Giving Back: 3 Brands That Are Making a Difference

John Egan - The Upside Blog

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 4 minutes

In 2015, Americans donated a record-setting $373.25 billion to charity, according to the Giving USA Foundation. To put that into perspective, that’s more money than the annual economic output of Norway.


Hands holding cardboard square with the word "give" written on it |

“It’s heartening that people really do want to make a difference, and they’re supporting the causes that matter to them. Americans are embracing philanthropy at a higher level than ever before,” says W. Keith Curtis, chair of the Giving USA Foundation.

That embrace of philanthropy includes America’s businesses, whose charitable contributions in 2015 totaled $18.45 billion, Giving USA says. Certainly, you’ve heard of some of the big donors. For instance, biotech company Gilead gave $446.7 million in cash to charities in 2015, according to Forbes magazine, and retail giant Walmart chipped in $301 million.

But what about the littler guys in corporate giving, the ones you might not have heard about? Their contributions—monetary and otherwise—may not be as newsworthy as Gilead’s or Walmart’s, but they’re definitely noteworthy.

Here’s a look at three brands in the U.S. that are giving back and making a difference.

1. Finn + Emma

Finn + Emma, based in Fairfield, New Jersey, produces eco-friendly clothing and gear for babies. That alone is commendable. Yet Finn + Emma goes a step further by donating part of the proceeds from its Emma Do-Goodies Upcycled Scrap Lovies to a children’s charity called KaBOOM!

Before we discuss KaBOOM!, let’s not bypass the fact that fair-trade Lovies are made from “upcycled” scraps of certified organic cotton material from Finn + Emma products. The cotton comes from India and Peru.

Lovies retail for $24 each, and part of that money goes to KaBOOM! Atop each soft, squeezable toy is a cute animal head with a rattle inside.

KaBOOM! promotes “balanced and activity play” for American children, particular kids from poor families. Since its founding in 1996, KaBOOM! has built, opened or improved 16,300 playgrounds across the U.S., serving more than 8 million children along the way.

2. Ski Butlers

Ski Butlers, based in Park City, Utah, delivers rental ski gear. It’s also delivering a strong message about the environment.

“Ski Butlers is working to bring the voices of the winter sports community together to fight climate change—and protect our winters,” company spokesman John Brice says.

Bryn Carey, founder and president of Ski Butlers, was a founding leader of the “I Am Pro Snow” campaign. The initiative collected signatures on a letter demanding that world leaders hammer out a strong agreement at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Eleven cities passed resolutions supporting the letter.

Also last year, Carey joined other members of the Protect Our Winters climate advocacy group in lobbying President Obama’s climate advisers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staffers—as well as U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, both of Utah—to take action on climate change. Furthermore, several Ski Butlers executives have completed training with former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Putting its money where its beliefs are, Ski Butlers has flipped the switch on full solar power at its Park City operations and is aiming to install solar panels at all of its shops over the next five ski seasons. Ski Butlers has 10 shops, including its Park City location, in six states and British Columbia.

Additionally, Ski Butlers has enlisted customers in the climate cause. During the 2015-16 ski season, customers of Ski Butlers donated more than $2,500 to Protect Our Winters, with the company matching the donation.

3. A.C. Moore

A.C. Moore, a chain of more than 135 arts and crafts stores in the U.S., is striving to turn a lemon—in this case, pediatric cancer—into lemonade.

Since 2013, Berlin, New Jersey-based A.C. Moore has held annual drives at its stores to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, whose mission is to wipe out all childhood cancers. What started three years ago as a one-day fundraising event for A.C. Moore has evolved into a four-week fundraising campaign, urging customers to donate $1 to the foundation when they check out.

During this summer’s fundraiser, A.C. Moore customers contributed nearly $190,500 to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. To date, customers of the arts and crafts chain have donated more than $410,000 to the foundation. In addition, the retailer encourages customers to build their own lemonade stands to raise money in their neighborhoods.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is just one of several charities that benefit from A.C. Moore’s “Crafting a Better World” social responsibility program, which launched in 2010.

Others include Easter Seals and the American Cancer Society.