Ever wondered how you could support ethical, sustainable businesses? Welcome to a regular series highlighting products, services and organizations that are ‘doing well by doing good.
DoneGood is a cool web browser extension that makes it easy to discover businesses that are making great stuff and making the world better at the same time. We caught up with co-founder and ‘Chief of Good Thoughts’ Cullen Schwarz to find out more.
Please give us an overview of your organization?
The DoneGood browser extension automatically shows you mission-driven businesses similar to the big name companies you normally see when you search for products on Google or Amazon or go to a big company’s website. We just launched nationally on Cyber Monday, with our new browser extension and mobile app going live that day.
For example, if you search for “dress shirts” or go to BrooksBrothers.com, the extension shows you a little alert that you can click to learn about Tuckerman instead. Tuckerman make shirts a lot like Brooks Brothers’, except they’re better quality, made with 100% organic cotton, produced with sustainable practices and made in Fall River, MA by skilled craftspeople who all learn a living wage and benefits.
With the DoneGood app you enter a product you’re looking for and select values that are important to you like “green”, “supports workers”, “woman-owned”, “vegan”, or others, and the app instantly displays businesses that are doing good on the issues you care about.Both the browser extension and the app display exclusive discounts for DoneGood companies too.
We want to make it easy for people to find high-quality products, feel good about what their money is supporting, save some money and make the world better.
How did you get started with this idea?
When I was in college, I was in the national leadership of an organization called United Students Against Sweatshops. We worked with universities to get them to commit to only contracting with apparel companies who committed to be sweatshop-free. I saw firsthand what a powerful tool consumer dollars—in this case, the university’s consumer dollars—can be to create change. I wrote a paper about how conscientious consumerism would be the new movement for change in the 21st Century. I always thought I wanted to work on that movement somehow. But then I got a job in politics. That career path took to me to D.C. where I met Scott Jacobsen, my co-founder.
One day a few years ago, I was talking with Scott about how hard it was to find a hoodie I knew wasn’t made with child labor or someone earning a poverty wage. Scott complained that his favorite sandwich shop used plastic containers even for people dining in and didn’t even recycle so he had to stop going there. We talked about how we wished there was something that made it easy to make sure the money we were spending was supporting the things we believed in.
We finally decided we ought to build that thing!
What is the purpose of this organization?
We want to help people use the greatest tool they have to create change. We believe that tool is purchasing power. Voting is an important tool. But we get to vote for president once every four years. We vote with our wallets every day.
Giving to charity is an important tool. But just about everybody spends way more money buying things than they can donate. So if we really want to create social change, wielding the power of our spending money is really important.
Consumers have incredible power. It’s a supply and demand economy. The more we demand business practices that are good for workers and the planet, the more the market will supply those things.
There are all these businesses now making really unique, high-quality stuff while at the same time supporting their workers, lifting people out of poverty, respecting the environment, and just making the world better. The more we support these kinds of businesses the more they succeed, and the more other businesses have a financial incentive to follow suit. Eventually even the corporate big box stores start to change. The world gets better—just because you got something you needed to buy anyway.
This is a movement that’s already happening. We just want to help accelerate it by making it super easy for people to find these amazing brands. The easier we can make it, the more mainstream all this can become, and the greater the impact.
What are you proudest of?
Well it’s really cool when people write in to tell us they like what we’re doing. When you’re tired at the end of the day and you see a note from someone saying, “Hey, I think it’s really cool what y’all are doing and I’m excited about it,” it’s like o.k., I just got inspired to work hard for two more hours.
We’re also proud to be associated with all these amazing DoneGood companies. They’re really inspiring. We love our jobs because we get to meet so many cool people who are proving you can make great products, build a successful business and make the world better at the same time. They all have a great story. Like Katie traveled to Nepal, met women overcoming sex trafficking and wanted to help, so she started a women’s clothing company called Elegantees out of her house to empower women with living-wage jobs. Or Jeremy went running, his shirt bled toxic red dye all over him, he quit his job the next Monday to start an outdoor gear company that’s been given a B Corp “Best for the World” award because it’s so environmentally-responsible. All the founders of these companies are just badasses.
And then on a personal level, I’m proud I quit my job. It was so funny, people kept telling me “Congratulations!” after I quit. I was like, I can understand getting congratulated for having a baby or winning an award or something, that’s actually doing something. But any deadbeat can quit his job! It’s not even hard, you just walk in and say I quit and stop going to work. But I know people meant congratulations for having the guts to quit, to go without a paycheck for a while, to take a risk on something you believe in. And I appreciate that. I always want to be the kind of person who sees what he thinks is right and follows that path no matter what, rather than just standing on the conveyor belt of conventional society and letting that roll me along. So I’m proud I took the leap on this one.
How do you think you are different to your competitors?
I don’t think we really have any competitors. One, no browser extension or app like ours exists, so there’s really no one doing what we’re doing. There are however plenty of others who share our belief that business-as-a-force-for-good and conscious consumerism are incredible agents of change. A lot of folks trying to help support this movement in a variety of ways. But they’re not our competitors. We all have the same mission. I want them to be successful. The more we can all work together, the better.
What do your customers/community say about your organization that makes you happy?
One word we hear a lot is “Finally.” People tell us they’ve been waiting for something like this. That, and when people say, “Oh man check out this awesome thing I found on DoneGood!” Things like that are really gratifying.
What is your favourite story about your organization?
Probably the long story of how DoneGood got started. We got it on our website. On the site it even comes with some funny pictures of me and Scott with cork-soot mustaches. And there’s a game inside it, we have three movie quotes hidden in there and if you email us the name of all three movies you get a prize. I already covered the story a little, but the long story is better, I think.
What difference do you make in people’s lives?
Hopefully a few things. For DoneGood users, we’re helping people feel good about where their money is going and helping them discover higher-quality, more unique items from amazing brands they can be proud to support.
For DoneGood businesses, we’re helping them cut-through and be discovered by more people, which we hope makes them more successful.
Then by making purpose-driven companies more successful, that helps create an economic incentive for other companies to want to follow suit.
The more companies that decide to pay a living wage, operate in a way that helps alleviate rather than exacerbate problems like climate change, and all-round treat people and the planet well, the better everybody’s lives get. So we’re working to create that kind of big picture change as well.
Where can people go to support your organization?
Here is a link to download the DoneGood app for iPhone.
If you use Firefox and Android and want to know when our Firefox version of the extension or Android version of the app will be available, visit our website and sign up for our newsletter to be notified!
What are your plans for the future?
To give people a super easy place where they can get anything they ever want to buy, and where they can get it from an ethical, purpose-driven company. And we mean anything, from a sweater, to a smartphone, to lunch at a diner to a grocery store. In Boston we have both local brick and mortar stores and restaurants and online stores on the app. We’ll add more local options in more major cities as we go.
And then just to keep making the extension and app better. We launched our initial versions on Cyber Monday but we’ve actually released an update to both the app and extension with new features and performance improvements already. We’re about to release another update in a few days.
We’ll be continually adding more businesses too. If people know of companies we ought to be looking at adding we ask them to please let us know.
And we’ll keep improving our technology to better suggest social impact companies’ products that are highly similar to the product a person is seeing online. Over the next several months, people who use the DoneGood extension will see it constantly improve automatically without them having to do anything. It will be fun for early users to see it evolve.
Afdhel Aziz is the co-author of book ‘Good is the New Cool’, a book on brands and social entrepreneurship available on Amazon now.
If you have a suggestion for a business or organization you think should be highlighted, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org