By Laura Ferreiro
These days people look for more than just well made products – they also want to feel good about their purchases and know that the brands they love are doing their part to give back. While some companies are taking longer to catch on to this trend of corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices than others, it’s inspiring to see a handful of brands leading the charge. Here are a few that we caught up with at the Agenda trade show in Long Beach in July.
Inspired by their world travels, newlyweds Casey Courte and Brooke Beranek launched Give Perf just over a year ago, selling globally sourced wares including Turkish towels, Mexican blankets, hats and bags online and through likeminded retailers including TOMS. The Southern California company’s simple yet luxurious products embody the brand’s philosophy that life’s most simple moments nourish the soul. It also does its part to give back, donating 15% of its profits to programs and charities that provide basic necessities such as nutritious meals and clean water for women, children and families around the world.
TOMS helped pioneer the one-for-one model when it launched nearly a decade ago, giving a pair of shoes to a child in an impoverished country for every pair purchased. Now the brand has expanded its wares, selling eyewear, bags and coffee and supporting initiatives including helping to restore eyesight and supply clean water to the world’s poorest people.
At Agenda, TOMS offered conference-goers the chance to experience one of its giving trips (almost) first-hand in a virtual world created using virtual reality 3-D goggles. We put them on and found ourselves riding through the plains of Peru in a jeep and arriving at a school where TOMS employees gave young students several free pairs of shoes, enabling them to walk to school, stay healthy and even dance.
This footwear company is the first of its kind to ever have a factory that was Fair Trade certified. It’s also a certified B Corp, which means it meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Oliberte makes its shoes in Ethiopia, supports workers’ rights there and creates fair jobs, paying its employees a living wage in its Addis Adaba factory. It partners with African suppliers, farmers and craftsmen to produce its products. What’s more, you’ll want to wear these stylishly scruffy shoes all the time, which include moccasins, wedges and a unique variation on combat boots.
Lifestyle apparel company Ten Tree is making the world greener, one tree at a time. For every item sold, it plants 10 trees. So far it has planted more than 5 million trees around the world. Founded by 20-something entrepreneurs Dave Luba and Kalen Emsley, the company goes beyond using its Ten Tree philosophy as a marketing ploy and does everything it can to advocate for the environment. Even the Portland, Oregon-based manufacturer the brand contracts to make its clothing uses solar panels to generate its energy and disposes of waste in an environmentally responsible way. All that and Ten Tree’s tees, hoodies and pants are stylish and comfy.