Almost everyone has heard of the buy one give one model or encountered it in some capacity. From planting a tree for every sale you make to removing a pound of trash from the ocean for every invoice you issue. More businesses today are trying to involve their customers and employees in creating a positive social and environmental impact. I myself have been part of this global movement for almost 5 years and so have several of my clients.

Although this model has seen its share of skepticism initially, some people wondering about actual impacts and if businesses are sincere in wanting to make a difference, the model has seen many improvements. It is now a sustainable model for both businesses and the causes they support. The model even presents great opportunities for businesses to creatively collaborate with non-profit organisations.


Generally, the buy one give one concept is straightforward: every purchase from a company results in a donation to a chosen recipient community (typically individuals residing in a less wealthy country).

Early conceptions of this model generally involved the donation of a similar product. For example, TOMS Shoes’ original ‘One for One’ campaign donated a pair to a needy child for every pair of shoes sold.

The model has since transformed after concerns around dependency and impacts on local businesses. Donations are made more mindfully with consideration of recipient communities’ needs. Causes have also expanded to include environmental issues and animal welfare.

Buy one give one is also no longer limited to product-centric businesses or dependent on business performance. Some businesses have even integrated the buy one give one model into their everyday business activities.

For example, for every email sent to an external customer, a business can give a day of clean drinking water to a child in the Philippines. Or for every successful campaign, a business can provide micro-loan for a family in Kenya.

This approach opens up endless possibilities for all businesses to make great impacts and I found that it has a major influence on employee’s motivation to work and their engagement, as their work becomes more meaningful.


From annual donations to matching gifts, businesses have plenty of options when it comes to giving. However, ad-hoc efforts can lead team members to feel disconnected from the cause. The actual impacts of annual events may be questionable as well.

The buy one give one model is different from other approaches in two ways:

1) It motivates sustained action for long-term impacts

Regardless of how a business applies this model, it results in a consistent stream of contributions towards the chosen causes. This is far more impactful as charities and recipient communities will have a reliable pool of resources to work with. This will allow for certainty in making plans for progress in the various issues they are tackling on the ground.

2) It facilitates a culture of deeper purpose

When the buy one give one model is part of your business, each employee’s work supports your chosen causes and becomes far more meaningful. Instead of solely serving your customers, the company now plays an active role in being a force for good in the world. In business, terms such as Carbon Offset Strategy Plan and Social Value Plan are replacing Corporate Social Responsibility. To find out more how you and your business can make real impact visit or

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