Don't Avoid Doing Well When Doing Good / by Tynesia Boyea-Robinson


I’m a bit of a prude so I must admit that when I went to, social change wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. Lingerie for social good. Wouldn’t you be a bit skeptical? But I met founder Dorothy Amin at the United Way event in April, where she was learning about how to build her business with a social impact.

She and I got to chatting, and it struck me that in the process of trying to build a social purpose into her business, Dorothy was effectively putting a tax on herself. Her aim was to build awareness about female empowerment while simultaneously selling high-fashion bodysuits. But by donating a percentage of her proceeds to “a non-profit organization aimed at boosting social awareness and community involvement,” Dorothy was implicitly subscribing to the belief that she couldn’t do good while doing well at the same time – she was sacrificing a part of her profit to contribute to her social mission.

But in fact, doing good doesn’t have to come at a price. I encouraged Dorothy to approach her business model from a place of “enlightened self-interest” – recognizing that the very things about  her business that have the power to make a social impact could also allow her to do better for herself – and creating, in the process, a social purpose business. I worked with Dorothy around ways that her social mission could actually increase her revenue, or decrease her costs? I started to wonder if there were organizations she could partner with to help build pipelines for both.

In Dorothy’s case, a significant cost faced by her business is hiring famous, glam models from different parts of the country to model her apparel. By partnering with a local organization that would allow women in her community to work as models for NūLeos, the company could embody their mission of female empowerment while lowering their expenses for photo shoots and models.

Let’s look north at Ontario, where Oliberté Limited has become the world’s first Fair Trade Certified footwear manufacturing company. By manufacturing their shoes in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Oliberté is able to decrease costs, while their customers are contributing to improving standards of living for workers every time they purchase a pair. Supporting its social purpose is integral to Oliberté’s model, and they don’t have to skimp on profit because of their mission to do good.

For Dorothy, a local partnership could even lead to increased revenue as the women who modeled the merchandise -- feeling beautiful and becoming empowered in the process of supporting Dorothy’s designs -- became more loyal customers of the brand. This partnership would marry her mission to her success, making doing good and doing well inextricably linked in her business model.

Take Ben & Jerry’s for example. Besides providing yummy treats, this B Corp works with local dairy farms that use sustainable practices, uses energy-efficient freezer technology, and is active in the fair trade movement. By doing so, they have built a loyal socially conscious customer base, increasing revenue in the process. The company was founded with these social values central to their model, and their social mission has always been at the heart of their business. The two pieces are inseparable, complementing and supporting one another.

Intentionally doing well AND doing good should be a competitive advantage. And it’s proven: companies who take a values-driven approach consistently outperform the market, no matter the industry or product.

Ultimately, it’s up to each business owner to determine how they can embed their social good into their business model, creating a social purpose business. What partnerships can YOU leverage to ensure that you can stay true to your values, while doing well BY doing good?