Once profit and purpose is combined, magic appears to be handed out!

We can often be quite harsh on certain business organizations. They are surrounded by so many demanding parties. Think of shareholders of publicly listed companies, curious analysts setting their expectations about the future growth, picky employees or consumers and thoughtful government officials with their regulations. And on top of that you need to constantly watch out for your sharky competitors. This is not an easy life!

Therefore “making business” is often associated with dirty capitalism – basically “get more money, honey!” While focusing on profits isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is common to hear horror stories about how companies are abusing their employees, suppliers, consumers and our planet. Media is revealing more and more stories about unethical practices of business organizations which often directly affect consumer buying behavior. Just remember the Chinese consumers ban for Dolce & Gabbana goods after the Italian fashion giant released culturally inappropriate advertisement.   

There are plenty of bad examples on how businesses use their power to stimulate their profits or simply expose low moral values. Nevertheless, there are also plenty of examples of how for-profit organizations generate healthy income combined with doing good for others. In the end, business organizations, not NGOs or governments, generate the majority (~80%) of the world’s money, which means there is so much potential to do good things with your profit. 

Let’s take a look at some inspiring for-profit organizations that combine “doing business” with doing good for others.   

Patagonia – care for the environment

An American outdoor apparel company that “walks the talk”. The company was founded by a fanatic rock climber, Yvon Chouinard, whom is taking impressive actions to reduce impact towards our environment.

Around 70% of Patagonia’s products are made from recycled materials, the company has imposed itself an “earth tax” to donate 1% of its profits to environmental organizations and hold strong standards to labour conditions of their employees. But Patagonia doesn’t stop here. 

Almost every year they launch new initiatives that are thought-provoking on our consumerism behaviors or public policies. Recently they opened up a new store of reused clothes, encouraging consumers to shop for second hand clothes instead of brand-new ones. They also shook up business news by announcing their donation of surplus money which was received from a tax cut in the USA.

On top of these great actions taken by Patagonia, their business is growing. And I am not surprised! With an increase in information available on companies business practices, consumers are becoming more picky about which brands they choose. Luckily more and more are interested in brands that support good causes and aim to have a minimal negative impact towards our environment. 

Sesame Street – education for children

Sesame Street is a great example of a media company that combines its business activities with a meaningful purpose – “help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder”. It is clear that the company is continuously following changes in the market and adapting their message to current times. It is great to see that this serves as a good combination of a meaningful purpose and an ability to survive in a competitive market. 

My old time favorite character from Sesame Street is ELMO which I use a lot in leadership meetings.

This resulted in Sesame Street introducing new characters, such as Julia – a female character with autism, Karli from a foster family or Zari the first female Afghan Muppet. It is amazing to see how Sesame Street characters help children better understand complex issues and prepare for adulthood. Great job Sesame Street!  

Tony’s Chocolonely – fair trade is more delicious

Founded in 2005 by enthusiasts from The Netherlands who believed that eating chocolate can be fair. Tony’s Chocolonely is a great example that fair trade products don’t need to be expensive, even if you pay a fair wage to cocoa farmers and dismiss child labour.

The company’s great marketing techniques combined with a strong mission to fight poverty earned them a solid market position in The Netherlands and abroad. Tony’s Chocolonely are paying around 40% above the average cocoa market price and manage to invest in various educational programs for farmers. This is a great role-model to other business organizations showing a different way of conducting business.

Toms – every person in the world deserves a pair of shoes

Traveling is a great way to broaden your perspective on the world and get inspired by new business ideas. This is how Toms was born after their founder Blake Mycoskie traveled in Argentina, where he observed how children grow up without shoes. Toms started with an idea “One for One” – if you purchase one pair of shoes, another one will be given to someone in need. To date, Toms donated more than 60 million pairs of shoes. 

Currently Toms is a world-wide known brand and movement that runs programs such as “The gift of sight” providing prescription glasses, required treatment or surgeries. Clean water initiative provides communities with safe to drink water and “Safe birth” programs focusing on educating birth attendants to help moms safely deliver their babies. Toms is also working on raising awareness on poverty conditions by creating initiatives such as a day without shoes, with the goals to emphasize with people who don’t have what we take for granted. 

Neste – true transformation to renewable energy provider

One of the most sustainable companies in the world, which transformed itself from an oil refinery into a renewable energy provider. The Finish company truly challenges themselves to build a healthier planet for our future generations and invests heavily in new technologies to execute on their mission.

Energy transformation isn’t an easy and quick fix, but Neste is paving the way to show it’s possible with alternative renewable energy options. What is even more impressive to see is that their stock price has been steadily increasing over the last years. This is a good sign that investors also believe our energy can be cleaner! 

Good luck Neste in your further steps to drive this great transformation journey! 

These are just a few examples of business organizations which combine a seek for profit with good causes. I hope it serves as an inspiration that you don’t need to be a part of an NGO to make a difference in our world.

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