“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” Anna Lappé
Take a moment and read this sentence again. What it is actually reminding us is that we, as consumers, have power and we can harness this power in order to change the world. Every time we choose to spend our money in business that are polluting the environment or exploiting their workers, we are acutely saying we are OK with that, and this is the kind of world we want to live in. When we choose to buy from retailers or suppliers that are supporting and promoting a social cause, we are saying – this is the kind of world I want to live in and this is the kind of responsibility I would like to see from businesses I buy from.
For many years, we’ve gotten used to the thought that non-profit and for-profit don’t meet. In the last 15 years a new model has developed, social-enterprise or cause-driven business. The idea behind it is that a business can have two bottom lines: one is the traditional profit/lost bottom line and the second is the social impact, how this business increases the social good. Some social entrepreneurs are even talking about a triple bottom lines, known as the 3P – people, planet and profit.
I like this model. I really really like this model. I think it’s a great way to be an entrepreneur and to build something new, by doing good and helping others on the same time. I believe in the kindness of people. I believe that given the option most people would rather buy a product that makes a positive impact on the lives of others. But I am not naïve–I also believe that if this option won’t be simple, accessible, affordable and will give them value – they will not chose it.
And one more important thing for me. I believe that through cause-driven business, we can offer people with disabilities or from under-served communities a hand-up and not a handout. It helps people develop and acquire new skills and bring them closer to inclusion in the free job market, to be more independent.
This is why I started BuyforGood.biz, an online store for social impact products made in Israel. We are currently working with 20 nonprofit organizations and vocational centers all across Israel that are offering vocational programs to people with mental, cognitive and physical disabilities as well as for at risk communities, like at-risk youth or human trafficking victims.
Just think what could be the impact if we will shift just one or two of our gift purchasing for holidays, birthdays and other occasions from Amazon, Ebay and other stores to a social impact products? What will be the impact on the lives of thousands people with disabilities if people who care about people with disabilities will purchase holiday gifts that give back. Besides the income to the vocational centers and the people who work there, I believe this can also change the perception about people with disabilities; most of the people I talk to about my website tell me “I didn’t know people with disabilities could make such great products.” People are used to think about social impact products as a “pity buy” and I want to show them they can get great products and support an important cause on the same time.
I would like to finish this post with a quote of Maimonides that wrote about the levels of Tzedakah. “The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand so that he will not need to be dependent upon others.”
Yuval Arbel is a social-tech entrepreneur from Tel Aviv, CEO and founder of BuyforGood.biz. After 10 years in the private sector, Yuval decided to start a social-enterprise that will help vocational centers increase their sales in order to empower people with disabilities or from underserved communities.