Victor Jung is a committed philanthropist from New York City

Tag: Business

Why Philanthropic Businesses Should Focus on Social Purpose

For decades, many corporations have had just one singular focus – increasing value for the shareholders.

Early education has taught us the value of philanthropy, but it has also been enshrined into several laws that permit shareholders to hold executives responsible for attempting to increase profits at any cost. Such a policy has led to some great innovations in technology, making the supply chains faster and more efficient than previous years. It has, unfortunately, also led to some of the most damaging exploitation, abuse, and neglect of the workers, communities, and environment that support these corporate giants.

The larger, social issues that they are primed to address or possibly prevent have disappeared from the list of priorities for corporate executives in pursuit of this singular goal. The belief was that, in time, the “market” would fix most of the bugs in the system. Businesses would be forced to improve working conditions, create safer products, and preserve the environment, because failing to do so would affect the bottom line. After nearly five decades of such a policy, people and (most importantly) corporations are waking up to the fallacy of that world view.

Vast income inequality, social upheaval, and environmental disasters have forced businesses to rethink the idea of shareholder primacy. Calls for a shift away from a purely profit-driven corporate culture to one that takes the business’s responsibility to the communities they serve and the planet are growing. Even investors are shifting their focus, with more and more investors putting money into sustainable, responsible, impact-driven investments.

Curiously, it is the handful of brave companies that have bucked that convention that has reported greater growth and stability. By creating a corporate culture that aims to promote an economy that serves everybody instead of just the shareholders, companies have outperformed the market by 5-7% annually. They are proof that being a genuinely philanthropic entity is profitable and sustainable.

When corporations shift focus and begin to examine the impact they can have on the larger community they are primed to come alongside government and NGOs to address serious issues. They can become change agents that not only enrich their shareholders but the communities in which they exist and serve. Not only are the communities happier and healthier, but the employees are also more engaged in their work and find greater meaning.

A New Business Model Incorporating Philanthropy with a Solid Business Plan

For-profit businesses and non-profit organizations have always had opposing goals in the past. For-profit businesses have generally existed for one reason and one reason only: to make money. The more money they made, the better. This philosophy generally resulted in the excesses of the 80-hour workweeks that were often a badge of honor in the 1990s, and the out-of-control excesses that led to the collapse of the mortgage industry in the 2000s. Millennials, who grew up watching it all, have had enough.

Millennials are poised to be one of the most generous generations in history, in spite of being saddled early with more college debt than any generation in history. However, they are demanding more of the businesses they work for than to just turn a huge profit. Millennials want to make a difference in the world and they want their businesses to do the same. Conversely, they are also expecting more from non-profits.

In the past, non-profits have enjoyed the freedom to simply “do good” with very little oversight. Donors often gave because the mission was good, not necessarily because the organization produced significant results. The wealthy felt good about giving and the organizations felt good about “doing good” – even if the majority of their funding went towards overhead rather than actually accomplishing their mission. Once again, however, Millennials want to change that mindset.

They are demanding a better social mission from all types of businesses and more accountability from non-profits. This is giving rise to a triple bottom line in traditional businesses, and even a new breed of business sometimes referred to as a “social enterprise.” A social enterprise has a mission similar to non-profits of the past, but the same profitability goals as any other business. They may raise initial capital through donations to get their business up and running, but they don’t do so without solid business plans and a target date for becoming self-sufficient. While some may continue to rely on donor funding to some degree, most aim to at least gain no more than 40% of their income from donors.

Some examples of these social enterprises include TOM’S shoes that pioneered the idea of sending one item to a developing world for every one item purchased, and the Women’s Bean Project. The Women’s Bean Project hires and mentors formerly incarcerated women to make bean soups and other goods. These are just two of the many businesses that are bringing solid business practices to the world of philanthropy.

9 Philanthropic Businesses Bettering the World

Not every business is a cold-hearted machine solely dedicated to the pursuit of profits. Listed below are several businesses that are working to change the world in their own way.


This inexpensive bedding brand uses all-natural materials to fabricate linens. Most of Threaded’s factories happen to be woman-run installations within India. These factories operate by recycling their water resources and solar cell electricity.

Globe In

This subscription box company offers handmade, fair trade home goods sourced from across the planet. GlobeIn has used its influence to feed starving American children, give jobs to the homeless of Malaysia, protect Rwandan elephants and ensured that disabled Cambodian artists receive their due.

Bright Endeavors

This Chicago-based enterprise seeks to help young homeless and impoverished mothers by way of a job training program, showing how to make soy candles.

Golden Door Spa

This California locale donates all of its proceeds to charities like the “I Have a Dream Foundation,” and the “Whole Planet Foundation.” This includes the money earned from their online store, as well.

Turkey on the Table

This company was started by a pair of moms with the goal of educating others on the true meaning of Thanksgiving. It accomplishes this mission by selling activity kits that encourage thankfulness throughout November. Every kit sold garners $1 to “Feeding America.”

Join Trafalgar

Trafalgar is a travel brand with its own nonprofit arm. Join Trafalgar’s objective is to support local communities across the globe in a way that sustains the region’s natural merits. Concerned travelers can look to Join Trafalgar’s “Be My Guest” program, which offers natively sourced food, contact with local artists, and a hands-on lesson about new cultures.

Alter Eco

This organic chocolatier repays the farmers and replants the lands where its product comes from. One of its products, the Alter Eco Holiday Gift Box, which offers a wide array of sumptuous confections, included the replanting of a tree within the Peruvian Amazon with every purchase.

The Body Shop

This chain of organic and cruelty-free cosmetics stores was among the first recipients of “Leaping Bunny” certification and recently signed a petition, containing over eight million signatures, sent to the United Nations to stop global animal testing.

Laughing Man Coffee

Thespian Hugh Jackman established this philanthropic company to ensure that coffee farmers are fairly paid and can grow their crops in sustainable ways around the world.

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