It has long been held that the only purpose for business was pure, economic profit. However, more and more businesses have been challenging this, aiming for something far greater than just profit. They have found a way to help benefit the world around them while making a profit. This is called Social Innovation. The way it works is businesses can use their product, some of their profits or their resources to better the world around them. Here are some great businesses leading their industries in social innovation.


TOMS uses a business model in which customers purchase a pair of shoes, and TOMS will, in turn, donate another pair to someone in need of them. TOMS has expanded to do the same in areas such as eyewear. Consumers can also purchase coffee, and they will help provide access to safer water or handbags in which they help foster safer birth practices by providing training and birthing kits. The whole operation is made to boost the local economies in need as local people are hired and trained to make these products making it a sustainable business practice.

2. Starbucks

Starbucks is a massive business that still finds ways to make a lasting social impact. Their coffee beans are sustainably and ethically sourced. Starbucks partners with farmers worldwide and helps support them by sharing their research and donating disease-resistant coffee plants. They have started a Global Farmer Fund program that has allowed them to donate over $50 million to help farmers develop more sustainable practices. Furthermore, they are investing in the use of renewable energy to power their stores, as well as attempting to create sustainable packaging for their products.

3. Patagonia

Patagonia is dedicated to saving the environment through their sustainable business practices. They advocate for environmental protection through their sustainable practices including sustainable material sourcing, setting goals such as becoming carbon neutral (having a net zero carbon footprint) by 2025 and giving environmental grants out. They donate 1% of their sales to grassroots environmental groups. Also, they have recently put out a new program, Worn Wear, in which they extend the life of their products by fixing them and recycling them to resell.

4. Bombas

Bombas, like TOMS, has a buy one, donate one model. Socks are the most requested item of clothing at homeless shelters. Therefore, for every pair of socks Bombas sells, they donate a pair to someone in need. Their socks are actually engineered for this purpose. Bombas has created their socks so that they are made for people who cannot replace them often. They have an anti-microbial treatment and stronger seams, making them more durable than your everyday socks. They also offer a corporate giving program that allows companies to purchase customized socks and also give back.

5. Ben and Jerry's

Ben & Jerry's has a three-part mission; Product, Economic, and Social Impact. Their Social Impact division is dedicated to supporting the dairy farmers from which they get their milk, using cage-free eggs, and making sure that their ingredients are Fair Trade certified. They created environmentally sustainable packaging for their ice cream as well as use their dairy waste to power their farms, creating a greener source of energy, while reducing their carbon footprint. They have taken stands against many issues such as racial justice, LGBT equality, climate justice, and GMO labeling.

6. Levi's

Levi's is dedicated to helping the environment through sustainable business practices. They have developed production techniques that use less water, screened chemicals, and responsible down standards. Their clothes are PFC free meaning their clothes are water repellant without damaging the environment. They have also launched an Authorized Vintage jean line that recycles old Levi's, renewing them, and allowing for the resale. Furthermore, they are dedicated to the well-being of their factory employees by helping to meet their needs such as "health education, family welfare programs, and financial empowerment." Their support of LGBTQ+ is demonstrated by their annual Pride Collection in which part of the proceeds go to organizations to help fight inequality.

7. Warby Parker

Warby Parker uses a buy-a-pair, give-a-pair model similar to many other companies. They aim to address the lack of access to glasses in many parts of the world by donating a pair to someone in need with every purchase. This simple model allows for a huge impact on the lives of many.

8. Imperfect Produce

Imperfect Produce takes produce that is too big, too small, or too ugly, but still safe to eat and delivers it straight from farms to customers. Their goal is to ultimately decrease the amount of food waste we have by providing ugly, organic produce to customers at a discounted rate. Imperfect Produce states that "Approximately 20% of organic and conventional produce in the U.S. never leaves the farm just because it looks a little different" and that through their company, customers can have access to great organic products while helping the environment. They even donate excess produce to local food shelters and food banks to maximize their impact.

9. Buffalo Exchange

Buffalo Exchange is a great company that aims to help the environment by recycling and giving a second life to clothes. They provide a place for people to buy, sell, or trade clothing. This, in turn, reduces the amount of waste produced when new clothes are made, and old clothes are thrown out. Buffalo exchange also gives back to many charities including the Humane Society of United States and The 5 Gyres Institute.

10. Burt's Bees

Burt's Bees creates 99% natural products that range from skin care to make-up to Hair/Body care. They are committed to environmentally sustainable practices like sending zero waste to landfills and using energy efficient lighting in their facilities. Also, 89% of their products are in recyclable packaging. They sustainably source the beeswax as well as the other natural ingredients included in their products. This means they evaluate their ingredients on five key factors: location, quality, availability, environment, and social impact. This allows Burt's Bees to create sustainable and environmentally conscious products.

11. Citi Bike

Citi Bike pioneered bike sharing in the United States. They ultimately are helping people in New York City reduce their environmental footprint while also getting from point A to point B easily. The simple business model makes lives easier for bike riders who do not want to have to find a spot to tie up their bikes. This ease incentivizes people to ride bikes instead of taking less environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

12. Tiffany & Co.

An unassuming pioneer in social innovation is Tiffany & Co. They are dedicated to leading the jewelry industry with responsible mining practices, sourcing from familiar mines and recycled sources. They only source from countries that are participants in the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, adding additional standards on to their sources that ensure human and environmental rights are protected. All of their packaging (yes, even the iconic blue box!) are made from "sustainable sources and recycled materials" to reduce their negative environmental impact. Tiffany & Co. have made many steps to protect human rights as well as the environment in their business.