What is a non-profit fashion brand? & is it any different from a social enterprise? - Ethical Made Easy

What is a non-profit fashion brand? & is it any different from a social enterprise?

When you think of non-profits, does the word ‘brand’ or ‘product’ come to mind? Probably not, since the traditional function of a non-profit or charity is to provide a social good for a community. But recently, a new type of hybrid model—the non-profit brand—has appeared, and it's got us excited about the potential positive impact it can have on the fashion industry.

What is a non-profit fashion brand? & is it any different from a social enterprise?

Written by Jasmine Mayhead.

Words by Shannon Welch of Fashion Revolution.
Image by Behno.

When you think of non-profits, does the word ‘brand’ or ‘product’ come to mind? Probably not, since the traditional function of a non-profit or charity is to provide a social good for a community. But recently, a new type of hybrid model—the non-profit brand—has appeared, and it’s got us excited about the potential positive impact it can have on the fashion industry. 

By now, you are probably well versed in what ethical fashion is and have a general idea of how non-profits work. But the difference between ethical brands, social impact brands and non-profit brands is pretty specific.

Ethical brands treat workers across the supply chain like dignified human beings, pay them living wages, and generally provide a positive place to work.

While the ethical treatment of workers exists in all three types of organisations, social impact brands go one step further. Broadly speaking, social impact companies are organisations that prioritise work that consciously, systematically and sustainably serves or attempts to solve a local or global community need. Social impact brands also have a lot more going on behind the scenes. Product sales are reinvested in and fund their impact program, which includes educational courses for workers, entrepreneurial training, building schools, encouraging active healthy lifestyles and the list goes on. A few great examples of social impact brands are the Made in India handbag label, behno, unisex essentials brand Able Made, and artisan created women’s RTW brand Roopa Pemmaraju

I’m sure you’re thinking: aren’t non-profit brands the same thing as social impact brands?

Well, no. And yes. Sort of. Both types of models further a particular social cause and/or advocate a shared point of view but the difference lies in how the business functions. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a non-profit is defined as an entity “not conducted or maintained for the purpose of making a profit”.

Therefore a ‘non-profit brand’ is not formed for the sole aim of making money, their founding principles were to create programs for a social cause, and the product created from these programs are sold under the non-profits’ name to further fund the social cause. And most importantly, all funds are 100% re-invested into the core programs. 

Two non-profit brands that we are excited to chat to you about are Indego Africa and Zena

Indego Africa works across the continent with many artisans to create their home and accessories items from local materials using time-honoured techniques. In addition to paying their artisan partners fair and living wages, Indego Africa provides education and training to help them fulfil their dreams and create a brighter economic future for themselves. Indego Africa believes that “education is the key to long-term empowerment and social change” and invests 100% of profits into their educational and entrepreneurship programs to help people develop the skills they need for success. 

The newly launched Zena (formerly Tribe + Glory) operates in a similar manner, prioritising education and entrepreneurial business training for women in Uganda. Zena’s model was “founded on the single premise that investing in female entrepreneurs has the power to change the global stories of gender inequality, and extreme poverty”. Zena employs women on a short-term apprenticeship basis, making the brand’s jewellery and paying them a salary as well as enrolling them in their education programs. Just 40% of the salary they make puts them and their family above the poverty line; while the other 60% is put into a savings account to become the start-up capital for their businesses upon graduation from The Zena Launch Pad program. 

As a conscious-minded person you can support these enterprises by purchasing their goods or simply by donating directly. We’re excited about this new hybrid model in the ethical fashion space as they are setting the example of how the industry could operate; with a focus on community support, ethical production, sustainable materials and without being tied to shareholders or the pressure for infinite growth. 

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