The Do-Gooder Business Model Gets Complicated

By Matt Kempner
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In a world of guilt, political correctness and a growing attention to issues that are important, consumers increasingly focus on how the things they buy are made. It can be tough though to make sure you are always buying socially conscious products.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jeff Shinabarger, who made your clothes?

His Nike shoes: an overseas factory. J.Crew shirt: another overseas factory. Jeans: Made in America, so the workers probably got paid more, he told me.

I think that last item is the only one he really feels good about. Consumers increasingly focus on how the things they buy are made and whether people, the environment or animals were helped or unnecessarily hurt in the process.

Even for Shinabarger, a middle class guy with a busy life, two young kids and a job running a non-profit. He founded an Atlanta event (Plywood Presents) that each year assists hundreds of social entrepreneurs intent on helping the world, often while they make a profit.

They focus on things like giving a hand to the homeless and refugees, improving education, producing handcrafted-wares, connecting with artisans, working in an environmentally sustainable way. And, the biggie: Selling stuff, often for higher prices, so that the people who made it get fair wages.

Shinabarger and I chatted when he had a break during the latest Plywood gathering. He’s an inspiring advocate for people’s ability to spark change.

I asked about his buying habits.

“I currently don’t have a lifestyle where every decision can be the purist,” he said.

It takes time, money and energy. And is it wise to spend lots of cash on clothes or toys for his kids, when he knows they will soon outgrow them? Shinabarger told me he knows where 30 percent of what’s in his closet was made. One pair of jeans cost $140, but what he’d like to pay is more like $40 or $30.

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