The Real Purpose of the Purpose Economy

06/03/2015 10:08 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2016

Can chocolate cure unwanted pregnancies? Can a little time between the sheets do away with sex trafficking? In the magical world of a purpose-driven economy, the answers are yes.

Measuring business success in human terms is the new bottom line. Which is not to say financial gain falls to the wayside in the world of purpose. With more than 90 percent of global consumers reporting they are likely to switch to buying from brands that support a good cause, socially responsible businesses leading the pack in stock performance by an average of 25 percent over the long term, and nearly 80 percent of investors now considering sustainability issues when choosing investments, purpose and profit are the new power couple in the world of commerce.

But the real value goes deeper than the dollars earned and impact made. It lays in the fact that combining purpose and profit allows us to protect and enhance the most valuable resource this world will ever have: our human resource.

Every advancement society has ever known, from the invention of the wheel to the invention of the Internet, can be traced to the same origin: a human being with an idea. And those ideas can come from anywhere, which is why companies bettering humanity everywhere are doing a great service to us all.

One such company, Askinosie Chocolate, a small batch, fair trade, farmer direct chocolate maker in Springfield, Missouri, is certainly successful by the traditional measure. It has won awards both nationally and internationally, supplies the chocolate for Intelligentsia Coffee nationwide and has three exclusive chocolate bars coming out in Target's Made To Matter Collection this year. But ask founder and CEO Shawn Askinosie about their success, and he tells you about their A Product Of Change™ line and how through it, this 16-person company feeds 1,500 children every single day. An accomplishment that does much more than reduce hunger. For example, at a Tanzanian school where young girls were selling themselves for food and having to drop out because of pregnancy, there has not been one unwanted pregnancy in almost three years. A precious human resource -- the female voice -- has been preserved and given a chance to thrive.

He will also tell you about the company's business model, A Stake In The Outcome ™, through which profit sharing extends far beyond employees to every single farmer in their supply chain. Every year, Askinosie himself travels to Ecuador, Honduras, Tanzania and the Philippines and opens the books to the farmers with absolute transparency. The financial statements are translated into the native language and farmers are taught to understand the business they are such a vital part of. From there, they are given their share of the profits directly.

Another company thriving on both the financial and human bottom line is New Jersey-based Boll & Branch, offering the world's first line of bedding products to have received full certification from Fair Trade USA. Selling luxury sheets at half retail price, the company generated sales of $1.75 million in their first year, but the profit margins co-founder Scott Tannen is proud of are those of the farmers from whom they source their cotton. By partnering with Chetna Organic, a co-op that helps small farms transition into certified-organic farms, Tannen has seen their profit margins jump from 3 percent to upward of 80 percent.

To understand the significant human impact of this one business decision, consider that the world cotton industry accounts for 5 percent of crops and uses almost 25 percent of its chemicals, nearly half of which are considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organization. Beyond the health implications to the farmers, for whom life expectancy is a mere 35, the expense of chemical farming has put so many Indian cotton farmers in debt that nearly 300,000 have taken their own lives. By converting to organic farming, health increases, profit margins skyrocket, and a portion of the additional money the farming cooperatives earn goes directly to building schools, clean water supplies and teaching members of the communities various trades.

Beyond the farm, Boll & Branch mills have a strictly monitored 8-hour workday. Their workers receive fair wages that are 220 percent more than average factory workers in Calcutta as well as free lunch, full health care for the entire family, including parents, and private education for their children.

On top of all this, every sheet set or throw you buy provides a safe night's sleep for a human trafficking victim. Human trafficking is the world's second largest criminal industry and is currently enslaving an estimated 35 million people worldwide. In their first year alone, this small company has rescued more than 9,000 victims.

Purpose driven profit isn't just about a better future. It is changing lives today. And it's empowering us, as consumers, to be a part of the process -- reducing teen pregnancies, malnutrition, suicide rates, sex trafficking and dozens of other human atrocities by buying things we love, like gourmet chocolate and luxury sheets. Sweet. We can all sleep easier.

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