The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

1% for the Planet

1% for the Planet

Sustainability

May 29, 2011

1% for the Planet is an environmental nonprofit of over 1,400 member companies in 44 countries that donate 1% of their sales to environmental organizations worldwide. As a network, the 1% community has become a global frontrunner in funding the work of environmental groups around the world. We talked to Brittany Nunnink, 1%’s Membership Wrangler, about how taking small steps can lead to a strong, global alliance focused on sustainability.  

How did you come to form 1% for the Planet?

1% for the Planet was founded by Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia, Inc.) and Craig Mathews (founder of Blue Ribbon Flies). Both fishing buddies and business men, the two decided to give 1% of their annual gross revenue back to the environment to ensure conservation of the land they so loved to be amongst. They started the nonprofit, 1% for the Planet, in 2002, with the hopes of getting more businesses to follow suit. To date, only 4% of philanthropic giving is from corporations, and of that only 2% goes to environmental causes. 1% of sales is the gold standard for philanthropy and our member companies make a philanthropic commitment in good times and in bad to ensure stable funding for environmental nonprofits. Despite the challenging economy last year, we watched total donations increase by 35%. Member companies you might be familiar with include Patagonia, FIJI Water, New Belgium Brewery, Clif Bar, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Jack Johnson & Jackson Browne – to name a few.

How does it work?

Each member that joins signs an agreement that states they will give a minimum of 1% of total revenue to approved nonprofit partners. From there on out, we certify every company annually. The certification process includes three items: a business tax return or CPA report disclosing year end sales, donation receipts, and an annual membership to 1% for the Planet. 

These items allow us to ensure that 1% has been donated, and that membership dues (which cover part of our overhead as a nonprofit) have been paid. All donations go to approved nonprofit partners, which are sustainability aligned nonprofit organizations that have completed an application with us. This allows us to ensure that all giving goes to credible organizations focused on elements of sustainability, as well as to track where the money has gone and exactly what groups and projects have been supported. It's simple and cost free for nonprofits to join, so if a member ever wants to support a group outside of our network, it’s usually no problem to quickly have them submit an application so we can add them to our pool of eligible recipient organizations.  

Why is this type of service important to the food industry? 

It's essential to the food service as local and sustainably sourced food is a key part of the environmental movement. If communities more actively engaged with sustainable food production, healthier food options would become more readily available, as better food cultivation techniques become the norm. 

An abundance of 1% nonprofit partners are organizations focused on implementing these types of agricultural techniques, and the more support that goes to these organizations, the more widespread and utilized they become. Through these contributions, the 1% network, as an entity, is actively helping to promote the development of a more robust local food system. 

How have you been able to merge commerce with sustainable business practices?

Upon creating great brand awareness and a ubiquitous logo, our hope is that the everyday consumer, when faced with buying a product, will choose the 1% version of the product as opposed to the generic. 1% does not state that the company is green through and through, but it provides the consumer with the transparent figure that at least 1% of sales from that product's purchase are going to support the environment. This number may not sound like a lot, but it’s an incredible thing when certification time rolls around and we’re getting receipts for millions of dollars donated through our network. It adds up, and more often than not it ends up challenging new member companies that were giving previously to step it up even more. 

The 1% model is simple and clear: it provides a concise amount – a number that is always given whether or not the business is profitable – and a simple statistic for the consumer to comprehend. Too often you see businesses that donate “10% of profits” or “a percentage of sales,” and while these claims might attribute to a vast amount, they might also literally equate to zero dollars. In a world where “greening” your business is becoming the trend and green washing is all too common, consumers need branding that they can trust, and that’s what 1% provides. As the brand generates more awareness and as consumers support 1% products, our hope is that more businesses will join the movement, and if every company were to give 1% of sales, then that 1% would make a huge difference!!  

What is the future of 1% for the Planet?

To date we've already networked over $70 million since our founding in 2002, and if things keep going as they are, these numbers will continue to grow and the impact will only get greater and greater. The movement is a global network raising the bar for corporate philanthropy and it's a significant impact that is felt all around. The beauty of the model is that it's a global alliance, but upon joining you can choose directly to whom your donation goes and that business gives directly to their nonprofit of choice. Thus, while each business is part of a greater alliance, they're also able to initiate a personal connection with their respective recipient.  

We hope to become potentially the largest funder of environmental work, and we hope that as businesses see the positive return from making the 1% commitment, it will be just one of many steps toward a more sustainable future for those businesses in every aspect of their production.

In upcoming issues, we will continue to feature interviews with companies that are taking innovative steps toward the creation of sustainable products and services. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing please contact Allison Bloom at allison@foodnutritionscience.com.