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How Companies Can Make the Most of the Holiday Season

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How Companies Can Make the Most of the Holiday Season

by Anne Rackow

Many holidays are celebrated out of the office by spending time with loved ones, eating particular foods, and participating in various family traditions. But what if they could also offer opportunities to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and make an impact? This goes for all holidays – even those you may forget about until you suddenly realize you have a three-day weekend. In fact, some of those national holidays might be the perfect places to start.

We first started thinking about this in response to Columbus Day, which we and many others now choose to refer to as Indigenous People’s Day. This day is an important opportunity for social impact, in particular, because of its controversial origin. In case you aren’t aware of what we’re referring to, here’s a little background:

 It is widely discussed that Columbus Day honors a man who did not discover America, but rather invaded a land populated by peaceful people, and then systematically enslaved and even murdered its inhabitants. This article by Irwin Ozborne explains in detail how Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America “resulted in mass assimilation, raping, slaughtering, enslaving, and intention to wipe out all evidence of a native population of between 50 and 100 million indigenous people from the land — the greatest genocide in recorded history.“  Some of the atrocities he notes include: 

  • Abducting and selling children into the sex trade as young as nine-years-old
  • Mass raping of women and children
  • The amputation of limbs if slaves were not producing ‘enough’
  • Offering cash rewards for the scalps of men, women, and children as proof of murder
  • Intentionally spreading smallpox disease, an early means of biological warfare
  • Death marches of more than one-thousand miles to these reservations in which, if you were unable to continue the walk, you were left for dead with family members prohibited from offering assistance

As a result, many recognize that we either need to stop celebrating this tragic part of American history, or change who and what, specifically, we are honoring. Some states have already begun to do this. South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day instead of Columbus Day since 1990, and in recent years, cities and states like Seattle, Denver, and Vermont have also begun to acknowledge the injustices perpetrated against native populations by Columbus and his fellow explorers. They have renamed the holiday, and use the day to lead important conversations around the historical and current discrimination and maltreatment of indigenous people. 

Photo by  Maranie Rae

Photo by Maranie Rae

That got us thinking about what we can do around holidays like Indigenous People’s Day, and other federal holidays that are less controversial but provide opportunities for impact nonetheless. While it’s wonderful for local community members and state governments to spread awareness and create change, we began to ask ourselves what socially conscious businesses could be doing on this holiday and other holidays to have a positive social impact on their employees, customers, and communities.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 50% of states and U.S. territories get time off from work for Indigenous People’s Day.  As a business, you have an opportunity to encourage a different, more informed, and respectful manner of celebration. For example:

  • Refer to the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day in relevant company documents and communication, regardless of what your city or state calls it
  • Share information about why you’ve opted to make this change as a company
  • Encourage your employees to attend an event or celebration hosted by an indigenous group on their day off
  • If your local and state law allow for it, provide the option for employees to work on the second Monday of October in exchange for a different day of

For more ideas on how your business can honor indigenous populations, check out this article by Ecopreneurist.

Celebrating Other Holidays

While Columbus Day is in a league of its own in terms of impropriety, there are many other federal holidays that can also serve as opportunities to raise awareness and participate in service activities related to important social justice topics. When one of these holidays is approaching, contemplate what your company can do make the most of the day and the time off from work. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

What is this holiday about, and what social justice issues are related to it? Here are some examples to get you started:

Veterans Day: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs calls Veterans Day, a day to honor American veterans of all wars.”

Examples of Relevant Social Justice Topics:

  • Veteran homelessness

  • Mental health issues associated with military service

  • Policies that make it difficult for veterans to seek treatment for their mental and physical health

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: The King Center says, “the King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality.”

Examples of Relevant Social Justice Topics:

  • Modern day racism in America

  • Institutionalized racism

Labor Day: According to the Department of Labor, Labor Day “is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Examples of Relevant Social Justice Topics:

  • Setting a fair minimum wage across sectors

  • American companies sourcing products made with slave labor

  • The gender pay gap

Photo by  Maranie Rae

Photo by Maranie Rae

How can I educate my employees or colleagues around these relevant social justice issues?

  • Post informational flyers and handouts in break rooms, on community boards, and in other shared spaces
  • Include a special feature section in the company newsletter that shares information on the topic and links to further reading or helpful resources
  • Host a “lunch and learn” meeting where staff can volunteer their lunch hour to learn more about a topic or issue

How can I use this holiday to engage my employees in relevant activities that have a positive social impact?

  • Host voluntary company-wide community service days on or around the holiday that take place in a location or with a population impacted by the topic
  • Collect food, clothing, toys, or money for local communities impacted by the topic during the weeks leading up to the holiday

Are there steps we can take to raise awareness about the related social justice topic as a company?

  • Share information and show support on your company’s social media platforms, as appropriate
  • Encourage or incentivize employees to share information and show support on their personal social media networks

As we go into a holiday-heavy season, we’re starting to think through how we as a company can celebrate in a way that aligns with our own values, and help other companies do the same. In the coming months, we’ll be sharing tips on what your company can do to be socially conscious around Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Do you have creative ideas on how companies can use holidays to do good? If so, please share with us by:

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Why Shopping Small Business Matters

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Why Shopping Small Business Matters

by Kate Vandeveld

Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about how you can make a difference during the holiday season – from making more sustainable choices, to purchasing gifts that give back, to shopping small business. And while most of us know that shopping at small businesses is a good thing, we may not entirely know why.

shopsmall

Here are a few of the key reasons why shopping small business is so important:

 

Boosts Your Local Economy

Buying from small, local businesses boosts the economy in smaller towns, and creates job opportunities in places that need it. In fact, small business job growth is huge: Over the past decade, small businesses have generated over 63 percent of the net new jobs available in the United States, and currently employ almost half of the nation’s workforce. Because small businesses are more likely to purchase their products from domestic manufacturers, by shopping local, you are supporting jobs not just in your own community, but in small towns across the country.

Economy

In addition, when you shop at small businesses, you are investing in your local community. When you shop at small businesses, around 68 percent of what you spend will stay in your local economy, versus the 43 percent that stays local when you shop elsewhere. If residents of an “average” American city shifted 10 percent of their spending to local businesses, it would mean an influx of over $235 million into that community’s local economy. Imagine what a difference that would make!

 

Takes a Stand for Human Rights

When you buy locally, you can take steps to make sure that the products you are buying are not being made by exploited or abused workers. You can ask questions about whether or not small business products were made locally, and where exactly they were made. In addition, 85 percent of small business owners pay all of their employees more than the minimum wage, so it is more likely that you will be supporting fair wages when you shop local. In a recent poll, two out of three small business owners supported increasing the federal minimum wage, as well as readjusting it yearly to keep up with increased cost of living.

humanrights

On the flipside, shopping small means you won’t be supporting large corporations like Walmart. When you shop at these large corporations, it’s very possible that you will be purchasing products that were made in inhumane conditions, where workers are overworked and underpaid, and sometimes forced to work in unsafe conditions. Walmart employees themselves are overworked and underpaid, so much so that this year, workers protested against the corporation on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The union-backed labor campaign OUR Walmart launched a nationwide strike against the corporation, asserting that they aren’t paid enough to make ends meet. Their demands are simple and fair: they want the option of consistent, full-time work and a wage of $15/hour. These negative working conditions aren’t exclusive to Walmart; large corporations are more likely to pay their workers less than small businesses. 

 

Has a Positive Environmental Impact

Environment

Small businesses have “a deep connection to their communities’ and environments’ needs, and therefore often have an incentive to be good stewards of their surrounding environment.” Because locally-owned businesses generally make their own purchases locally (or at least domestically) as well, they have less of a negative environmental impact when transporting their goods. On the other hand, large corporations almost always get their goods from further away. This means that they frequently rely on aircraft transport, which has greater fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions per mile than any other mode of transport.

Large food corporations also commonly use a great deal more (non-recyclable!) packaging than small farms and grocery stores. Every single day, the average American produces over four pounds of waste, much of which comes from food packaging. By buying food from your local grocery store, you can opt for foods with less packaging and therefore, create less waste. 

 

Builds Your Local Community

Local business owners are often more invested in your community’s future. So when you support them, you’re investing in the prosperity of your city.  Throughout the United States, only about 34 percent of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, versus 65 percent from local businesses. This means that almost double the amount of the money that you spend at small, local businesses goes directly back into your community. Small businesses are also much more likely to give back, donating 250 percent more to local non-profit organizations and community causes than large corporations.

community

Beyond their economic contributions, small businesses also support and foster a sense of community that large corporations simply cannot. Small business owners connect and work with one another, and are much more likely to actually care about their customers and the products that they are selling them. Because of this, customer service is often stronger at small businesses. For us, and many others, shopping small business tends to be a much friendlier and higher quality experience. 

 

If you want to take a step further, you can shop at small businesses that are focused on social impact – we provide some great examples in our holiday gift guide.

So when you’re finishing up your gift shopping this holiday season, keep this in mind: shopping small business is worth it, for the environment, the economy, and your local community.

What are some of your favorite small businesses? We want to make sure the world knows about them! Share with us in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

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Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

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Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

by Kate Vandeveld

Holiday shopping is a notoriously dread-inducing task for some, but it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s an excellent opportunity for you to make an impact – and you can do a lot of it online (phew).

As you may know by now, we believe in doing well by doing good, and we try to take every opportunity to support businesses that are promoting economic empowerment, equality, health, and sustainability. No matter what the people on your gift list are into, you can find the perfect gift for them and make an impact at the same time.

Here are our ideas for awesome and impactful gifts during this year’s holiday season:

 

The Gift of Empowerment

“How it's made matters. Empower people to rise above poverty through the gifts you give.”                                                                                                                                                                      – 31 Bits

31 bits.png

31 Bits is a social enterprise that uses fashion and design to empower Ugandan women to rise above poverty through a variety of community-based initiatives focusing on financial sustainability, physical and mental wellness, social support, and community impact. One part of their model is that they provide women with the materials that they need to make beautiful pieces of jewelry that 31 Bits then sells internationally on their behalf. Proceeds from sales go back to the women and into their empowerment program.

Not only is 31 Bits making a huge impact in the communities they’re working with, but the pieces that they sell are absolutely beautiful. See for yourself here – you’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for other fashionable gifts that empower communities and individuals, check out these other beautiful shops:

  • Sseko Designs: An ethical fashion brand that hires high potential women in Uganda to make sandals to enable them to earn money through dignified employment.
  • Rose & Fitzgerald: Social enterprise that sources handmade products from Ugandan artisans, empowering them by providing consistent business and opportunities for training and growth.

 

The Gift That Gives Back

“[Make] a conscious choice to do good by making not one, but two kids happy.”                                                                                                                                                  – Everything Happy

EverythingHappy

Another way that you can give back with your holiday purchases is by supporting businesses that subscribe to the “buy one, give one” philosophy. For every item that these companies sell, they give a similar item to communities in need. One such company is Everything Happy, a social enterprise that sells blankets, stuffed animals, and other items for babies and children. For each purchase, a similar item is distributed to children in hospitals and orphanages all over the world.

So instead of going to Toys ‘R’ Us to shop for the little ones in your life, you can make two kids happy by shopping at Everything Happy – check them out.

If you’re looking to purchase gifts for a different age bracket, here are some other companies who use the “buy one, give one” model:

  • Sackcloth & Ashes: For each high-quality blanket purchased, they deliver a fleece blanket to your local homeless shelter.
  • LSTN Headphones: Every pair of headphones that they sell helps provide hearing aids to a person in need.

 

The Gift of Health

“Investing in health is one of the smartest placed bets you can make.”                                                                                                                                       – Jenna Tanenbaum, Green Blender Co-Founder

GreenBlender

Making healthy choices is so important, and it can be especially hard to do during the holiday season, when food and fun are at the forefront of our minds. That’s why social enterprises like Green Blender that empower people to take control of their health are so important. If you purchase a weekly Green Blender subscription for someone on your list who lives in the Northeast, they’ll receive five smoothie recipes and the pre-portioned ingredients that they’ll need to make  each week for as long as you’d like. And if that someone lives elsewhere, you can opt for the Green Blender holiday pack, which includes ten holiday smoothie recipes plus a superfood sampler pack.

If you’re interested in giving someone a different kind of healthy gift, try these options:

  • Local CSAs: Deliver local, seasonal, and fresh raw foods to a person’s home or workplace.
  • graze: Delivers healthy snacks delivered to someone’s home or workplace. 

 

The Gift of Sustainability

BikeShare

When you think of eco-friendly gifts, recycled and upcycled goods might come to mind – but those aren’t your only options. One awesome (and different!) sustainable gift option is a local bike share membership. These days, many cities have affordable bike sharing systems for local residents to use to get around. You can purchase an annual subscription for the active city dweller on your list. This way, instead of driving to work or the grocery store, they’ll have the eco-friendly (and healthy!) option of biking, without having to purchase a bike and all of the things that come with it.

Here are just a few of the bike share options available in U.S. cities:

If you’d rather opt for more traditional and tangible eco-friendly gifts, start here:

  • Hipcycle: Upcycled goods that are durable, stylish and priced fairly.
  • eartheasy: Carefully selected gifts with lower environmental impact. 

 

And if you have someone on your list who seems to have everything already, but you still want to get them a meaningful gift, check out DonorsChoose.org gift cards. Here’s how it works: You purchase the gift card (which is 100% tax deductible), and the person you give it to gets to choose a classroom project to support using the funds on the card. In return, that person will receive photos and thank-you notes from the classroom he or she chose to help.

No matter what kind of gifts you’re giving this year, we encourage you to shop small business and look for eco-friendly options whenever possible. Choosing to make a positive impact through our purchases has never been easier, and we promise it will be a huge hit (while also making you feel good).

If you’re looking for even more ways to make an impact this holiday season, we have you covered – check out our suggestions here.

Have other ideas for fun and impactful holiday gifts? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We want to hear from you! 

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How You Can Make a Difference This Holiday Season

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How You Can Make a Difference This Holiday Season

by Kate Vandeveld

The holiday season is here! And with it comes an opportunity to reflect on the things that we’re most grateful for, and the ways we can make a difference in the lives of others.

According to Network for Good, more than 30% of charitable giving happens in December, with average gifts rising to $142 versus $91 during the rest of the year. While donations are extremely important, there are many other ways to give back. Here are a few to start, but we would love to hear your ideas as well! 

SmallBizSat

Support Local Businesses

For many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday shopping adventure, kicking off on the infamous Black Friday. Last year, consumers spent $12.3 billion at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday – largely at large corporations like Walmart and Best Buy.  This year, some stores are even opening on Thanksgiving Day to further increase their profits, even at the expense of employees’ family time. Instead of standing in long lines and fighting your way through the Black Friday crowds, we have an alternate option for you: Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday encourages consumers to forego making purchases from large corporations on Black Friday in favor of supporting small local businesses the following day. Small businesses have created 63 percent of new jobs over the past decade and employ half the nation’s workforce. Spending $100 at a local business means that roughly $68 stays in your local economy, versus the $43 that will stay in your local economy if you spend the same at a large business. Started by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday helps local businesses bolster business by spreading the word about their own discounts and sales, and provides consumers with an opportunity to make better holiday purchasing decisions.

You can find participating small businesses here, or promote your own business’s participation here.

GivingTuesday

Give Back

Have your own idea for giving back and want to spread the word? Enter #GivingTuesday.  With three days around Thanksgiving dedicated to deals and purchases, the #GivingTuesday team decided it was time for a day dedicated to giving. #GivingTuesday is a movement that encourages individuals, organizations, and companies all over the world to develop their own initiatives centered around giving back, to be launched on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving.

Last year, thousands of companies all over the world joined the #GivingTuesday movement. For example, Microsoft YouthSpark launched an initiative to raise $500K for their Give for Youth campaign that creates education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people. On #GivingTuesday, they matched 100% of donations dollar for dollar up to $250,000. eBay Deals also teamed up with eBay Giving Works for one week to donate 10 percent of sales to benefit a variety of non-profits.

Find out who is participating in #GivingTuesday this year and how you can get involved here, and follow the movement on Twitter to stay in the loop.

volunteer

Commit to Volunteering Throughout the Year

For many who want to give back during the holiday season, the first thing that comes to mind is volunteering at their local soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day. While this is a wonderful idea, soup kitchens and shelters are often totally overwhelmed by volunteers on Thanksgiving, only to struggle to find resources and volunteers during the rest of the year.

Rather than volunteering your time on one or two major holidays, think about making a commitment to volunteer regularly throughout the year. Sites like Volunteer Match and Idealist can help you find volunteer work that works well for your interests and location. 

Gifts

Purchase Sustainable Paper Goods

A lot of paper is wasted during the holiday season - from cards to wrapping paper, we use a lot of it without thinking about environmental impact. Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products, and from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, household waste increases by more than 25%.

But there are ways to be more eco-friendly during the holiday season without giving up cards and wrapped presents. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials -- newspaper, magazine, or old maps, for example -- it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Or if you want to stick to traditional wrapping paper, try out these sustainable options. And when it comes to holiday cards, you can choose to go digital, or check out these eco-friendly cards made from 100% recycled paper.


As you prepare for the holiday season, take some time to think about the best way for you to make an impact. Whether it’s volunteering your time or simply making smarter and more sustainable consumer choices, now is the perfect time for you to make a difference.

What’s your favorite way to make an impact during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to follow us Instagram, too!


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The Best Social Good Campaigns of the 2013 Holiday Season

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The Best Social Good Campaigns of the 2013 Holiday Season

Each year, countless bloggers and publishers post a roundup of their favorite holiday campaigns. Since these lists always serve as inspirational marketing thought-starters, we decided to create our own. 

The below slideshow features campaigns put on by nonprofits, social enterprises, impact-focused brands -- and even large corporations. The one theme that runs through all of them? In some way, they were focused on social good. 

The Best Social Good Campaigns of the 2013 Holiday Season

Have more to add?

Note them in the comments below -- we would love to help spread their message!

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