BANGS Shoes: Building a Social Enterprise through Retail

Retail is experiencing a revolution. A growing trend is that consumers are concerned beyond sheer aesthetics of their purchase – they want to know that their spending dollars have a positive impact elsewhere in the world.

A recent 2010 survey found that 83% of consumers want more of their retail purchases to contribute to a cause. With the rise of titles such as chief sustainability officer and an increased focus on corporate social responsibility, businesses are experimenting with new models with a goal of benefiting external stakeholders as well as their bottom line. Our company, Bangs Shoes, aims to demonstrate a new model of corporate philanthropy that sparks a new socially responsible edge for the future of retail.

Bangs Shoes is a US-based humanitarian retail start-up with a mission to fuse together the traditionally firm line between business and philanthropy. Inspired by a sneaker design worn by many working class Chinese, each model of Bangs shoes represents a different cause and carefully chosen nonprofit organization.

The Bangs mission is to “Stand on issues to help others stand on their own” and we mean this with every fiber of our company. Every aspect of Bangs, from the name (Bang-zhu in Mandarin means “to help”), to our revenue model, to even the design of our shoes emanates this mentality. Instead of pledging a fixed amount to our nonprofit partners, we decided to link our own success to theirs: 20% of net profits from the affiliated model of shoe are invested in its nonprofit partners. If Bangs succeeds, then our nonprofit partners share in our success.

Not only did we want social outreach to be a core part of our business model, we wanted to be holistic in our approach to finding partners. We wanted partners that are transparent with a grassroots approach to development, after continuously learning about misused or ineffective aid funds. Our partners have focuses spanning numerous areas, but they all have a common theme of capacity building in a sustainable manner. We wanted our nonprofit partners to leave a lasting impact after ceasing operations; that they empower people with teaching a man to fish versus giving it to him mentality.

READ  Sudan: The Unfinished Peace

This last point is quite important to Bangs.  Although monetary funding and joint marketing efforts are arguably the most important aspect of the relationship Bangs has with our nonprofit partners, we also work to spread a general ideology. The Bangs vision is to turn our primarily American consumers on to the idea of sustainable development, rather than giving hand-outs as aid, in hopes to spread awareness of how philanthropy dollars can be spent.

Perhaps we have set our goal high by thinking furthering consumption will have a tangible positive effect in communities needing help. One fact we are certain of is that we live in a world facing innumerable challenges. We feel that through aligning our strengths in business with the impact of our non-profit partners, we are taking a step in a direction toward a better future.

We want to be part of a movement that sees retail worldwide review its current approach to social responsibility. We don’t want linking philanthropy and a business plan to be a marketing fad – it is certainly more than marketing to us.

To find our more information about BANGS’ nonprofit partners, please click on their links below:

Green BANGS partner with SOUL Foundation.
Red BANGS partner with Global DIRT.
Khaki BANGS partner with CHOICE Humanitarian.
Blue BANGS partner with Drop in the Bucket.

Hannah Davis, Founder and President of Bangs Shoes and Julie Kriegshaber, a Bangs Shoes board member co-authored this article.