San Francisco, California – On Tuesday April 20th, I attended an event hosted by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) titled Doing Good through Economic Activism. The event was geared towards SPUR's “Young Urbanist” membership population – members under 40. Featured were three innovative companies each using capitalism for social good. Brent Schulkin of Carrotmob spoke first outlining his company's mission to organize a network of consumers who buy products to reward companies for making socially responsible decisions. It started by organizing competitions among local businesses. The company that agrees to spend the highest percent of a day's revenue on greening their business wins. Carrotmob then sends the consumer network their way on a specific day, concentrating sales and increasing the company's ability to improve. In the long term, Carrotmob hopes to grow this network to global proportions, moving on from local businesses and focusing on large corporations.
Next to speak was Jason Kibbey of PACT, an underwear company with an environmental vision. At its inception, PACT spent a lot of time vetting manufacturing factories for their ability to uphold its high standards. Ultimately, they settled on a factory in Turkey that was able to source all of its materials from within a 100 mile radius (according to Jason, this factory was one of only three in the world able to do so). Their product combines comfortable, sexy, and sustainable. They partner with various socially responsible cause-oriented organizations and design a distinct piece of underwear to represent each one. At least 10% of every purchase goes straight back to the cause.
Lastly, Daniel Kaufman of the newly-formed One Percent Foundation gave us a picture of his venture. The idea came out of a group of his friends that organized together and committed to donating at least 1% of their income to a cause they cared about. Daniel and his partners realized that if they could increase the membership of their group, they'd not only engage a portion of the population (aged 18-39) that typically finds it difficult to donate, but they'd also become much more powerful economically. Today, One Percent has about 200 members who are all part of a process to choose an organization each quarter to which to donate. Currently, they focus on five issue areas: Education, the Environment, Health, International Aid, and Poverty.