A lot of people who know me through WordPress don’t realize that I used to be a hippie activist who worked for non-profits and wanted to save the world. Socially responsible business is something I care a lot of about, stemming from when I took my first web job (and first real non-non-profit job) in 1998, which was at a socially responsible business that sold renewable energy. Using business to be an agent for good and for change, while a bit anathema to that younger hippie self who thought capitalism was gross, is one of the most important things to encourage if we want to see real change; non-profits can only do so much (says the girl who worked for a bunch of them). Anyway, older and less likely to see things in black and white, I was really psyched to see this announcement about a new Maryland law for socially responsible business on the Better World Books blog.
Previously, there had not been a legal framework specifically designed for social enterprise – you either had to be a for-profit company, legally beholden to maximizing shareholder value, or a non-profit organization. Now there is a legal framework for companies that do well by doing good and who strive to generate both social and shareholder returns.
I hope that other states and ultimately the federal government will enact legislation that recognizes this business segment and provides incentives for businesses to be socially responsible. All my bleeding-heartism aside, if businesses start pumping more money into charities and social efforts, that’s less that the government might spend.
If you haven’t heard of Better World Books, allow me to introduce you. I love them. Love them love them love them. Sadly, I am often more inclined to use Amazon just because of prime shipping, electronics, etc., but this past week when I needed to get two books for a class, I headed over to BWB to nab them. It’s an online new and used books store. It works similar to Powell’s (which I also love, but for different reasons), where you can send them books to buy from you etc, but Better World Books, operating as a socially-oriented business, funnels money toward literacy efforts around the world. They’ve raised over 8 million bucks so far.
Those used books stay out of landfills. The shipping materials are minimal, with vacuum packing rather than packing materials. Their site offers book reviews, interview podcasts, information on starting your own book drive, book club materials and more. They have a special program for library discards (seeing a library discard the books they couldn’t get rid of in a sidewalk sale is gut-wrenching to me), where they sell the books and then share the profits with both the usual literacy programs and the library itself.
Honestly, if you are a book-buyer, I couldn’t recommend any online retailer more. Plus, their blog is on WordPress.