5 Big Brands Making the World a Better Place

By Emily Guy Birken on 2 January 2017 1 comment

We tend to believe that big retailers are only interested in the bottom line. But many large retail companies do want to make the world a better place, and they are happy to put their profits and influence to work in order to do so. The following big retailers are working to create a better world, which means you can feel great about spending your money with them.

1. Patagonia

This outdoor clothing giant has long been a supporter of grass roots environmental groups. Back in 1986, the company pledged to donate 1% of its daily global sales to environmental organizations, which amounted to a donation of $7.1 million in 2015. But this year, Patagonia decided to step up its game by pledging to give away 100% of the sales it brought in on Black Friday, and shoppers responded. The company made $10 million in sales on Black Friday, and every single penny of it will be given to various environmental organizations all around the world.

Though the Black Friday initiative is over, shoppers looking for outdoor gear can still feel good about spending their money with Patagonia, since 1% of their sales will still go to helping the environment.

2. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

Who doesn't love ice cream, especially when it comes with a side of social, economic, and environmental values? The Ben & Jerry's brand is about more than just funny ice cream names and unique flavor combinations — founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield created a three-part mission to guide all of their decision making.

Their product mission drives them to make fantastic ice cream using the best ingredients while promoting business practices that respect the environment. Their economic mission asks them to manage their company for sustainable financial growth that respects the needs of all employees. That means offering their lowest-paid workers more than twice the national minimum wage. And their social mission compels the brand to operate in a way that initiates innovative ways to improve quality of life.

And 7.5% of the company's pretax profit is given away each year to philanthropic endeavors through Ben & Jerry's Foundation. This extraordinary level of giving was set way back in 1985, and has continued since the sale of the ice cream label in 2000 to Unilever.

All of this together means you can feel great anytime you dig into a pint of Cherry Garcia.

3. Starbucks

The coffee giant is committed to corporate social responsibility and ethical business practices. When it comes to their product, Starbucks focuses on the sustainable production of coffee. This is why everyone's favorite purveyor of pumpkin spice lattes created Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, a set of guidelines to achieve product quality, economic accountability, social responsibility, and environmental leadership in the coffee production business. In terms of their employees, Starbucks has always been a leader in providing outstanding benefits, including health insurance to part-time baristas, and tuition reimbursement for part- and full-time workers who wish to continue their educations.

On top of these ethical business practices, Starbucks makes a point of giving back through investments in alternative loan programs to help small businesses. As of 2015, Starbucks has invested $21.3 million overall in such programs.

The company works to support many communities, including veterans and military, farming communities, youth, and underserved and marginalized groups through their diversity and inclusion initiatives. They are also committed to helping the environment through their business practices by focusing on reducing waste, conserving energy, and by working to bring all of their stores up to LEED certified building standards.

Starbucks is truly committed to making sure your morning coffee is something you can feel good about.

4. Zappos

The online shoe (and clothing) retailer has long been known for its excellent customer service. The company believes that happy employees mean happy customers, and they focus on the well-being of all of their employees to ensure great service.

If Zappos were simply a great employer, that would be enough of a reason to shop with them. We do need to support businesses that want to provide excellent jobs to their workers. But Zappos also takes their role in the community very seriously. Each Thanksgiving, the company feeds over 1,000 Las Vegas families in its headquarters, and gives away shoes and socks to anyone needing a new pair. In addition, the e-tailer donates Zappos goods, as well as money, to a number of charitable organizations, including Operation Glass Slipper, which provides dresses and accessories to girls who could not otherwise afford prom clothing, and Project WE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people through participation in arts in athletics.

Ordering a new pair of kicks or some new clothes at Zappos will give you both phenomenal customer service and an opportunity to support a company that does a great deal of good.

5. Lowe's

Recently, a photo of Lowe's Home Improvement employee Clay Luthy and his service dog Charlotte made the rounds on social media. Luthy is a disabled vet who needs to have Charlotte with him, and because of that he found it difficult to find a job, until the home improvement retailer hired him and welcomed his service dog on the sales floor.

For many people, this viral photo was the first indication that Lowe's had a social conscience, but it has long been committed to helping people "love where they live," which includes everything from helping customers with home improvement, to helping make communities stronger, to helping protect the environment.

The Lowe's Toolbox for Education, which was launched in 2005, has benefitted nearly 8,000 schools. The home improvement retailer has focused on bringing better products to the market, working with suppliers to remove ortho-phthalate plasticizers from residential flooring, and committing to phasing out the sale of products that contain chemicals that can harm pollinators.

Lowe's is also committed to providing an excellent working environment to its employees, as Clay Luthy's story has highlighted. It has launched a mentoring program that pairs minority and female store managers with market directors to help grow their leadership skills, and it works to build diversity within the company through its recruiting efforts.

Make the World Better With Your Shopping Choices

Big retailers can make a big impact, and these five companies use their resources to improve lives, communities, and the environment. Spending your hard-earned money with them will not only offer you great products, but also a better world.

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Guest

Lowes is actually firing assistant store managers and department managers to save money. Talk about building your career here don't do it. It is not a secure job. I thought America was about creating new jobs and with the new year many Lowes employees will be out of one. Maybe they should cut the store managers salary and CEO. People are worried and have anxiety putting out resumes because they now fear they are going to lose their job becasue Lowes wants to save money.

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Guest

^---- Trump is that you?