It’s easy to donate a percentage of your profits to a good cause, and finding the right philanthropic fit can really buff up your brand.
“It creates a positive impression about the corporate brand when you see a company actively working on the behalf of others, rather than focusing solely on the financial bottom line,” said Ann Charles, CEO of BRANDfog, which helps executives build their personal brands on and offline.
To that end, Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica, a leading global skin care company, has launched a campaign to make microloans to women in developing countries.
Helping women start small businesses resonates with Wurwand, who owns 100 percent of the privately-held business with her husband.
Dermalogica partnered with the nonprofit Kiva.org to create FITE (Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship). Dermalogica has pledged $1.5 million in company funds to be lent to women entrepreneurs around the world. Customers who buy Dermalogica’s top five products are given a special code to use online. They choose a country and type of business, then enter the code to lend $1 to an individual businesswoman. Shortly after making a donation, customers receive a photo and short biography about the woman they are helping via e-mail.
So far, Dermalogica customers have funded thousands of microloans—most under $200—to 2,700 women business owners in 53 countries.
Although Dermalogica has been funding projects through its foundation, Wurwand said she wanted to do more. “We were coming up for our 25th anniversary and batting around ideas, related to perhaps selling candles or lotions,” said Wurwand. “We wanted to do something that was very authentic to the brand, something major, but the question was ‘what could we do?’”
Her light bulb moment hit while reading “Half the Sky,” an investigative book by Nicholas Kristof and Cheryl WuDunn. Through detailed anecdotes, the authors document how poorly women are treated in many countries. They contend that 100 million girls are missing worldwide due to being abandoned and left to die, aborted or sold into brothels.
“The first thing that struck me was that this could have been my story,” said Wurwand. “My mother was widowed mother at 38. I was the youngest of four daughters, a month shy of three years-old when my father died. She took a job as a night shift nurse because she had to figure out how to keep the girls together, feed us and keep a roof over our head.”
She said she realized that since Dermalogica is doing business in 86 countries around the world and 93 percent of their customers are women, ‘we needed to do something.”
Although Dermalogica is a big company with 1,400 employees, it serves mostly small beauty salons and spas worldwide. All its products are made in Southern California and used by about 100,000 skin care professionals. Wurwand said it’s fairly easy to get into the beauty industry since it only takes about 600 hours of training to become a skin therapist. “Most small salons are independently owned and funded by women with a modest amount of money.”
Meanwhile, women who received FITE funds have already paid back 30 percent of their microloans.
“These small loans have an incredible ripple effect on the community,” said Wurwand. “Just $60 can start a business in Uganda. One South African woman wanted money to expand her chicken coop. Now, she has more chickens and three local women selling eggs.”
“This project is very core to our DNA,” said Wurwand. “It’s very authentic to who we are as a brand.” She said the FITE initiative has re-energized the whole company. In addition to donating money for customers to designate, internal teams have formed to raise money and salons are hosting fund-raising events.
“Our dream is to continue lending money to women and then connect them with women who own small businesses in the developed world.” (For more information, visit: www.joinFITE.org).
BRANDfog’s Ann Charles is also involved in helping women around the world through another organization, Women for Women.
“I believe women who own their own businesses naturally have an obligation to look externally to help other women who are not as fortunate in circumstances,” said Charles, who supports Women for Women, which helps female survivors of war get back on their feet through education and training programs designed to rebuild communities.
Charles said she encourages all her clients to engage in corporate social responsibility, especially around the holidays. “CSR gifting is something simple that any company can do to show appreciation to clients for a great year, while helping others,” said Charles.
“The first gift on our recommended gift list is a Kate Spade bracelet that provides a portion of the proceeds to Women for Women International.”
Image credit: Jane Wurwand, founder, Dermalogica