When social distancing has become the norm, it might be exactly the right time to re-think social impact. That’s why we’re launching in the midst of a pandemic.
The idea for Cause Consumer was hatched in the autumn of 2019, back when the world was normal. It was a simple idea, really: Tell compelling stories about mission-driven companies and encourage consumers to support social impact with their everyday spending.
In early January, when I headed to Nashville and Dallas for my first reporting trips, the novel coronavirus was still truly novel. It was something we couldn’t spell, much less comprehend.
Back then, when the bad news was still buried in the back of the New York Times, I was uncovering the good news of companies like Branded or Howdy Homemade, scrappy little businesses where profits were creating a brighter future for victims of sexual trafficking and people with disabilities, respectively.
When we committed to our launch date, community spread of the virus was still confined to East Asia.
Just a few weeks later, we’re mostly confined to our homes.
A Question of Timing
Which begs the question: Why go on with the launch at this point, when everyone is stressed and distracted, when few readers will pay attention and no advertisers will step up?
I thought about waiting until normalcy had returned, but then I read on Instagram that Howdy Homemade, an amazing ice cream parlor in Dallas, had shut its doors, and owner Tom Landis was forced to launch a Go Fund Me campaign to keep paying his employees as long as possible.
I understand that small businesses everywhere are closing their doors, but Howdy Homemade is a special place where every employee has special needs. Tom hires people who are otherwise unemployable — people who have never had a job before and are unlikely to find another one.
When I visited back in January, I thought it was one of the happiest places I’d ever been. Now I can’t shake my sadness at knowing it’s closed.
Spending Differently to Make a Difference
It was Tom’s story that convinced me to go ahead with the launch of this site, because every small business is struggling, but social enterprises in particular.
Our vision has always been to profile small businesses that have social impact woven into their DNA. When those businesses shut their doors, the losses are far more than economic. We can’t afford to let them fail, not when it’s so easy to support them simply by being more intentional about the money we’re spending anyway. Soap, coffee, toilet paper, jewelry, home decor — whatever it is you’re buying, we can help you find a product that comes with a purpose.
The profiles you’ll find on Cause Consumer are “feel good” stories about companies that are making a positive impact on the world. But now more than ever, we hope those “feel good” stories will lead to “do good” buying decisions.
I come from a nonprofit background, where “profit” and “consumerism” are sometimes dirty words. But my core belief is that consumers can be an incredible force for good and profit can drive sustainable impact.
So that’s why we’re launching now, in the midst of a pandemic. Because if there’s ever been a time to #spendforgood, this would be it.