How To Do Social Shopping: Sustainable Buy One Give One Companies

- min read

Ruby Life ltd., the company behind Ruby Cup, is a social business. That means we are a for-profit business but we focus not only on the profit but also on how we can make this world better. In fact, our Social Mission, our “Buy One Give One” (short B1G1 or BOGO), is the heart of our company. And the great news are: we’re not the only ones with this business model!

What Are Buy One Give One Companies?

More and more companies with a Buy One Give One business model are popping up everywhere, so maybe you have been asking yourself: What does it exactly mean?

Well, long story short, it means that for every item a company sells, another item is donated to a chosen project. But long story long, it can mean very different things. Foremost because just Giving One is not enough.

I’ve volunteered a lot and know first hand how important it is to receive donations in a state of calamity. But for a sustainable and long lasting change the keywords are: Education, Empowerment and help others help themselves.

I’m about to give you a little overview of Buy One Give One companies that I found during my research. Companies that I think build a sustainable change with their business model.

How to identify if a company is working with a sustainable impact model?

Here are 5 criteria that I personally use to check if a company’s Buy One Give One model is sustainable:

  1. Do they have an impact (and are not just donating a product)?
  2. Are they contributing towards positive change for the beneficiaries, their countries, and their lives?
  3. Are they providing a positive change for the buyer of their product?
  4. What about the quality and longevity of the company’s products?
  5. Are they environmentally and ecologically sustainable?

Here is a list of 7 Buy One Give One companies that correlate with the criteria of achieving a sustainable change with their Buy One Give One projects:

Shoes: Shoemates

Shoemates is basically the German version of TOMS. They also donate shoes to children in poverty. Shoemates only produces the donation shoes in the country where they are donating: Afghanistan.

The leather-mix shoes are designed to have no reselling value, to make sure the shoes stay with the person they get donated to. That way they avoid being a competition for local businesses. Their vision is to help the Afghan economy.

Founder and CEO, Obaid Rahimi doesn’t just have a passion for Afghanistan but also for his home country, Germany. The fulfillment facilities are in Lower Bavaria and are done by a social business employing disabled people, which is another plus point in my opinion: To integrate disabled people into society.

I had the chance to talk to Rahimi, and he explained to me that in the future, the production of Shoemates’ shoes sold online, will be solely in Europe, with sites in Spain and Portugal.

This company earns my respect for their efforts to improve the world on many levels, and especially for helping people in Afghanistan and trying to make a change for the better in a country stripped from everything in the last few decades.

Eyeglasses: ECO Brand of Modo

Having about -4.00 in diopter number, I know how crucial it is to have a proper pair of glasses. I believe that this company’s social mission comes closest to my personal favourites. After all, nature is all we have.

True to their motto “One Frame – One Tree” ECO plants a tree in Cameroon for every frame of glasses they sell. They collaborate with the NGO Trees for the future. They don’t just plant trees, but also organise farming workshops for farmers and children. As a result, the improved soil is beneficial for the whole community. Love this! 

Knowing how to do best practice farming and agriculture, means enough food and water for the people, which is the first step towards a sustainable society.

ECO is currently only selling frames in selected retail stores in New York City, but the company told me that your local optician should be able to make an order for you.

Food: Thrive Market

I lived in many places around the world and I was always fortunate enough to have sufficient healthy food around me. But even in the Western world, specifically the USA, so-called “food deserts” exist. A food desert is an area where it is hard to obtain fresh, affordable and nutritious food, especially without a car.

The food deserts are areas often represented by low-income families, who simply need to opt for the cheap and unhealthy foods. “About 23.5 million people live in food deserts and of these nearly half of them are also low-income”, states

This is where Thrive Market steps in. Their online store offers high-quality organic produce (and a range of other products too) at discount prices. They finance themselves through annual memberships and the best is: For every paying membership they donate a membership to a low-income family!

Another plus point for me is that all of their packaging is made from recycled sources and is recyclable after use. I wish I had such a site here in Europe! They currently just operate in the USA.

Football: One World Play Project

I grew up with football, I love football. Anyone, who feels the same, will probably understand how annoying it is when a ball goes flat (and how quick and easy that can happen), and that you don’t always have a pump handy (or forgot where you put it.)

The One World Play Project caught my eye because their football seems to give great improvement for basically everybody. Never going flat, it survives everywhere and everything, no matter how rough the environment is, plus it spares the world a big amount of waste, too! For every ball you purchase online, one ball is donated to one of their numerous projects around the world. 

I vividly remember a guy, who was working with Aboriginal kids near Alice Springs, saying: Give those kids a ball and they choose to play instead of using drugs or guns…

At least in Europe (in the USA less so, I think) football is most of the time a boys sport. But not in the eyes of One World Play Projects. They actively support girls:

Beer: Quartiermeister

Being German and not drinking beer, in fact, no alcohol at all, I get many strange looks. However, I still want to share this amazing beer company with you.

This company lives by its 7 principles: Not-for-profit, Social, Independent, Transparent, Regional, Participatory and Political.

When you buy Quartiermeister beer, you can choose online which projects should be supported by your purchase. They then support local projects in their communities. And you can also apply for your project to be added to the list.

Quartiermeister is brewed in two small family owned breweries: Brewery Wittichenau, 170km south of Berlin, made for the Brandenburg market and Gut Forsting in Bavaria for the Bavarian market.

Period: Us at Ruby Cup :)

As you hopefully all know, Ruby Cup is built upon our Buy One Give One programme by donating a menstrual cup to a girl in need for every Ruby Cup sold. See this webpage about how we make sustainable, long-lasting change for girls in East Africa.

There are so many Buy One Give One companies out there giving you the opportunity to support many different projects and countries. In the end, it is your choice which company you would like to buy from. But keep in mind that when you go shopping – no matter where or what – it is an investment in the company you buy from.

And also you, the customer, should be happy with the product. Personally, I am happier when I choose sustainable options. That is why I set the criteria this way, but, of course, you can set your own personal criteria. I hope I could introduce you to some new Buy One Give One companies or the idea in general and at the same time I could hopefully offer some inspiration for consuming with a good cause.

Looking for more Buy One Give One Companies?

The only companies I could research were the ones offering an English or German website. I am sure there are many more in countries, where I don’t speak the language. Maybe you can tell us about other sustainable B1G1 companies in the comments?

Some honorable mentions for you to also check out: SoapBox, Warby Parker, Little Sun (“Buy One Supply One”) and the Aussie company Baby Teresa.

Lara Elena Thiele

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