It's that time of year again, your shopping list is long and your time is suddenly short. In the spirit of the season, why not support businesses that contribute to the greater good? Forget Wal-Mart and Amazon -- there are plenty of companies out there with great products that are also doing positive things for workers, the community and the environment.
Here's our list of 12 companies we love for their forward-thinking business models. These companies are working hard to embrace the double-bottom line: doing well and doing good.
1. Costco: The opposite of Wal-Mart
Whether you're looking for some new clothes to put under the tree, a big screen TV, or enough cranberry sauce to feed a small army, Costco will address all your shopping needs. The membership-based warehouse store is the second largest retailer in the U.S. behind Wal-Mart -- but it shot to the top through a vastly different labor strategy. Instead of low wages and high turnover, Costco pays an average wage of more than $20 an hour. Nearly 9 in 10 Costco workers have company sponsored health insurance with low-cost premiums and 15% of Costco's U.S. workers are represented by the Teamsters. Costco proves low cost does not mean low wage.
2. Westward Leaning sunglasses: Style, celebrities and substance!
Be beautiful inside and out in Westward Leaning’s sunglasses for a cause. Ten dollars from each pair purchased goes to a worthy charity associated with a special inlay in the glasses themselves. So the model with turquoise at the temple benefits the American Indian College Fund, the one with sustainability-sourced mother of pearl benefits ocean conservation efforts … you get the idea. Celebrities like Katy Perry, Natalie Portman, and Heidi Klum have all been spotted in these sassy shades. And as if that’s not enough, they’re also made in America! Santa, can I add just one more thing to my wish list?
3. Container Store: For the ethically organized
If you’re a mom desperately trying to organize your chaos, in a tiny apartment, and Christmas freaks you out because what in the world are you going to do with the stuff that Grandma is sure to send your children even though you’ve already told her that they really don’t need anything and another stuffed animal will only provide a brief fleeting moment of joy before being tossed in the toy bin with all the other hundreds of stuffed animals collecting dust…than you likely know and love and are psychologically dependent on The Container Store. But what you might not know is that the Container Store is not only awesome because it helps me maintain my tenuous grip on sanity, they also pay their sales associates twice the industry average and make many of their products in America! Their gift cards make great presents! (Hint! Hint!)
4. Modavanti: Transforming the second dirtiest industry
When Modavanti founder David Dietz learned that fashion is the second dirtiest industry in the world, right after oil and gas, he knew that he wanted to do something about it. And as a young New Yorker, he knew that the solution had to change the way companies do business, while still offering cutting edge fashion. So he founded the online retailer Modavanti to give fashionistas a one-stop-shopping for the goods they call consciously styled.
5. Patagonia: A different kind of corporation
Don't fear the winter, conquer it! With Patagonia's extensive product line, you can do everything from snow shoeing to ice skating without a shiver. Patagonia is one of more than 1,000 verified "B Corporations" which have met a rigorous set of standards in the areas of corporate governance, workforce, community, and environment. Here's a snapshot of some of the things Patagonia is doing well: more than 40% of management are women or minorities; the company provides health care to part-time, retail and warehouse staff; and 75% of materials used are environmentally friendly. With that ethos, Patagonia’s gear will warm your heart while it keeps you warm.
6. The Honest Co: Adorable eco-friendly diapers
Who says environmentally friendly diapers have to be that terrible off-brown color? Actress Jessica Alba has other ideas! Her company The Honest Co accomplishes the seemingly impossible by offering super cute, convenient, affordable, eco-friendly diapers. They’ve got all kinds of patterns from preppy blue anchors to tiny skull and cross-bones to little elephants being flown around in hot air balloons. Did I mention they’re super cute? With organic baby shampoo, conditioner and diaper cream, The Honest Co has everything to keep baby and the planet happy.
7. Etsy: Promoting women in technology
You visit this online retail hub for artisans whenever you're looking for some handmade jewelry or a special objet d'art to spice up your apartment, but did you know this Silicon Valley company is also paving the way to bring more women into tech? While women have been falling further behind in this dude-dominated industry, Etsy found a way to flip the script. The Internet sensation increased its female engineers by 500% in 2012 when they decided to stop trying to poach top women engineers from other companies, and instead invested in training their own junior staff members in new skills. Etsy’s investment in women will pay dividends for you this holiday season.
8. Ecoalf: One man's trash is another man's trend
If you think coffee is just for drinking, think again. The innovators over at Ecoalf have found a way to turn recycled coffee grounds, water bottles, and even used fishing nets into a sassy, snuggly winter jackets. Pointing to research that says we are currently using five times more resources than the planet can regenerate, Ecoalf's sustainable approach keeps waste out of landfills and you looking good.
9. The Gap: Cozy sweaters and fair wages! What more could you want?
If you’re looking for a side of social justice with your jeans, look no further! Your favorite store at the mall has upped their game both in style and substance. Earlier this year The Gap announced that they are lifting the pay of all their employees to $10 an hour. According to the company, that change means 7 out of 10 of their American employees will get a raise. Now your conscience can rest as easily as your feet in these stripey knee socks.
10. Knotty Gal: Knotty goods for nice gals
Guarantee your placement on Santa’s nice list by shopping at Knotty Gal, a mother-daughter purveyor of uniquely beautiful jewelry. The founders were inspired to start Knotty Gal after visiting an all-girls school in Bangladesh that had been established by their grandfather/great-grandfather. The school was overcrowded and lacked basic supplies and support. Rather than bemoaning this lack of resources, the creative duo got to work building Knotty Gal to support the school. Already they’ve raised enough money to dramatically improve conditions at the school but there’s much more work to be done. Your purchase will help the school provide a daily meal and build new classrooms. Nothing knotty about that.
11. Hugo Boss and Jones New York: Union-made high fashion
Looking for that extra special present this holiday season? The suits, tops and dresses from Hugo Boss aren't only beautiful, but many are also union made. And if you're looking for union fashion a little more within budget, Jones New York is another great choice. Both are represented by Workers United, a union affiliated with the Service Employers International Union. Check out labor411.org, a helpful guide to buying union from everything from beer to beauty products.
12. Nettie Kent: Sustainable gems for your gem
If you’re looking for something special for someone special, look no further than eco-friendly jeweler Nettie Kent. This Brooklyn-based jewelry company makes funky and original jewelry that honors rather than degrades the environment. Nettie’s designs are inspired by her upbringing in beautiful Martha’s Vineyard and pay homage to that inspiration through organic shapes and sustainable practices. All of Nettie’s jewelry is made from reclaimed materials with an eye towards minimizing waste and chemicals. And gentleman, Nettie also does custom engagement rings … just a thought!