It all began with a t-shirt.
“I purchased a shirt from Compassion International, an organization with which I sponsored a child,” said Pensacola native and now Brooklyn resident, Jenny Long. “The purchase of this shirt supported world hunger relief in the country of my choice. I thought this was a great idea. I bought several of those shirts that year as Christmas gifts.”
Long, an avid volunteer, wanted to find more companies like Compassion International, but found the process was not easy.
“The more I looked, the more I found,” she said.
So she began, SOCO Marketplace, an online marketplace that compiles a variety of companies that offer socially conscious products. Shoppers can search the website by product, initiative or region in need. A list is then provided with links to companies that match the search criteria.
“I knew that if all of these great companies where listed in one place, more people would make purchases,” Long continued. “The process just needed to be a bit simpler. That’s when the idea for a socially conscious marketplace arose.”
Socially conscious shopping is not a new concept. Now, with brands like Toms and The Body Shop, supporting a cause through shopping is trendy, which is a good thing Long says.
“It holds the companies and organizations accountable,” she said. “When there is more light shed on an organization, it requires more transparency. SOCO Marketplace makes a point to check into each company and find out exactly what makes them socially conscious.”
SOCO Marketplace does their own research to make sure that companies provide real and meaningful benefits.
“Whether the company has their own initiative/agenda or they are simply donating to another organization with an initiative, we try to get to the root of exactly what is being done and by whom,” Long said. “The site’s main focus is to create a place where people can come to shop, knowing that everything listed on the site is in fact socially conscious and will help someone in need.”
There’s always a warm feeling of giving presents during the holiday season. Knowing you’re also helping someone in need makes the exchange that much greater.
“We’re long past the days of choosing between helping a charity or purchasing a cool item for ourselves,” Long said. “These days, we are fortunate to be able to do both! The items on SOCO are great and the charities are even greater. Why not buy a great bag, water bottle, book or necklace and know that you are helping someone in need?”
The Gifts that Give
Long’s picks for the holiday season:
The Hobbit from Better World Books $10
-Free shipping on all books
-For each book purchased, one is donated to someone in need and money is given to literacy projects
Stainless Steel, Eco Friendly Water Bottle from Nika Water $12
-Profits support building clean water wells and sanitation projects in developing countries
Moisturizing Lip Gloss from Radiant Cosmetics (great stocking stuffer) $16
- 20% of profits go to anti-trafficking organization
Feather Leaf Earrings from Raven and Lily $24 (great for Holiday parties)
-Purchases provide work for HIV positive women in Ethiopia and India
-10% of profits fund education, healthcare, and micro-loans.
iPad Cover from Nomi Network $20
-Made out of environment friendly recycled rice bag material
-Made by women in Cambodia that have escaped a life of human trafficking