Ecommerce is known for some very famous social entrepreneurship ideas. For example, Toms would give away a free shoe to someone in need if you bought one of their shoes at full price.
This is not the only way to do it though.
Social entrepreneurship ideas range from donations and materials to sourcing and even just pure awareness. In all cases though, they’re doing more than just selling a product. They’re increasing the demand for more socially just business ideas.
In this article, we’re going to go over a few interesting ways to make this happen. So whether you sell makeup or candles, there will be something for you.
Let’s talk about it…
- 1 Cruelty Free Makeup
- 2 Vegan Shoes
- 3 Eco-Friendly Clothing
- 4 Canned Beverages
- 5 Handmade Jewelry
- 6 Organic Tea
- 7 Eco-Friendly Subscription Box
- 8 CBD + Donations
- 9 Hair + Free Product
- 10 Beeswax Candles
- 11 Eco Friendly Luxury
- 12 Fair Trade Chocolate
- 13 Eco Friendly Watches
- 14 Eco Friendly Sunglasses
- 15 Eco Friendly Socks
- 16 Natural Perfumes
- 17 Eco Friendly Swimwear
- 18 Natural Skincare
- 19 Natural Soap
The makeup industry is famous for its pro-cruelty practices. Hence why in the last 10 years, there’s been a huge push for cruelty free makeup brands. Even then though, there are still not enough of them to really consider makeup to be a “cruelty free” industry just yet. This means there’s plenty of room for your own cruelty free makeup line.
What’s great about this idea is that makeup has incredibly strong margins. And building a cruelty free makeup line can demand higher prices and better PR than a non-cruelty free business. In fact, even if you weren’t looking for any social entrepreneurship ideas, you would still want to start a cruelty free makeup line for all the extra benefits it gives you.
Imagine starting our own cruelty free makeup affiliate site or blog like Glossier and then launching your own brand. That’s a recipe for success.
Shoes are arguably the most important part of your outfit. So most people will do whatever they need to do to get the best shoes possible. Considering that many high quality shoes are made from leather, this means there’s space for innovation if you’re into social entrepreneurship ideas. So what if you started an eco-friendly or even a vegan shoe brand?
One great example of an eco-friendly shoe brand is Allbirds, which is a 9 figure footwear brand. Now, they’re not vegan, but it does show there is huge demand for shoes that use non-traditional materials. The key is to always make sure that even if you sell vegan shoes, they have to look good. If you can do that, then you’re solid.
If you love buying clothing, I have bad news for you. It’s one of the most environmentally destructive industries today. But while the production of any new type of clothing is bad, there is still good news. You can build an eco-friendly clothing brand that makes it products out of sustainable materials like Tencel.
The challenge in apparel is that eco-friendly materials are hard to find and expensive to buy, which leads to higher pricing. But, this presents an opportunity for any high end apparel brand since most clothing companies are designed to sell to the masses. So use this opportunity to not just use eco-friendly materials, but high end materials that are also eco-friendly.
Plastic is a huge no no is you’re looking for social entrepreneurship ideas. That’s why there is now a trend to replace bottled beverages with canned beverages. Aluminium, while being pretty bad for the environment during the production process, is second only to paper as the most recycled material in the world. And it works for any beverage.
Liquid Death is one of the biggest examples today of this trend. The bottled water market is one of the biggest and most commoditized markets in the entire world. Then Liquid Death comes in and shakes the industry with their beer-like cans. This same concept can be taken into any other beverage category like wine, sleep drinks, tea, and more.
There are many ways to do social entrepreneurship and one of those ways is to sustainably outsource your production process to developing countries. Typically, doing this won’t actually save you money like most offshore outsourcing will do. However, you will get a nice marketable story out of it, on top of the social benefits.
31 Bits is the latest DTC brand I’ve seen that does this perfectly. They’re entire production process is centered around artisans in Bali. On the social side of things, they provide good paying jobs in Bali. On the marketing side of things, it lets them differentiate their brand by focusing on how everything is made in Bali.
Tea is only second to water when it comes to being the most popular drink in the world. Yet, like most plants, it can also be “tainted” by bad practices. The only way to reduce this is to increase the demand for organic. And the only way to make that happen is having more successful organic tea businesses.
Like clothing, this is an opportunity not just to make a more sustainable product, but to make a premium priced product as well. For example, you could create your own organic matcha. Doing so will make it much more likely to work on Facebook ads and probably be easier to get in stores.
I have good news. Most subscription boxes tend to be eco-friendly. The actual box being used to ship anyway, as they tend to be made out of recyclable cardboard. However, the products being curated in these boxes tend to be the opposite. So why not start a subscription box that specializes in sustainable products?
The key here would be to avoid focus on the “sustainable” or “green” angle. Instead, you want to focus on the other elements that lead to being sustainable or green. For example, you can have a subscription box that contains products from developing countries, which happen to be sustainable. This leads to much stronger marketing.
CBD is a fast growing market that will be ready to explode as soon as restrictions relax. But as far as I can tell, there aren’t very many CBD brands with social benefits tied to them. This means there’s a huge opportunity and need for one to exist. The easiest way to get started? Donate cash to a charity for every sale you make.
To make this viable, it will probably be a percentage of your revenue. As you scale, it lets your donations scale. It’s not exactly the most exciting way to tie a social cause to a brand as it’s been done before a million times, but considering cash is usually one of the most helpful ways to help a charity, it’s a worthwhile venture.
The hair business has two sides to it. First, you have hair products like Shampoo. Second, you have things like wigs. In either case though, you can build an ecommerce business where you sell any kind of hair product and then give a free one to someone in. This is the exact model Toms did to build a strong brand.
One example is giving away shampoo and conditioner to families in developing countries. The great thing about hair products is that they tend to be cheaper to make, relative to their pricing. So if you can keep a strong margin, this is actually even more doable than if you were to do the same in other categories.
Candles are one of the oldest products on this list. It’s also one of the cheapest to get started with. Best of all, there are lots of ways to make it eco-friendly. For example, choosing beeswax as the base rather than a more “unnatural” base like most mass produced candles.
In addition, you can also play around with more sustainable packaging. Together, you will have a product that you would be proud to sell to tons of people. The coolest part is that candle buyers are primed to buy higher quality and natural candles since they specifically will want the additional benefits beeswax brings to the candle.
Luxury, by definition, does what it can to be luxury. This sometimes leads to environmentally disastrous practices. For example, Hermes farms crocodiles to create their super high end bags. But things don’t have to be this way. In fact, you can choose to be the exact opposite.
For example, you can choose to build your luxury brand using hard to find plants that can only be sourced organically due to how small the operation is. Assuming you double check the entire supply chain, it’s possible to keep the exclusivity you need to stay luxury, while doing good. Add in a social cause on top of that and you’re good to go.
Fair Trade Chocolate
If I had to pick one business to run for the rest of my life, it would be chocolate. I think most chocoholics like me would agree. However, the chocolate industry is actually one of the morally worst industries to be in due to too slave-like working conditions. Fortunately, you can fix this problem with fair trade chocolate.
Another option is to work directly with cacao producers. They tend to be so small, they can’t get an actual fair trade certification. However, you can be 100% sure they’re being sustainably produced and paid well because you’re directly involved in the process. The best example of this is Askinosie chocolate.
Watches are one of the most popular accessories you can ever sell, period. Typically, the more iconic brands are one the premium to luxury side of things. But what if you were able to sell a watch that was built through sustainable and ethical practices?
There are a few brands who do this such as Tense, Nordgreen, and Solios. Brands like these focus on recycled or reclaimed materials, non-toxic vegan leather, use solar power rather than batteries, and more. Because there is no “true” winner in this category, it’s ripe for opportunity.
When it comes to accessories, most people don’t think about sustainability. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You can switch out the materials normally used in sunglasses to make eco-friendly and sustainable variations people still like to wear.
For example, you can use bamboo instead of plastic. You can also use recycled materials, oil-free materials, and more. Plus, the huge margins in sunglasses do give you wiggle room when it comes to donating part of your profit to any social cause you want.
Most people wouldn’t think of socks as one of the possible social entrepreneurship ideas to work on, but it can be. Like most of apparel, you have the choice to either use traditional materials or sustainable materials. For example, you can use tencel fabric instead of polyester.
The great news is that unlike most of apparel, using sustainable materials won’t hurt your margins as badly. It’s actually a big reason why many newer brand that are popping up lean towards more sustainable practices. It also gives you an opportunity to be seen as a premium priced sock brand.
Like socks, this is one of the more unlikely social entrepreneurship ideas. Yet, there is huge innovation being done here, which has led to a ton of growth. This involves both the perfume itself, as well as the packaging they’re sent in. Best of all, your margins will still stay insanely high.
Skylar is a great of example of the natural perfume business. They promise perfumes with no parabens, phthalates, allergens, animal-derived ingredients, synthetic dyes, or SLS. They also use recycled materials for their packaging and keep all manufacturing in the U.S.
Swimwear is a difficult business to be eco-friendly in due to each product usually having a high amount of materials like spandex. However, it is possible to make them one of many viable social entrepreneurship ideas. All you have to do is reduce as much of the traditional materials as possible.
In apparel, this means putting your focus on using recycled materials for both your product and packaging. It’s also best to keep manufacturing in the U.S so you can make sure people are paid well and everyone follows USDA environmental standards.
Skincare is one of the best social entrepreneurship ideas because the product itself is extremely friendly to eco friendly materials. You can use organic ingredients, make vegan formulations, follow USDA guidelines, stay away from all sort of toxins, maintain cruelty-free standards, and more.
Matrescense is a great example of this. They are a skincare brand for pregnant women. For this reason, they only use organic, safe, and sustainably sourced plant-based ingredients. They’re toxin, paraben, and sulfate free. All ingredients are fair-trade and more.
Some of the biggest breakthroughs happening right now in the eco-friendly world is in the soap category. Most soap is notorious for being horrible on the environment, on the people who make them, and for your body. But by replacing traditional ingredients with natural ingredients, you can drastically improve your soap.
You do this through cold pressed soaps. You get to choose your own all natural ingredients, manufacturer them in an eco-friendly way, and even keep all the manufacturing in-house so you can make sure everything is going to plan. This isn’t for just regular bars of soap though. Feel free to do the same in other soap categories like hand soap and laundry detergent.
If you need marketing advice to grow any one of these business ideas though, make sure to check out this list of ecommerce marketing newsletters.