Purchases that Give Back
As more businesses and companies become aware of their power, influence and resources capable of sparking global change, there are more ways for consumers to make purchases that give back to important causes.

Passive Fundraising Programs

Many search engines and online shopping companies utilize passive fundraising to encourage donations without any extra effort from consumers.

  • AmazonSmile – AmazonSmile donates 0.5% of consumers’ eligible purchases on Amazon to a charity of their choice simply by shopping as you would normally. With no need to create a separate account or pay any additional fees, AmazonSmile makes it easy for consumers to donate to nonprofits and charity organizations while completing their normal shopping. AmazonSmile gives consumers the option to donate to almost one 1 million different public charitable organizations, including The Borgen Project, the World Wildlife Fund and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
  • Ecosia – Ecosia is a search engine part of the Microsoft Search Network which donates most of its expendable funds to tree-planting organizations. Since its foundation in 2009, it has planted more than 70 million trees, as of 2019, by using revenue from ads, online traffic and collecting profits per click. The company also acquires its energy in an eco-friendly approach with solar farms that power the search engine itself.
  • Give with Bing – Give with Bing is another initiative by Microsoft which allows people to join the free Microsoft Rewards program to donate to charities of their choice. Reward points automatically go toward the cause when searching with Bing’s search engine, at no additional cost. It rewards consumers for completing activities that they would complete anyway, such as shopping, searching and gaming. Consumers can also redeem their points for gift cards or sweepstakes entries.
  • Altruisto – Altruisto is another passive fundraising tool, which comes in the form of a Google Chrome extension, which gives a portion of the money that consumers pay to selected charities. A community interest company called Well-Managed World C.I.C manages it. As consumers install the Chrome extension onto their devices and buy from Altruisto’s partners’ stores online, usually 2% to 6% of their total goes to charities and causes such as extreme poverty, COVID-19, malaria and the global water crisis – without any additional costs to buyers. This allows consumers to make purchases that give back to causes they believe in with no hassle.

Sustainability and Environmentally-Friendly Programs

Businesses and companies are beginning to realize the importance of promoting sustainability programs considering the impact that large-scale production and consumption have on the environment. Though consumer practices also contribute to changing weather patterns, the majority of emissions come from big businesses, as only 100 companies are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions. As changing weather patterns continue to worsen, including the drought and severe heat which have characterized the summer of 2022 across many continents, businesses are putting in more effort to reduce their contribution to excessive waste, carbon emission levels, and other practices that put climate stability at risk. 

  • Nike – Nike has made efforts to increase its green initiatives by creating a line of sustainable products and using renewable energy sources for its products. Its main goals have been to reduce its carbon footprint, eliminate waste, conserve water, eliminate hazardous chemicals and responsibly source its products. As of the fiscal year of 2020, 78% of Nike’s owned or operated facilities use renewable energy and all of their footwear manufacturing waste is diverted from landfills. Nike has also endorsed its written environmental policies to 650 of its suppliers in 52 different countries.
  • Starbucks – Starbucks has committed to Carbon Neutral Green Coffee, water conservation and responsible sourcing of its coffee. As of 2022, the areas of focus include expanding plant-based menu options, utilizing reusable packaging as opposed to single-use packaging, investing in regenerative agriculture and forest conservation and improving waste management. Starbucks has also partnered with and joined organizations such as the U.N. Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, the Water Resilience Coalition and Conservation International to improve their water agenda and reach their goal of 50% conservation in water usage by 2030.
  • Disney – The entertainment company has taken a social responsibility in protecting the planet in its initiatives and goals to create zero emissions, reduce waste, lower impact products and build sustainably. The company has established policies for zero waste and emissions to reduce landfills as carbon fuels and to create a net positive environmental impact. With projects in progress to create solar facilities, Disney is currently expected to make 40% of its electricity come from renewable energy sources.

Companies and programs like Amazon Smile make it convenient and easy for consumers to donate to charities and nonprofit organizations that they are passionate about and make purchases that give back.

– Nethya Samarakkodige
Photo: Flickr

cost of fixing poverty
Global poverty appears to be a daunting problem. With numerous countries facing high rates of homelessness, economic instability and high child mortality rates, feasible solutions may seem out of reach. However, the cost of fixing poverty with solutions such as building water wells is not an astronomical figure. It actually costs about as much as one of America’s favorite pastimes: the NBA Disney season.

The Cost of a Season

The outbreak of COVID-19 forced the NBA season to go on hiatus. It only recently reopened — this time, in Walt Disney World. The NBA is paying Walt Disney World $1.5 million per day to host 22 professional basketball teams, totaling more than $150 million for the entire Disney season. The season includes eight missed, regular-season games and then playoffs. The overall cost covers essentials such as housing, courts, meals, COVID-19 testing, transportation, entertainment, medical support and security for the players and staff. When asked about the cost, Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, stated that it certainly was not economical for the league but that they felt an obligation to have a season.

The Cost of Poverty

With a total value of about $8 billion per year, the NBA’s usual revenue is about 20% of President Trump’s 2021 request for the USAID budget — which is about $41 billion. This request makes it clear that solving global poverty is not quite as big a task as it might seem. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent $150 million in grants to provide hepatitis B vaccines to 4 million children. For 600,000 of these children, this was their first time receiving a vaccination. However, the foundation’s grant is equivalent to the $150-million 2020 NBA season in Disney World.

The cost of the 2020 NBA season could also make a dramatic difference in the lives of people in countries such as Afghanistan,  many of whom do not have access to clean water. The average cost of installing a water well is $8,000, although it can range from $1,700 to $30,000 depending on the location and difficulty of construction. Taking the price of an average well, $150 million could provide about 19,000 wells — each of which could serve roughly 2,000 people.

Who Would Benefit and How?

Access to clean water saves millions of lives and produces a series of solutions to poverty. Increasing access to safe water can prevent child and adult deaths from diseases such as diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition. With 19,000 wells serving about 2,000 people each, approximately 38 million people would benefit from the same amount of money that the NBA used for the end of their 2020 season. The poorest city in the world, Kabul, Afghanistan, has a population of 4.38 million people. An investment in wells equivalent to the 2020 NBA season would not only grant access to clean, safe water for all of Kabul’s population but to all of Afghanistan’s population of 37.17 million people.

A Comparison for Thought: The Cost of Fixing Poverty

The NBA season holds a lot of value to people in the United States, and it is clearly not the NBA’s responsibility to provide money for foreign aid. What the 2020 NBA season proved, however, is that the cost of fixing poverty is comparable to the cost of leisure and athletic entertainment. Understanding that the same NBA budget of $150 million could serve 38 million people makes the cost of fixing poverty a bit more concrete. Hopefully, this enables policy-makers and policy influencers in the United States to prioritize foreign aid.

Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Hurricane Dorian
On September 1, 2019, hurricane conditions emerged within some of the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. A mere few hours later, the conditions developed into a Category 5 storm named Hurricane Dorian with winds from 185 up to 220 mph, leaving massive amounts of chaos and destruction in its wake. The storm tore houses and buildings from their foundations as if they were cardboard and glue, leaving most of the citizens in the northwestern region of the island displaced and looking for shelter. The disaster also killed at least 50 people and many expect that number to rise as more bodies turn up. Reports state there are 2,500 people missing.

People classify hurricane Dorian as the joint strongest Atlantic storm to ever hit land. Many companies in the United States have made contributions to help the relief efforts, in addition to repairing some of the devastations in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahamas.

Six Companies Donating to Hurricane Dorian Relief in the Bahamas

  1. Disney: The Walt Disney Company announced on September 3, 2019, two days after the hurricane struck, that it would give $1 million dollars in efforts to help alleviate some of the devastations. The Disney Cruise Line led the donation with its president, Jeff Vahle, releasing a statement saying, “The Bahamas is such a special place to us and our guests, and we have watched the devastation created by Hurricane Dorian with concern and heartache.”

  2. Lowe’s: The Lowe’s Emergency Command Center took action in the midst of the disaster on August 29, 2019. It set up a core team of people working tirelessly to send medical supplies to areas that the hurricane impacted. The company has also committed to sending a $1 million donation to the Bahamian Red Cross. 

  3. Verizon: The Verizon company waived all unlimited talk, text and data usage for its customers in the areas that suffered destruction from the storm in the Bahamas. People in this area received waived service from September 2, 2019, through September 9, 2019.                               

  4. Coca-Cola: The Coca-Cola Foundation announced a $400,000 grant to the Salvation Army in order to send immediate help to those the devastation of Hurricane Dorian affected in the Bahamas. Furthermore, Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottling and other CC1 Companies are lending a helping hand to the Coca-Cola Bottler in the Bahamas by organizing donations and supply drives with the help of the Puerto Rican business communities.

  5. Walmart: Walmart, and Sam’s Club pledged up to $500,000 in cash and in kind donations for the country’s recovery. The money that they committed will go to the organizations working directly with those impacted by the disaster. Walmart is also working very closely with government entities and local officials to alleviate the needs of the citizens.

  6. Amazon: In partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Mercy Corps and the Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation, the Disaster Relief by Amazon team is sending two Amazon Air flights full of supplies to the areas Hurricane Dorian impacted. The planes will contain tarps, buckets and water containers. Amazon has also launched a wish list campaign, specifically created for nonprofit partners, for customers to donate materials to aboard the plane by September 13, 2019.

These six largely successful companies have made monumental efforts to alleviate some of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian and give back to communities that lost so much. Rebuilding the communities will likely take years, but these donations are a wonderful starting point.

– Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Flickr

Neil Patrick Harris Disney Make a Wish
From the end of February through March 14, Neil Patrick Harris appeared across many a social media feed wearing Mickey Mouse ears to promote the 60th anniversary of the Disneyland resort in Anaheim, California. However, there was more to the picture than the actor’s love of Disney: It was also the launch of the Share Your Ears campaign for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Share Your Ears is an innovative campaign designed to get everyone involved in the spirit of giving. For every picture posted on social media with someone wearing mouse ears with the hashtag #ShareYourEars, Disney donates five dollars to Make-A-Wish International. While the campaign has a million dollar limit, the awareness the campaign raises for the work of Make-A-Wish is priceless.

Disney and Make-A-Wish have a special relationship that goes back to the foundation’s inception. Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, and many children wish to visit Disneyland. In fact, according to Look to the Stars, over 8,000 wishes related to Disney are granted annually.

By sporting the mouse ears, Harris helped set off a campaign for a truly worthy cause. Since its founding in 1980, Make-A-Wish has fulfilled the wishes of 350,000 children worldwide in over 50 countries.

President and CEO of Make-A-Wish, David Williams, acknowledges Disney’s outsized role in granting wishes. “The Share Your Ears campaign captures the excitement and creativity that we all associate with Disney. Since the very first wish, Disney has provided wish kids and their families with experiences beyond their wildest imaginations. We couldn’t be more grateful.”

As part of the campaign, the Disneyland resort is also selling 7,500 mouse ear hats emblazoned with the logo, “Wishes Really Do Come True.” This will raise an additional $150,000 for Make-A-Wish on top of the one million dollars raised by the hashtag campaign.

Neil Patrick Harris was also in the fundraising spirit, modeling a special pair of ears that serve as the prize of a special sweepstakes. By donating $10, $25 or $50 to Make-A-Wish, entrants have a chance to win a pair of Mickey Mouse ears adorned with Pave diamonds, Swarovski crystals and white gold.

The spirit of giving is infectious, and Disney hopes that the Share Your Ears campaign will spread that spirit throughout its fan base. Bob Chapek, the resort’s chairmen, explained that “For 35 years, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has been proud to work with Make-A-Wish to make dreams come true for thousands of children, and now we’re excited to give Disney fans the opportunity to help us make a difference for even more.”

When actors, entertainment companies and foundations come together to reach out to fans, the effect multiplies. Money is raised, but more importantly, people get excited to raise money for a worthy cause and uplift the most vulnerable among us. They continue to donate beyond the campaign. By working together with Disney and Make-A-Wish, Neil Patrick Harris has helped created a future where wishes really do come true.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: InStyle, Look to the Stars, Make-A-Wish International, The Orange County Register
Photo: All Ears

Star Wars emporium creator, George Lucas, generated a worldwide cult following after his creation of the renowned sci-fi series. But he is not all lightsabers and robots: after selling the franchise behind the hit movies – Lucasfilm – to Disney last year, Lucas pledged to donate at least half of the earnings to charity. Considering that he was heftily reimbursed with over $4 billion USD, Lucas will be able to make quite the impact after making that donation.

Producer Lucas has a specific cause in mind: he will use most of the acquired funds to endorse his own charitable foundation, Edutopia, which focuses on revolutionizing and improving K-12 education.

A contribution of this size will place George Lucas among the world’s most generous donors, being surpassed only by a select few, such as for example Bill Gates. Coincidentally, both billionaires – together with Mark Zuckerberg, Diane von Furstenberg, Eli Broad and dozens of others – have made the Giving Pledge, committing through such to donate the majority of their fortunes to charity.

On December 4, 2013 Lucas announced his intention to provide $25 million to the Chicago After School Matters project, which focuses on aiding teenagers in building specific skillsets through late afternoon apprenticeships.

As stated by Lucas himself, education is “the key to the survival of the human race” – his support of this campaign is set to provide thousands of children with improved education and better future opportunities in the job market. Also, the city of Chicago has agreed to add $11 million USD for this cause, vastly increasing the impact of this philanthropic gesture.

Last year, few attempted to conceal their utter disapproval of the decision to sell Lucasfilm to Disney. However, the director himself sees this as a purely positive thing: Star Wars is in safe hands, he claims, noting also that the sale provides an excellent opportunity for him to work on his retirement fund.

Lucas has, during the course of his career, accumulated enough money to put him on the Forbes 400 list and gained him enough recognition to be a globally recognized public character. His efforts in reforming education may prove to expand and provide countless new opportunities for children in America as well as other, less fortunate countries.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: The Daily Mail, Forbes, Edutopia, Look to the Stars, The Giving Pledge, The Hollywood Reporter
Photo: Global Post

Former Disney President Leads Fight Against AIDS
Deborah Dugan has not always involved in the fight against AIDS. Before becoming the Chief Executive Officer of (RED), an organization founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver that “engage[s] businesses and consumers to help fight AIDS in Africa,” Dugan was President of Disney Publishing Worldwide. Her tenure at Disney, during which she helped generate almost $2 billion in retail sales, prepared her to take charge of (RED), which has raised close to $210 million for AIDS programs.

Since joining (RED) in 2011, Dugan has secured partnerships with The Coca-Cola Company, SAP, and two Latin American mobile carriers – Claro and Telcel. She also helped (RED) attain more than 1 million followers on both Facebook and Twitter.

Though these achievements are impressive, Dugan brings more to the fight against AIDS than just her business savvy. The CEO also writes regular blogs for the Huffington Post, commenting on diverse issues relating to the AIDS crisis.

In an article entitled “Meaningful Change: An AIDS-free Generation by 2015,” Dugan remarks that we have reached a “turning point” in the fight against AIDS and that we will be able to end the transmission of HIV from mothers to children by the end of 2015.

Dugan’s optimism about the worldwide AIDS crisis pervades her articles. She portrays the issue of HIV/AIDS as an approachable problem that can be overcome with modern medicine and activism, stressing that we must expend a mere 40 cents per day in order to give someone with HIV the medicine he or she needs to stay alive.

While Dugan offers reassuring statistics and motivational stories in her commentaries, she stresses that mobilization of resources is the key to overcoming AIDS. By informing the public about the AIDS crisis and partnering with “iconic corporations,” Dugan believes that (RED) can successfully make AIDS a disease of the past.

– Katie Bandera
Source:, Huffington Post

What Disney and Vaccinations Have in Common
Cryopreservation, the same technology that is rumored to have preserved the late Walt Disney, is being used to save lives in impoverished nations.

Roughly 50% of the vaccines intended for distribution in impoverished communities and other areas are discarded because of exposure to high temperatures. Getting medicine to communities such as these is difficult enough without the high cost of replacing compromised vaccinations. This is where Asymptote comes in.

Based in Cambridge, UK, Asymptote specializes in cryopreservation; that is to say, they specialize in keeping substances very cold to preserve them. Asymptote has recently been awarded a grant to begin developing extremely low-temperature storage equipment able to transfer live vaccines. The equipment is not only intended to aid in transferring vaccinations but also to increase the shelf life of vaccinations which require a temperature of minus 130 degrees Celsius for weeks at a time.

If successful, this would have a large impact on the distribution of vaccines in countries where electricity is unstable and access to liquid nitrogen is scarce. Needless to say, this applies to many developing countries that tend to have a large rural population such as those located in Africa and Southeast Asia.

In many countries where basic needs are not met, the community is forced to focus on these pressing issues just to stay alive. Providing impoverished counties with basic amenities such as vaccinations allows the people of the community to focus on economic and cultural stability. The effect of this type of stability is a reduction in poverty and the strengthening of the global economy.

– Pete Grapentien

Sources: Cambridge Network, Asymtote
Photo: Infosurhoy

Mickey Mouse Has Saved the Rain ForestsFor years, Greenpeace has worked to protect the environment and wildlife, and just recently, it seems that they have made a major breakthrough: with the help of Disney and others, the historic Mickey Mouse has saved the rain forest.

As a strategy for creating consumer awareness about the perils of big-business and their detrimental impact on the environment, Greenpeace will show how big brands are supporting destructive practices through their affiliates and suppliers. For a long time, they were trying to stop Asia Pulp and Paper Company (APP) from destroying the habitats of the orangutans and Sumatran tigers but were getting nowhere. In a change of plan, they hired actors to dress up as Minnie and Mickey Mouse and lock themselves to Walt Disney’s headquarters, flying a banner that read “Disney is destroying Indonesia’s rain forests.”

After immense pressure from its customer base, the combined forces of Mattel and McDonald’s, and eighteen months of negotiations, Disney issued new standards requiring that all paper they, its suppliers, and its licensees use, would now be sustainably sourced. Dozens of major paper-consuming companies followed and APP found itself unable to do business with much of the European and U.S. markets. So, APP then announced in February that it would also “go green.” They promised to no longer use any wood coming from natural forests.

After their announcement, nine of the top 10 US publishers, including Harper Collins, have adopted similar standards. “I think this will stand as one of the biggest market-based campaign successes that we’ve seen in a long time,” says Laurel Sutherlin of the Rainforest Action Network. “We’re still a little bit stunned.”

Mary Purcell

Source: Christian Science Monitor
Photo: Max Papeschi

Imagine living in a slum. There is little food to split between you and your family and you are a minority in your age group because you have regularly attended school before. This was exactly the situation that teenager Phiona Mutesi found herself in when she started learning chess.

The slum where Phiona lives is called Katwe, and it is located right in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, where veteran and refugee Robert Katende began a chess program for children, giving them food in return for completing a lesson. Of his program, Katende has said that he had started it hoping to teach analytic and problem-solving skills that the children could apply to succeed in their own lives.

This was the program that would come to change Phiona’s life and turn her into “The Queen of Katwe”.

“I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat in the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge,” Mutesi told CNN.

Although she was unfamiliar with the game, as is most of Uganda, Phiona worked hard, practicing every day for a year. Eventually, she began to win against older children and compete for titles. Since those early days, Phiona has represented her country in several international chess competitions in countries such as Sudan, Siberia, and Istanbul.

Although life for her is still hard – she still lives in the Katwe slum with her family – winning competitions and working hard to one day become a Grandmaster keeps her hopeful. A grant that she has received through her competing has even allowed her to go back to school and develop her reading and writing skills.

While Phiona’s story of success has yet to win her the chess title of Grandmaster, she has gained another, unofficial reputation as the ultimate underdog. She is an underdog on the global chess stage both because she comes from Africa, a continent where chess is culturally absent in most countries, and because she is from Uganda specifically, a nation that is one of the poorest on the continent. The fact that she is from Katwe, a slum, is a strike against her even to other Ugandans. However, despite these odds, she has achieved enormous success given her circumstances.

Phiona Mutesi’s inspiring story was written into a book called “The Queen of Katwe,” by Tim Crothers, and was published in October of 2012. Since then, Disney has bought the rights to the story and has started making a movie to chronicle Phiona’s journey to the international chess stage. The Queen of Katwe remains steadfast in attaining her dream of becoming a Grandmaster and is an inspiration to us all.

– Nina Narang

Source: CNN