At the start of 2018, Larry Fink of investment firm BlackRock wrote in a letter to executives: "Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society."
In a year rife with grifting, trolling, disaster, and disinformation, acts of kindness and giving back to communities felt more important than ever. And private companies stepped up in ways large and small. Here are some impressive acts of generosity from the past year.
Sierra Nevada rallies a thousand breweries to help Camp Fire victims
Sierra Nevada is headquartered in Chico, California, just west of Paradise, a town devastated by the Camp Fire in November. The brewery and its founder, Ken Grossman, donated clothing and resources to victims during the fire--and after it was contained, they didn't stop. Grossman announced Sierra Nevada would create a beer, called Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, with all proceeds benefiting fire victims and their communities. Remarkably, 1,000 other small breweries signed on to make and distribute the brew, and also donate their profits. "Our hope is to get Resilience IPA in taprooms all over the country to create a solid start for our community's future," Grossman said.
Patagonia gives its $10 million tax cut to environment causes
As a result of the the White House-backed Republican tax cuts, Patagonia saved some $10 million this year. But in November, the company's chief executive, Rose Marcario, posted a scathing letter that called the cuts "irresponsible" and decried the president's recent denial of a climate change report. The letter also announced that Patagonia was taking action by funding environmental groups. "Instead of putting the money back into our business, we're responding by putting $10 million back into the planet, Marcario wrote. "Our home planet needs it more than we do."
Toms changes its company's mission in order to end gun violence
Despite being founded on a "buy one give one" model, the footwear company Toms had never publicly declared a position on political issues. But the day after a gunman opened fire at a nightclub in Thousand Oaks, California, on November 8, Toms founder Blake Mycoskie drafted what he told Fast Company was the "most intense email I've ever written." It argued to the company's board and CEO that Toms should take a stand against gun violence, and alter its standard giving model to donate at least $5 million to the cause. "This is a human issue," Mycoskie said. "It's become political, but ending gun violence is about making a better world, which is what we've always been about."
Ripple gives $29 million to teachers and classrooms
Back in January, Charles Best, the founder of crowdfunding site Donors Choose, asked Brad Garlinghouse, the CEO of alternative-currency startup Ripple, an absurd question: What if Ripple donated enough to fulfill every request for school project funding on the entire Donors Choose website? He knew Garlinghouse was a supporter of Donors Choose--but he didn't expect his swinging-for-the-fences email to work. It did, and the company gave $29 million, which went to more than 35,000 education projects and helped an estimated 1 million children within weeks.
A moving-company CEO gives a new employee his car
It was one of the biggest feel-good stories of the year. Walter Carr, a student whose vehicle had broken down, decided to walk the 20 miles to get to his first day of work as a mover. Along the way he befriended practically everyone he encountered, from police officers to the people whose stuff he was moving. Carr's supervisor and the customer were so impressed that the moving company CEO called to meet with him the next day. Instead of just thanking him, the CEO gave him his own 2014 Ford Escape.
Shutterfly helps wildfire victims preserve their memories
Shutterfly, the photo-printing and customizable goods company, recently acquired Lifetouch, a privately-owned school-photography company that has a facility in Chico, California. It vowed after the California wildfires to donate $150,000 to relief efforts, and also help families impacted by the fires to "recreate their most important memories" by reprinting photographs or photo books for free--whether or not they were Shutterfly customers.
Reddit plays video games to benefit sick children
In its annual pre-holiday charity drive, Reddit staff and gamers from the Reddit community formed teams and solicited donations from family and friends...to play video games. Partnering with the organization Extra Life, Reddit and its "super team" of self-organized Redditors together earned $181,969 to benefit Childrens' Miracle Network Hospitals.
One for fun: Cards Against Humanity (essentially) gives away awesome stuff
Cards Against Humanity has never been your typical company, and on Black Friday it stayed on-brand. "This year, we want to remind everyone of the reason for the season: deals," the company wrote on its new website, 99percentoffsale.com. "Holy f--- have we got some deals." The company posted a new odd-but-high-end item every 10 minutes--at an ridiculous 99 percent less than its actual cost. So, a five-day trip to Fiji was listed for $71 instead of $7,100, and a 20-foot yurt was $60 instead of $6,000. A 50-pound wheel of Pecorino Romano cheese was listed for $3.29 and a 40-inch disco ball for $7.49. If the spectacle wasn't clear enough, the team also sold a $100 bill for $1. The stunt poked fun at the absurdity of Black Friday, Amazon's growth, and our own spending habits. "This is a financial catastrophe for our company," the site's FAQ reads. "In the long run, we hope to make it up in volume. We like to think we're following in the footsteps of our hero, Jeff Bezos."