Nokero and Warby Parker Do Good Business by Doing Good

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Businesses like Nokero and Warby Parker don’t want to outsource doing good to non-profits. They’ve made it part of their mission as a company to use their respective expertise around the world and right here at home, as they showed when they teamed up to provide solar lights to residents of Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy.

During the holidays, non-profits and community organizations take center stage as they raise much needed funds in this “season of giving.” However, while these organizations continue to play a vital role in our communities, businesses are stepping up and showing it’s good business to do good.

Hurricane Sandy will be remembered as the worst US disaster of 2012, and businesses and media outlets teamed up to encourage people to donate to the Red Cross. However, when residents of the Red Hook housing projects in Brooklyn were devastated by the storm [1] and facing long-term power outages, startups Nokero and Warby Parker took action. They started by identifying which of Nokero's solar products would be most helpful to Red Hook residents. Warby Parker then teamed up with several prominent businesses and organizations in the New York area to donate the funds to purchase the bulbs which Nokero heavily discounted, and worked with neighborhood organizations and volunteers to distribute the bulbs.

Warby Parker is part of a new breed of companies who are “building a company to do good in the world,” as the web page for their “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program boldly explains. Almost one billion people don’t have access to glasses, and receiving corrective eyewear can increase one’s productivity by 20% -- equivalent to an extra work day a week. This is why Warby Parker sees glasses as a key component to global poverty alleviation.

Warby Parker is careful to avoid the aid trap that many discerning international development professionals have pointed out. They partner through funding and/or glasses with local non-profits, who in turn train low-income entrepreneurs to start their own businesses selling glasses.

They don’t just want to do good in other countries, as illustrated by their response to the Sandy storm that hit in their backyard. Stories emerged from the Red Hook housing projects in Brooklyn of rats and raccoons entering the dark hallways and residences which remained without power for weeks. A light bulb quite literally went off for Lander Bravo, and he reached out to Nokero, a designer and manufacturer of solar light bulbs and chargers.

“Our solar light bulbs are used by off-grid consumers in over 120 countries for cooking, reading, personal safety, and disaster response” says Nokero co-founder Evan Husney. “When Lander reached to us about working together to help the residents of Red Hook, we were excited to team up with a like-minded company to help right here in the United States.”

Nokero is another company founded on a mission of “good business,” with their name derived from “No Kerosene.” A simple sketch of solar light bulb by inventor and co-founder Steve Katsaros turned into a global effort to rid the developing world of this dirty and dangerous fuel. 1.3 billion lack access to electricity, but this mind numbing statistic is not what drives Mr. Katsaros. He is motivated by the faces and stories of people he’s met all over the world. “When I saw a group of girls in a remote island of Philippines turn off crude, homemade kerosene lamps and turn on clean, bright solar light, I knew we just saved their lungs the equivalent of 40 cigarettes a day. When I met shopkeepers in India who could keep their stores open for a few hours longer each night, it meant they could now make enough to send all their kids to school. A passion for enabling people to see clearly to lead productive, healthy lives is a mission that unites us with Warby Parker.”

Businesses like Nokero and Warby Parker don’t want to outsource doing good to non-profits. They’ve made it part of their mission as a company to use their respective expertise around the world and right here at home. Not just an occasional act of charity, but as Warby Parker asserts, “we think it’s good business doing good.”


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