One percent of our effort, one percent of our time, one percent of our progress toward some goal: it feels like an easy target to reach. 1% for the Planet, an international philanthropic organization headquartered in Burlington, Vermont, is capitalizing on the feeling that this quantity is not all that much to change the world. Recognizing that we could make a huge difference if we each gave one percent of our sales or salaries to charitable causes, the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, and the founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, Craig Mathews, teamed up in 2002 to encourage people to do just that.
By targeting money from businesses and individuals toward environmental nonprofits, their organization has built a highway connecting two disparate worlds to achieve a mutual goal. As Chouinard explained in his book, Let My People Go Surfing, “the intent of 1% for the Planet is to help fund these diverse environmental organizations so that collectively they can be a more powerful source in solving the world’s problems.” And they need all the help they can get, with only three percent of philanthropic giving in the United States targeting environmental causes.
For those who want to make a difference but are having trouble choosing between the 15,000 or so environmental nonprofits scattered around the globe, 1% for the Planet is happy to help. Nonprofits can only join the 1% network as members if they are recommended by a current business or individual member – meaning that member has either made or committed to making a financial donation to the nonprofit in the upcoming fiscal year – after which, the nonprofit must complete an application via a private link sent to them over email. The organization vets each prospective member to ensure it meets certain guidelines before approving it as eligible to receive funding from members.
For example, potential members must work in one of the six core issue areas where 1% places its focus: climate, food, land, pollution, water, and wildlife. This arduous application process guarantees that your money goes to good sources. The directory currently contains 4,540 approved nonprofit members in more than 90 countries. Some of the more well-known ones include 350.org, the National Forest Foundation, and the World Wildlife Fund. Besides compiling nonprofits into their network and digital directory, 1% also advises their business and individual members on which to form partnerships with, taking into account both “their personal vision of a healthy planet” and the amount of impact that each nonprofit organization can generate.
On the other end of the partnership, there are multiple different ways for businesses and individuals to join as members and start the process of partnering and donating. Businesses donate the equivalent of 1% of gross sales to their nonprofit partners, and half of each year’s donations can come in the form of “employee volunteer time and/or in-kind product or service donations, or approved promotional support”; at least half must be monetary.
Additionally, businesses have the opportunity to choose whether their membership applies to the entire company, one of their brands, or just one of their product lines. Patagonia’s entire company donates 1% of its annual sales, totaling $89 million in cash and in-kind donations over time. A brand of Nature’s Path, EnviroKidz, donates 1% of annual brand sales to animal conservation nonprofits like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the Australian Koala Foundation. A product line of The Coca-Cola Company, Honest Tea, donates 1% of annual sales of its glass bottled teas to organizations including those dedicated to getting healthier foods to children, like FoodCorps and the Whole Kids Foundation. And more businesses are joining every day. FOr instance, Bank of the West, part of BNP Paribas, has pledged 1% of revenue from its new 1% debit accounts; since July 2020, it has raised more than $100,000 for Protect Our Winters, a group of “passionate outdoor people” offsetting harmful impacts of a changing climate.
More recently, 1% for the Planet expanded their membership to include individuals in 2017. Individuals have more flexibility in meeting their 1% commitment, though; the donation can be completely monetary, completely volunteer time, or a combination.
This year, 1% has also created two new options. The Planet Impact Portfolio allows a single donation to fund six pre-selected nonprofits, one in each of the core issue areas, with totals distributed equally across the six. The Planet Giving Circle, on the other hand, connects a group of individual members to make a collective donation to a single nonprofit. Between such individuals and the business members, there are 5,840 members of 1% for the Planet in more than 60 countries.
There are also numerous benefits for such members of 1% for the Planet. First, 1% certifies member donations by reviewing annual sales, salaries, and donation receipts at the close of each year, thereby confirming that they have met their commitment. This is especially important in an era where “81 percent of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment,” according to Nielson. Second, membership increases visibility for companies, with a 2018 Harris Poll indicating that 27 percent of American consumers recognize the 1% for the Planet brand – over five times higher than in 2013 – and 6 percent know them extremely or very well; among 18- to 34-year olds, those numbers are even better at 44 percent and 11 percent respectively.
Beyond such benefits, donating your 1% is clearly a good thing to do, and it can make a global difference when amplified by an entire network of participants. According to 1%’s 2019 Annual Report, the year saw 1,537 members – 1,289 businesses and 248 individuals – join the organization and 1,841 nonprofits receive funding. Accordingly, 1% certified $27.2 million in giving over the course of the year, and it has certified $295,286,062 over the course of its existence.
And, as CEO Kate Williams explained in a Grow Ensemble podcast episode, members constantly realize that they can be doing even more and ramp up their efforts to exceed their initial commitments: “you get these amazing purposeful people and companies and nonprofits together and they start doing so much more than just the required 1 percent. . . they get into this powerful community of changemakers and they just see those next steps right there in front of them.”