Buy 1 Give 1 has been around for a little while now but is it sustainable and is it right for your business?
What is Buy 1 Give 1?
Buy 1 Give 1 is a business model used by forward thinking companies. When someone buys a product, the organisation gives another one to someone who needs it. Buy 1 Give 1 is used by ecommerce and retail brands as a social enterprise model to do more social good.
Examples of Buy 1 Give 1
TOMS is one of the most high profile examples of the model in practice. They’ve given their model the slightly different name One for One. Whenever they sell a pair of shoes, they give a pair to someone in need. They go further with other initiatives including water, education and giving but we’re just focusing on Buy 1 Give 1 for the purposes of this post.
TOMS has given more than 86 million pairs of new shoes to children in need since its launch. Pretty impressive stats.
Warby Parker is another great example of social enterprise integrating with business. Their Buy A Pair, Give A Pair programme means whenever someone buys a pair of glasses on their site, a pair of glasses are distributed to people who have sight issues. It has been a big success for the business, helping them stand out in a competitive market.
Over five million pairs of glasses have now been distributed through our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program.
What sorts of businesses does it suit?
It’s a great model for retail and ecommerce brands because of how tangible it is. It’s an uber simple model and measuring its impact can’t get much easier.
Why is it good for business?
- Customer acquisition & loyalty: “More than half (55%) of global respondents in Nielsen’s corporate social responsibility survey say they are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact”
Buy 1 Give 1 plays into human psychology and our need to feel good about ourselves and our impact. The model also has virality built into it, so when someone does good – they tell other people about it, in turn spreading the word about your product.
Giving is a good way to differentiate in competitive markets too, helping you build a loyal customer base who has bought into your social mission.
- Contributing to social change: Usually set up by philanthropist entrepreneurs, Buy 1 Give 1 businesses often have social change at the heart of their brand.
When giving is aligned with sales volumes it’s easy to see the giving of a brand – making it easy to report and demonstrate the impact the business is having on delivering social change.
- Attracting the best talent: When businesses have a social cause or mission embedded they tend to attract people with a similar outlook and values. Building teams based around shared values can help create a more solid workforce focused on achieving business and social impact objectives.
In a crowded job market, having a key differentiator like social giving and a strong brand helps businesses stand out.
Does Buy 1 Give 1 have a negative impact?
The business benefits are clear and the people receiving the free products are usually better off for it. But one counter argument raised against companies using the model is the negative impact they can have.
One argument is that larger companies are affecting smaller, local companies offering the same products in developing countries. This is a criticism that has been leveled at TOMS before – with smaller retailers reporting a fall in business because of their giving programme.
Others argue that the model is essentially a “selling ego boosts disguised as social change”. Harsh? Maybe.
Whatever the reasons why people buy a product, whether it is for an ego boost or a feeling of alignment with a company’s values, the only verifiable fact is that the business is giving a free product to someone who needs it.
Surely that’s a good thing?
Is a social model like Buy 1 Give 1 right for you?
Buy 1 Give 1 is just one way for your business to achieve more positive social impact.
Every business is different and before you start implementing any social giving model it’s important to do research and ask yourself some important questions:
- What social cause should your business support?
- Do your customers care about the issues you care about?
- What will the cost be to the business?
- Can the business sustain the additional costs?
- Will you deliver positive social change with your model?
You don’t need to make big investments to start implementing a social cause in your business but you do need to plan.