4 Socially Responsible Companies During COVID-19For most of 2020, the world has been quarantined and the majority of societies have been shut down. The safest access to the outside world many have is through the internet. For those looking to shop with a purpose, listed below are four socially responsible companies that have focused their efforts on COVID-19 and its impacts.

Allbirds Shoe Company

A socially responsible shoe company always committed to the environment, Allbirds had already committed to going carbon neutral in 2019. The company makes a pointed effort to use low carbon materials to lessen its carbon footprint. Allbirds’ shoes are created with a natural design that completely outshines the synthetic, cheaper options. Allbirds is a certified B Corp company. It uses 90% “post-consumer recycled cardboard” for its shoeboxes. It works with Soles4Souls to donate all lightly used products to those most in need around the world.

In the era of COVID-19, Allbirds has “donated $500,000 worth of shoes” to first responders and is continuing to do so as consumers purchase products. Consumers can also buy a pair of shoes as a donation to send to a first responder.

Cotopaxi Adventure Brand

An adventure brand, this certified B Corp company is socially responsible in every step of production. Products are made from recycled materials. Additionally, Cotopaxi dedicates 1% of its revenue towards the Cotopaxi grant program, which are awarded to non-profits focusing on addressing poverty. So far, it has awarded 42 grants spread across six countries. In 2019, the Cotopaxi Foundation donated more than $300,000 to partners focused on reducing poverty and provided Latin American and Ecuador with more than 5,000 malaria-preventing bed nets. Furthermore, it distributed 200 emergency kits to families along the American-Mexican border and provided digital literacy education to around 80 refugee families. 

During the pandemic, the company had to close all its stores, and consequently, saw online sales drop significantly. In order to revive sales within the company, Cotopaxi gave back to its local community. It began by partnering with an emergency and survival kit vendor, Uncharted Supply. Cotopaxi had surplus resources without high demand, and Uncharted Supply had a high demand without the resources to fill orders. The partnership was able to fulfill the needs of both companies. Cotopaxi also began producing apparel with the phrase “#OneUtah,” a rallying cry on social media in the state. The profits went towards Utah’s COVID-19 relief efforts. Cotopaxi’s response to COVID-19, while different from its main mission, helped the company to restore the brand and regain sales. As a result, it was able to continue its mission of alleviating the effects of global poverty.

Alex and Ani

Lifestyle and jewelry brand Alex and Ani works to leave a positive mark on the planet. The brand accomplishes this through its Charity By Design division. It partnered with UNICEF USA to donate 20% of its profits from the Charity by Design collection to children in need. This a collection of charms, bracelets and necklaces represents UNICEF’s work. The company’s philanthropic mission has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alex and Ani are donating 10% of the Frontline Collection profits to all frontline workers between June 12 and August 12, 2020.

Warby Parker

A popular eyewear company, Warby Parker is known for leading the way for socially responsible companies with its “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program. The mission focuses on providing eyewear to those around the world who “need glasses but have no access to them.” The company estimates that there are around 2.5 billion people in need of eyewear. Of that number, difficulties with their vision set back at least 624 million people in their education and work. Warby Parker partners with groups across the globe, distributing a pair of glasses in need for every pair purchased. Warby Parker has donated more than four million pairs of glasses to date. 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced Warby Parker to adapt and change its program as its partners across the world are unable to safely deliver during the pandemic. In place of the “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program, Warby Parker has donated personal protective equipment “to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, Johns Hopkins Hospital, NYU Langone Health and the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.” Shifting its efforts to help public health has helped Warby Parker to continue charitable efforts without compromising the safety of its global partners. 

Shopping at socially responsible companies is a simple way to give back. Doing so at such a challenging time in the world makes it especially important. Finding companies that are not only socially responsible in normal circumstances but that have adapted in the face of COVID-19 to help are the best places to shop right now. Shopping at these companies is one of the best ways to give back in a safe yet impactful way.

Olivia Fish
Photo: Flickr

One-for-One Giving
In 2006, the shoe and eyewear brand, TOMS revolutionized a charitable business model now known as one-for-one giving. This ‘buy one, give one’ model is now used by many brands in an effort to improve their image and do their part in fighting global poverty. When a customer buys a certain item, these brands will match their purchase by donating an item to those in poverty or providing some service that helps those in need.

TOMS started out by donating shoes to more than 60 countries and has now given more than 35 million pairs of shoes. The company has also expanded its charitable giving initiatives, providing eyeglasses to those in need as well as restoring the sight of more than 250,000 people to date.

6 Brands That Engage in One-for-One Giving

Here are six other brands that have followed TOMS’s socially conscious lead.

ROMA Boots

ROMA Boots is a socially conscious footwear company founded in 2007. After seeing countless children in Romania running through every type of weather with either broken shoes or no footwear at all, the founder decided to integrate the one-for-one giving model into this company. Now, for every pair of ROMA boots the company sells, a new pair of rainboots is donated to children and families in who are living in poverty. To date, the company has reached 26 countries and counting through the ROMA Foundation.

Better World Books

Better World Books is a website that buys and sells new and used books across the country at reduced prices. Their business model engages in one-for-one giving, and every time a book is bought, they donate a book to children and families who cannot afford books on their own. To date, the company has donated over 26 million books. Better World Books also enables its customers to support global literacy efforts with each purchase thanks to partnerships with organizations including Room to Read, the National Center for Families Learning and Books for Africa.

Project 7

Project 7 is a gum and mint company that partners with non-profit organizations in the United States and abroad. This company gives back to seven different causes, hence its name ‘Project 7’. One of the areas the company donates to is “Heal the Sick,” which delivers life-saving malaria treatments to people living in poverty. Another is “Quench the Thirsty,” which provides clean drinking water to those living without it. While this model isn’t exactly one-for-one, it uses proceeds from the products sold to provide other services to those in need.


WeWOOD is a watch and eyewear company founded in Italy in 2010. Their one-for-one giving model is unique because for every wooden watch sold, the company plants a tree in return, restoring forests across the globe. To date, WeWOOD has planted over 600,000 trees and hopes to plant 1 million by 2020.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is an eyeglass company that has distributed glasses to over 50 countries through their one-for-one giving program. Since its inception, the company has donated more than 4 million pairs of glasses to people with impaired vision all across the globe. The work they do has allowed for people living in poverty to work more effectively, and for children to learn.

This Bar Saves Lives

This Bar Saves Lives is a brand of snack bars that is aiming to end childhood malnutrition worldwide. The company has donated over 10 million nutritious bars to children worldwide thanks to one-for-one giving. Every time a customer purchases a bar, the company provides food aid to children in need, helping to minimize the number of children that are hungry every day.

One-for-one giving is an easy way to make an impact with little effort. Buying goods and doing good can now go hand in hand, and the one-for-one giving model is to thank for that.

Charlotte Kriftcher
Photo: Flickr

Charitable footwear brand TOMS has become a sort of gold standard for companies working toward being ethical. On their website, they boast of having improved maternal health, education and a variety of other areas in life through their “one for one” giving model, which supports these programs for each pair of shoes purchased.

But is this model followed by TOMS and a variety of other companies enough to break the cycle of generational poverty?

Although the model provides aid to those in need, it also does nothing to deal with issues of widespread unemployment and unfair wages. In an interview with GOOD Magazine, international aid expert Saundra Schimmelpfennig described TOMS as “quintessential whites in shining armor.” Critics have accused the one for one model of enforcing stereotypes of the developing world—portraying them as helpless—and as a part of a marketing ploy with a deeper focus on pity than active empowerment.

It is why many top brands, such as Warby Parker and soleRebels, have transitioned to a model of social enterprise, focusing on empowering local businesses and providing fair wages to workers. These brands focus on the idea that breaking the cycle of generational poverty must include the creation of well-paying jobs and greater opportunity for the next generation.

This is not to entirely dismiss the one for one model. This Bar Saves Lives, for instance, is a brand that provides life saving plumpy’nut to children suffering from malnutrition. There is an importance in education that requires similar levels of action.

Still, despite the need for certain programs, the increase of brands focusing on social enterprise perhaps represents a new attitude toward the nature of the charitable business, focusing on empowering as a quintessential part of one’s business model, and not a later effort.

– Andrew Michaels

Sources: TOMS, GOOD, SoleRebels, This Bar Saves Lives, Warby Parker
Photo: Huffington Post

Men's-Ethical-BeachwearIt’s the summer, and that means going to the beach. Finding ethical choices that look good may be difficult, but purchasing ethical clothing is also a highly important act in the war on poverty. So gentlemen, here’s a guide to styling summer clothes for your next day of fun in the sun.

Warby Parker Sunglasses: Abbot Jet Silver

Warby Parker’s Abbot Sunglasses have a rounded shape and metallic glow which encapsulates the aesthetic of the rock stars of old while still feeling fresh and new. With their great style, these sunglasses are a must in any activist’s summer wardrobe.

Along with looking great, Warby Parker trains nonprofit partners to sell glasses at affordable prices in the developing world for every pair sold. And with company that engages in social enterprise and looks great, these are truly some sweet shades.

Wear if you like: John Lennon, long discussions about philosophy, talking to friends about how awesome Woodstock would have been.

Riz Boardshorts-Burgh-Endangered Garden/Bolt

Sustainability is a major element in the war on global poverty, since so much of global poverty is based on a lack of resources, and with climate change being a major contributor to conditions of global hunger.

English swimwear brand Riz engages in a clothing recycling program in which customers are rewarded 25% off their next purchase after returning bathing suits to the site. In addition, Riz boardshorts are made from fully recycled and recylable fabrics.

These colorful shorts are a great and sustainable way to enjoy the ocean while keeping things sustainable. Between the exciting floral print and the oceanic blue background, these are a must wear for any surfing activist.

Wear if you like: The ocean, quoting “Pulp Fiction,” calling people “dude.”

soleRebels Sandals: Sushi Cross

soleRebels is a fair trade, non-GMO, vegan footwear brand.

Made in Addis Abba, the brand is bringing jobs to Ethiopia through the sustainable production of shoes. soleRebels pays its workers triple the industry average, embraces traditionally zero carbon methods of production and uses recycled car tires to make soles for its shoes. The result is a brand which is environmentally sustainable and economically working toward breaking the cycle of generational poverty.

The Sushi Cross sandals are themselves well-designed, replicating the image of sushi above the soles while the soles have an attractive, mat-based design.

Wear if you like: Traveling one mile or one million, sleeping under the stars, knowing that the journey is more important than the destination.

– Andrew Michaels

Sources: Boardshorts, soleRebels 1, soleRebels 2, Warby Parker 1, Warby Parker 2
Photo: Nonfashionista


1. Intel
As of 2014, Intel became a conflict-free microprocessor manufacturer. According to Fast Company, this means that Intel does not source its raw materials from areas involved in armed conflict and human rights issues in order to make its processing devices. The company established this goal in 2012. Ever since, the company has worked to verify more conflict-free suppliers. Intel now looks to produce all of its products in the same way. This decision has a huge social impact because it places people above profit, demanding smelting companies to do the same if they wish to continue selling to Intel.

2. Warby Parker
The eyeglass company follows the TOMS business model: buy one, give one. At Warby Parker, every pair of glasses bought donates the equivalent dollar amount to Warby’s nonprofit partners, like VisionSpring. The money is then used to train aspiring optometrists in developing countries to properly conduct basic eye exams and how to sell eyeglasses to their communities at affordable prices. The great thing about Warby’s business approach is that it aims to create sustainable change by investing in building livelihoods. The Warby Parker website explains the importance of a single pair of frames: a single pair can increase productivity by 35 percent and increase monthly earnings by 20 percent. Today, 703 million people do not have access to eyewear, but thanks to Warby Parker, more than 18,000 people in over 35 countries have improved their eyesight.

The founder of the “one-for-one” model has clothed the feet of more than 2 million children and has increased maternal healthcare participation by 42 percent as a result of shoe donations. TOMS’ work also enrolled 1,000 new students in Liberian primary schools and identified 100 children as malnourished, thanks to shoe-integrated health screenings in Malawi. The business currently works with more than 100 giving partners and aids more than 70 countries worldwide. Not only does TOMS work to give shoes, but the company also invests in supporting responsible shoe industries, providing safe water and quality education, training birth attendants and supplying birth kits. TOMS even works with bullying prevention centers in the United States by funding programs and training crisis employees to run Crisis Text Line.

4. Roshan Telecom
Afghanistan’s leading telecommunications provider is also one of the world’s most socially responsible businesses. It is a certified B Corporation, which means that it meets high and demanding standards for ethical business practices. It also works to proactively further the social and economic welfare of less developed areas. In 2014, the company expanded internationally, bringing its professional and humanitarian services along to countries like Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, another humanitarian player, largely owns Roshan Telecom. Together, they provide e-learning, telemedicine and environmentally friendly educational facilities. Roshan also works in East Africa to establish and strengthen mobile infrastructure.

5. Oliberté
The fair-trade, eco-friendly footwear factory supports workers’ rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Tal Dehtiar, the founder of Oliberté, began his work in 2009, partnering with factories and suppliers in Africa. In 2012, the company moved into its own factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In September 2013, it became the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory. Oliberté follows the motto “Trade. Not aid.” It works to create social enterprise by providing safe and ethical working environments, in addition to recycling profits into factory and job creation. So far, Oliberté has locations in Ethiopia, Liberia and Kenya. Dehtiar is looking to develop more factories in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Zambia. The ultimate goal is to enable a healthier generation, where men and women can earn a salary, kids can go to school and one proud family can give birth to another.

6. Bloomberg Philanthropies
The Foundation Center follows founder Michael R. Bloomberg’s humanitarian works. The American politician, business mogul and philanthropist served as the 108th Mayor of New York City and dedicated his life to investing in a better, cleaner and safer future. Bloomberg Philanthropies focuses on bettering public health, education, the environment, government innovation and the arts, among many others. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ work is quantifiable and supported by data. For example, The Foundation invested $53 million over a five-year time frame to fix the overfishing problem in Brazil, the Philippines and Chile. So far, 7 percent of the world’s fisheries, and counting, are being revived, thereby bringing back countless jobs and livelihoods in addition to revitalizing ocean life. As of 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $452 million to humanitarian projects worldwide.

7. Sanergy
Sanergy works to provide sustainable sanitation in urban slums. So far, the company has opened 701 Fresh Life Toilets, each of which comes with toilet paper, sawdust, soap, and water for handwashing, according to the Sanergy website. Each toilet also provides a waste receptacle, a sanitary bin for women, a mirror, a coat hook and a solar lantern for early morning or nighttime trips. Access to the facilities is priced, but it is comparable to informal settlements. Fresh Life Toilets prices even offer more bang for their buck because they include all the products and services that other toilets do not offer. Thanks to Sanergy, waste removal is safer, more sanitary and even eco-friendly, as the waste is converted into fertilizer and electricity. Since the company’s start, 5,446 metric tons of waste have been properly transported and treated, and 727 jobs have been created.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: Fast Company, Warby Parker, TOMS, Oliberté, Sanergy
Photo: Designed Good

Soma Water for You, Soma Water for Them
By now, the one-for-one models used by companies has become a common method to successfully sell products, raise awareness of global issues, and actually improve human lives. A major element for companies using this model such as TOMS and Warby Parker is emphasizing the storytelling aspect. This means connecting customers to the individuals and communities that benefit on the other end from the purchase of the product. Mike Del Ponte, CEO and founder of Soma water filters is adapting storytelling to the next level with the official launch of his product by activating all senses through video production and live events.

Soma water filters are simply designed for the modern lifestyle and home. It has only 2 components: a glass carafe (think Erlenmeyer flask) with a cone-shaped compostable water filter. Once you buy your first filter, Soma will automatically send a new one every 2 months as part of the subscription plan. However, the importance of Soma isn’t just its evolutionary design but its mission to eliminate water-vector diseases and provide clean water to over 800 million people around the world.

Through a partnership with charity:water, Soma will donate money to help fund water projects in countries such as Uganda, Ehtiopia, India, Honduras, and many others. However, to better tell the story of their partnership, founder Mike Del Pointe along with a team of 4 others, including The Glitch Mob producer Justin Boreta, are traveling to Ethiopia to check out the areas where their work will be effecting. The entire trip will be captured on many different levels: visually with a videographer, audiologically with recorded sounds that will be produced into a song, interactively with live feeds through social media sites, and most importantly, through food.

The culmination of the trip to Ethiopia will be a series of 10 dinner events that Soma will co-host with the magazine Dwell. These dinners will allow attendees to not only experience Ethiopian cuisine but to have a chance to see the work and stories from the trip as put together in multiple presentations and visualizations.

Soma was able to sell about 2,300 filters in its first round of preorders thanks to the $147,444 it raised with Kickstarter. Sales are expected to start again in August so be sure to keep an eye out to finally replace those bulky Brita filters.

It seems that these sorts of ventures should be the go-to business plan for product and service companies. For many in the humanitarian world, while paying a bit more for your basic product, knowing that its purchase directly benefits and changes the lives of others who are less fortunate makes opening up our wallets easier. For the people at charity:water, Dwell, and Soma, transparency with their work is extremely important. Their websites provide detailed information and illustrations on their finished and ongoing projects. Going back to Bill Gates’ word of advice in his 2013 letter, being upfront and proving your successes and even failures are going to propel charities to exceed their goals and give donors the comfort and reassurance they deserve.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Co.EXIST