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“Buy one give one” business models — marketing for a better world (#M4BW) or not?

The buy one give one business model has been around for many years. One of the early advocates was Tom’s Shoes which donates a pair of shoes for someone in need for each pair it sells. Warby Parker does the same for eyeglasses and Bombas for socks. In fact, you can find 16 examples in this article and slideshow at Refinery 29. This sounds like a great example of Marketing for a Better World (#M4BW).

I thought so, and then I read “Beware companies that promote ‘buy one, give one’ charity,” Vox, October 31, 2019). After thinking about this counterpoint, I wondered if the author had perhaps overstated her case — and I will still feel good that my purchase of Bombas helped put socks on a homeless person’s feet, my All Birds helped someone get shoes, and I still think Cotopaxi is a cool company with a powerful mission. But the Vox article does raise an important question and useful point of debate for the idea of marketing for a better world. It isn’t always clear when a company makes the world a better place. And if they make some people better off at the expense of others, how do we evaluate those tradeoffs? These examples and the article might prepare you for a class debate on this topic.

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