups to pledge 1%, the Founder’s Pledge is not alone in its efforts.
Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies founded 1% for the Planet in 2002, asking companies to donate at least 1% of annual sales to sustainability initiatives. Since 2002, their network of “Planet companies” has grown to 1,200 in 48 countrie.
Just two weeks ago Boulder-based Techstars encouraged its 500+ portfolio companies to pledge 1% of equity, product, or employee time for philanthropic causes. Techstar co-founder David Brown hopes there will be a huge opt in from companies all over the world:
"We hope that all organizations, tech or non-tech, big or small, can participate. It's a great, easy way to give back."
Whether you pledge equity, use your product for good, or get a charitable employee-driven program off the ground: The important part is that you start thinking today about ways of giving back that fit your company. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the impact even the smallest business can make if employees dedicate time, money or skill to a cause they believe in.
Are you ready to take your company’s social responsibility to the next level? We can help! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-877-531-0580.