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The Green Life: The Newest Old Business Trend

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March 05, 2010

The Newest Old Business Trend

1 Percent for the PlanetTithing — offering a percentage of income for a cause — dates back to the Old Testament. And lately its popularity is surging in the business world, though today's offerings aren't fixed at 10 percent, and are far different from the garments, dates, and barley that believers once donated to the church.

When Yvon Chouinard, owner of outdoor-apparel giant Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, owner of fishing supplier Blue Ribbon Flies, joined forces in 2002 to give 1 percent of their sales to Earth-oriented nonprofits — and to recruit other executives to do the same — the result was itself a nonprofit: 1% for the Planet.

Today, the organization's thousand-plus member businesses, spread over 37 countries, donate directly to more than 1,900 approved environmental charities, including the Sierra Club. Many of the companies that slap the 1% FTP logo on their products — like Volcom, Sigg, and Clif Bar — are noticeably hip. But its biggest get might be Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records. The mellow singer-songwriter has sold more than 15 million albums, a mellifluous boon for the natural world.

So far, 1% FTP (tagline: "Keep Earth in business") members have funneled upward of $40 million toward environmental groups. And they're not just being selfless: The website's "Why Join?" section stresses that membership brings networking opportunities, forges marketing inlets, and adds positive brand perception.

What entrepreneur worth his or her MBA wouldn't say amen to that?

--Avital Binshtock

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