The traditional business will tell you that it’s all about the bottom line. Not Cotopaxi. This outdoor start-up is firmly entrenched in its mantra to deliver a solid product within a pay-it-forward framework.
Davis Smith, the director of the start-up, believes that a company can (and should!) be both a money-spinner and a positive tool for social change. Focusing primarily on poverty, Smith’s products are what he calls ‘socially conscious’. The products are made under fair conditions and a chunk of the profits go toward various causes.
Take the company’s Kusa Collection as a flagship example of the company’s ethos. The company not only uses llama fleece (an amazingly light and effective self-insulating fabric) from Bolivia, but it also partners with local communities. Instead of creating a cookie-cutter production line, Cotopaxi works with farmers to ensure traditional methods are kept. Not only that, they help locals to expand their businesses and earn more than the paltry $100 per year wage of most farmers.
The company does something similar in the Philippines, where workers are guaranteed a fair living wage and sensible working hours. Perhaps the most encouraging thing of all, however, is that they’re also given a stake in the design process; in other words, they’re respected members of the team. Compare that to some of the biggest companies in the world that still operate in sweatshop conditions.
Smith makes the point that poverty isn’t something that we should give to our governments and non-profits; eradicating poor working conditions is up to society, whether you’re an individual, small business, or multinational.
Ultimately, this story is about highlighting that owning a business doesn’t mean it’s all about the profits. Cotopaxi shows that a company can affect positive change and make money at the same time – these two things are not mutually exclusive.
What do you guys think? The way of the future or idealistic mumbo-jumbo? We’d love to hear your feedback!