When we think of social impact, we might think of tax-deductible donations at the end of the year, panel discussions on things like “impact investing,” meetings with nonprofit board members in ill-fitting suits, and endless buy-one-give-one marketing campaigns for more stuff you don’t need. Not really anything that gets you in the mood.
“Responsibility,” we hate to admit, can feel so boring.
But here are some companies that prove it’s possible to be sexy and provocative – all in the name of doing good.
The “period-proof” underwear line aims to simply give women peace of mind. Nobody likes leaks and stains from their pads and tampons. But the company has also been at the forefront of bigger conversations around feminism, poverty, education and hygiene.
Earlier this year, Thinx was prohibited from posting its ads on New York subway platforms and taxicabs for being “inappropriate,” “suggestive” and “offensive.” The ads featured innocuous images of grapefruits, egg yolks and clothed female bodies. Thinx CEO and co-founder Miki Agrawal decried the advertisers’ complaints a “sexist double standard,” especially considering the “beach body” and fat-shaming culture of the sex-fueled advertising industry.
The company’s mission is to break the taboo around periods, to help eliminate shame and embarrassment for girls and women living in a patriarchal society.
The company’s giveback model contributes funds from sales into a grassroots organization in Kampala, AFRIpads, which is dedicated to a mission of empowerment, sustainability, and employment for girls and women. As Thinx explains, “Our giveback is therefore less of a ‘charity’ and more of an empowerment structure.”
The thinking goes like this: “If we elevate girls and women around the world to positions of power and independence—if we educate, encourage, and value them—then many of the world’s ills (climate change, global poverty, starvation, etc.) will be greatly reduced.”
You go, girls!
If you’re looking for bras to go with your panties, check out Naja, another sexy lingerie brand that seeks to empower women.
Like any luxury product, the focus is on premium design, with hand-harvested Peruvian cotton, high-quality nylon lace, and memory foam cups.
But the company also has a social mission through its partnership with the Golondrinas Foundation and its Underwear for Hope program. Two percent of every purchase goes towards an entrepreneurial sewing program that helps educate single mothers so that they can learn marketable skills.
Jeffrey Hollender, the former CEO of the eco-friendly cleaning and personal care company Seventh Generation, has set out on his next mission: a fair-trade, eco-friendly condom startup.
His new company, Sustain, which he co-founded with his daugther Meika, makes condoms with fair-trade rubber. The products do not contain the harmful carcinogen nitrosamine, making it less toxic than other mainstream brands. They are also certified to be vegan, not tested on animals, non-GMO, FSC® certified, and with b-corporation status. As a brand marketed primarily to women, Sustain donates 10 percent of its profits to improving female reproductive care in low-income communities around the country.
For a less tree-hugging, more hipster version of socially conscious condoms, check out Lovability. The crowd-funded and collaboratively operated company sells condoms at places you wouldn’t expect, like beauty supply stores, lingerie stores, department stores and accessory boutiques. It also relies on independent merchandisers to put condoms directly into the hands of women. Each artfully designed condom package even includes an inspirational quote.
The company now partners with various nonprofits to distribute condoms and provide sex education to younger women.
The company proudly proclaims: “We’re on a mission to smash gender stereotypes, promote equal power dynamics in the bedroom, and celebrate our ability to enjoy sex without fear.”
Various sex toys
The sex toy industry grosses over $15 billion in annual sales.
There is no shortage of self-pleasure options, especially with vibrators. You can buy wearable smart vibrators. Vibrators that sync with music. Vibrators that sync to erotic literature. Vibrators that are DIY, fully customizable and open-source. There’s also the world’s first gender-neutral double-ended vibrator dildo, “perfect for her, him, her & him, him & him, her & her, and every other combination possible.” How inclusive!
It’s a booming business, but one that suffers from a lack of standards, regulations and consumer watchdog groups. No matter how many bells and whistles come with your vibe, you don’t want any cancer-causing, made-in-who-knows-where, phthalate-loaded materials to go near your nether regions.
A few companies are standing out by creating earth-friendly vibrators that eschew the chemicals of their toxic peers:
Tantus claims it was the first company to bring “body-safe, silicone sexual health products to mainstream America.” The manufacturer makes products in the United States, pays a livable wage, and even uses FDA-approved “mineral spirits” to clean its machines in an effort to prevent any toxic residue.
JimmyJane also touts its “FDA-approved materials that are bio-compatible, hygienic and free of toxins.”
100% crystal Chakrubs are body safe. There are no parabens or plastics. They are easy to clean. It is simple and non-intimidating. The brand is one of natural luxury and sophisticated taste.
Make Love Not Porn
Want to start a revolution? Consider porn.
It’s a $100 billion market. About 30 percent of all website traffic is pornography, coming in (pun intended) third behind Google and Facebook.
One company is trying to channel all this smut into the greater good.
At TED2009, former advertising exec Cindy Gallop gave a 4-minute presentation about the impact of hardcore porn and launched MakeLoveNotPorn, a business and video platform that attempts to make “real sex” consumable and socially acceptable. Its revenue-sharing business model makes the website kind of like the Etsy or Airbnb of porn. Seven years later, she’s still fighting for the cause. And trying to win big business. “I want to see women making huge exits from start-ups, and up there in the rarified tech billionaire ranks with Larry and Sergey and Evan and Travis,” she said at this year’s InspireFest.
There’s still a glass ceiling to smash. MakeLoveNotPorn hasn’t made its millions, yet. “All those barriers will fall away from all of us when we can prove that women can make a shit ton of money.”
This is the app Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe founded after quitting her venture amidst a very public sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit and turning her life around. “We wanted to modernize dating. I’ll go out with groups of my friends and someone will see a cute guy across the room, or in the bar, or in the restaurant. She’ll be like, “Oh, he’s so cute, I wish I could talk to him!” And then we all encourage her—”Go say hi, go send him a drink, go do something!”—and she never does. There’s this unwritten rule that it’s not ladylike, or it’s wrong, or the guy should go first. The whole thing feels silly and outdated! Women are extremely independent in every facet of our lives, except dating. We wanted to encourage a confident connection. Making the first move, whether a woman is matching with a man or a woman, gives her a boost of confidence right off the bat. It immediately puts her in the driver’s seat,” she tells Racked in an insightful interview.