How do you combine social activism, online shopping and green jobs into a single enterprise? A company called World of Good has it down pat, partnering with major retailers like eBay and Whole Foods to market fair-trade items handcrafted by artisans around the globe.
Consumers get high-quality goods, laborers get a fair wage and a boost to their communities, retailers get a cut of the profits, and World of Good proves that business and philanthropy make a fine mix. It's a situation that works out for everyone, and World of Good hopes that it'll catch on.
In an age when green-collar jobs are more sought-after than ever, World of Good is helping spread the wealth to artisans in developing countries who painstakingly create items such as handbags, jewelry, dishes and baskets. World of Good was founded in 2004 by Priya Haji and Siddarth Sanghvi, who believe this economy offers businesses a chance to cash in on the growing consumer market for ethically sourced products and alleviate poverty at the same time.
For businesses aiming to give the global economy a kick by creating fair-trade green jobs around the world — while also making a profit — World of Good has some advice.
"The positive impact that you are trying to achieve has to be built in to the core of the business model," says Sanghvi, World of Good's director of marketing in addition to its co-founder. "That way the success of the business and the social impact cannot be separated."
Haji and Sanghvi founded World of Good as two separate entities — a nonprofit organization and a for-profit business. The nonprofit sister organization, WorldofGood.org, works to inspire industry-wide changes to make progress toward lifting people across the globe out of poverty. World of Good Inc. works directly with producers to sell their products both online and in stores.
World of Good is now in more than 1,500 retail locations across the United States, including 250 Whole Foods stores. At Whole Foods, consumers seeking high-quality yet affordable fair-trade goods can conveniently shop for such items while they buy their groceries. The relationship between World of Good and Whole Foods has been mutually beneficial, says Whole Foods' "senior whole-body coordinator" Jeremiah McElwee.
"We definitely think our partnership with World of Good has benefitted Whole Foods Market, but more importantly, it brings fairly traded crafts and apparel items to our customers and supports small artisan cooperatives around the globe," McElwee says.
"The value of these ventures is far-reaching and more impactful than other consumer goods, for certain. I think consumers will continue to seek out fairly traded goods despite the economy, as more and more people realize that we need to reduce externalized costs so that all people can prosper."
Robert Chatwani, manager of the massive online auction site eBay.com, partnered with World of Good after visiting India and seeing the rich and vibrant variety of products made by laborers there. He pondered the mutual benefit that artisans and consumers would receive by connecting through a global marketplace, and after meeting Haji through a friend, realized eBay could help fight poverty and grow as a company at the same time.
WorldofGood.com by eBay is now the world's first online marketplace to convene fair-trade sellers and products on a large scale, offering shoppers a wealth of ethically sourced items to choose from. The site acts as a bridge between consumers and the individuals who craft the items, providing an ethical alternative to mass-produced, factory-made goods.
Collaborating with such large retailers has helped World of Good prove to itself, consumers and the world at large that ethical shopping on a large scale can make an positive impact on the world. World of Good has improved the lives and communities of artisans in 70 countries, giving them access to a stable consumer market and room to grow.