What Retail's One-for-One Model Teaches Us About Social Responsibility

business travelers talking with airplane in window reflection
Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

Social responsibility is a major focus of today’s consumers, with big players like Google and Microsoft jumping on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) bandwagon. Many companies are even altering their business model completely to incorporate socially responsible practices, and considering how they can build a program that leaves a positive impact on the world around them. 

The One-for-One Model

While many companies focus specifically on CSR programs as a way to give back, this is only a single component of their overall business. Then there are those organizations that are building their business models around conducting responsible business. The one-for-one model is a new and rapidly popular structure for retail industry brands and exemplifies how to build a company on doing good. 

Companies like Tom’s Shoes have implemented the one-for-one model, a socially responsible business model in which for each product a consumer buys, a comparable product is donated to a charitable cause, are innovators when it comes to solutions to combat poverty. They implemented this model by donating a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair bought. Off the success of Tom’s, many retail brands have adopted this model. 

Though retail has seen a lot of success with one-for-one, it is not the only industry that can succeed with this type of socially responsible program. Travel is an industry that is built on culture and local resources. Preservation and doing good needs to be the standard, not an option. For this to happen, companies in the travel industry have to focus on integrating responsible business models into their organizations. 

Brands Using the One-for-One Model

The Company Store

The Company Store, a major comforter retailer in the United States, implemented the one-for-one model with its partnership with Family Promise, an organization supporting affiliates that address family homelessness. Modeling itself after the Tom’s program, for every comforter bought, The Company Store donated one to a homeless family in need. 

Additionally, The Company Store has been involved with various other CSR partnerships to give back via the Ronald McDonald House, Haiti Earthquake Relief, and other organizations. 

Warby Parker

Glasses retailer Warby Parker set out with the goal to offer quality eyewear at an affordable price while becoming a notable name among socially responsible businesses. The hip, now well-known brand partners with non-profit organizations like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need.

They have achieved their goal and attract consumers who want to give back when making necessary purchases. Warby exemplifies the one-for-one in the eyeglass industry. 


The one-for-one model is fulfilled in a slightly different way with the watch company WeWood. Only a year after the company was founded in Italy by an Italian watch lover and two socially conscious entrepreneurs, WeWood partnered with American Forests, a nonprofit that focuses on protecting and restoring rainforests.

In order to support the cause, the founders conceptualized the unique model, “you buy a watch, we plant a tree.”  The company’s efforts have already resulted in more than 350,000 trees to the world. In an effort to be more socially conscious as a business, WeWood watches are made from scrap wood to avoid wasting additional natural resources. 

Ways for Travel Companies to Implement CSR

All types of travel companies from hotels to airlines to booking platforms benefit from resources and cultures that need to be preserved, it is important that these companies are doing their part to protect them and give back to the communities around them. There are many different ways to do good; the one-for-one model is just, well, one. 

As the most important thing is for companies to give back, there are boundless opportunities for travel companies to implement CSR into their businesses. One simple way for companies to start is by forming partnerships with nonprofit organizations or local charities, much like The Company Store has done with Ronald McDonald House. By building these relationships, travel organizations would be able to conduct business as normal, while also benefiting their communities. 

Local initiatives are relevant ways to get involved. Many hotel and resort destinations are located in exotic or historic locations that require special care and preservation. Supporting these preservation efforts through donation or volunteering can go a long way in a community that is dependent on tourism. 

If travel is looking to truly make an impact and create a socially responsible industry at its core, companies in the industry must consider implementing its own efforts for sustainability. Using Toms or Warby Parker as examples, flight companies may consider developing a program that for every 10,000 miles flown, a flight is given to someone in need of travel (ie. for medical care) who cannot afford one.

There is also an opportunity for companies to adjust the model to suit their specific interests, much as WeWood has done. If an independent hotel or resort is partial to a specific cause, it may concentrate on making a donation to an associated organization for every booked stay. 

Social responsibility is no longer just a trend, but rather a lifestyle and a factor consumers consider before purchasing With many industries, retail included, adopting and fully integrating these practices is an important factor for success, relevancy, and longevity.

If travel looks to the examples of retail brands, they can learn ways to protect the environments, destinations, and resources that are the foundation for the industry.