Louisiana's First Benefit Corp. Creates Home Goods That Matter
What if a portion of the money you spent on everyday goods also went to fund environmental and social causes that matter to you? Goods That Matter is the first benefit corporation in the state of Louisiana that’s tackling local and national causes through thoughtfully designed and beautifully crafted home goods.
Seeing images of animals and birds drenched in thick black oil after ocean oil spills is haunting for all of us. These spills have environmental consequences of disastrous proportion. And even though we might be profoundly impacted by the imagery, it takes a special kind of character to see the devastation caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill and be compelled to find a way to help and give back. For Tippy Tippens, this was the jumping off point for launching Goods that Matter, a company that designs and makes eco-friendly, handmade-in-America goods for everyday use that all give back to causes that matter to all of us.
In 2010, after seeing the destruction in the wake of the Gulf Coast spill, Tippens saw potential to combine design and environmental stewardship and launched her first product, BirdProject Soap. Each black, bird-shaped soap is formed to be cradled in your hand, and as you use it to wash, day by day you will eventually free a clean, white ceramic bird nestled in the center of the soap. This black bird is a powerful representation of all creatures affected by this horrible oil spill and the daily washing to free the keepsake bird acts as a potent symbol of restoration and recovery, something that everyone needs more of in their lives.
It was important to Tippens that each soap be handcrafted using only the best all-natural, locally sourced ingredients - biodiesel glycerin, fair trade olive oil, aloe, activated black charcoal, and a light cypress scent, reminiscent of Louisiana bayous. All are handmade by a third-generation soap maker from New Orleans. And of equal importance to the care put into the design and crafting of her first product, 10 percent of all proceeds are donated to the Gulf Restoration Network & International Bird Rescue, organizations focused on environmental cleanup and care for animals affected by the BP Deepwater oil spill, with a whopping $27,674 donated and counting!
“I have always been an environmentalist; this is my way as a product designer to create goods that we need in our day-to-day while not harming the environment,” explains Tippens. “I also have a need to give back and help to make the world a better place.”
Merging these two passions is what inspired her to create her business, Goods that Matter, around these very principles and it’s what continues to inspire her to run her small business every day. Wanting to avoid any tchotchkes or market fillers, all products sold through Goods that Matter must be handmade in the U.S., made of eco-friendly materials, be an item that fulfills a basic need, and each and every product must give back to a social or environmental cause that matters and has an impact on the health, happiness and sustainability for local or global communities.
To ensure that every product sold meets this stringent criteria, Tippens meets with the artisans and asks a myriad of questions about their creative processes, their materials and methods used, and their business practices. Creating a trustworthy and friendly partnership is crucial for the business, the artists and the customers, so she takes time on the front end to ensure that she’s making reliable and long-lasting relationships.
When Louisiana offered Benefit Corporation structuring for the first time in 2012, Tippens was excited to make the switch from an L3C and is proud of being the first Benefit Corporation recognized in the state. She likes that being a Benefit Corporation gives customers added assurance that Goods that Matter is doing business with a higher mission, and that if they were to ever seek outside investment, this structure would protect ethos-based business decisions from being altered solely to increase profits.
The high standards and strict level of scrutiny also happens on the back end where donation partners are researched fully before being selected. Tippens uses Charity Navigator to review how an organization allocates their funds and researches other points of interest like salary size. She prefers to select small to medium-sized groups where donations will have a greater impact, rather than larger charities that already receive sizable funding.
Tippens explains, “Finding a group that is doing innovative and truly impactful work is also important to me in selecting the right donation partners.”
Since its start, Goods that Matter has donated to various groups and causes, including disaster relief, gun violence, healthcare, education and clean water. Including the first Matter good, BirdProject Soap, product design often merges poetically with the supported cause. You can buy a candle that helps rebuild after the devastation caused by the California wildfires, reading rabbits that help fund tutoring and literacy support, and solid perfume that raises money to contribute to the health of bee populations.
“I’m thrilled to see how this movement has changed and grown in our eight years in business. Customers are now familiar with this way of doing business and actually expect it in many aspects of their lives. I love that!” she exclaims. “I’m excited to see it continue to grow and gain more influence, and I would love to see this movement grow to change the way that large corporations do business.”
To date, Goods that Matter has donated $31,118 to partner causes and is excited to expand their product offering to incorporate a broad range of daily use items for the home. Tippens wants to expand her reach into new locations and cities to form new local artisan and non-profit relationships. For the future, she’s committed to finding new solutions for the epidemic use of single-use plastic and fighting climate change, issues she knows are at the forefront of global discussion for good reason.
“There are so many things in the world that need re-thinking and paid attention to instead of chalking it up to ‘that’s just the way things are’. I believe that great things start in small ways and have always been inspired by the ability of one person to make a significant change,” says Tippens. “With each effort to make a change and do things better, a larger movement grows and significant improvements happen. I think that our Industrial Revolution era ways have gotten out of control and need re-thinking. We all deserve the right to live well and healthily, that should also include the environment and nature.”
We couldn’t agree more with that sentiment and are happy that there are companies like Goods that Matter that are working every day to give back to issues that matter to all of us.
Check out the soap that started it all, browse the other Matter goods, or shop to support a specific cause. Get a better understanding of just how much Goods that Matter cares about each and every ingredient that goes into their handcrafted goods, from starting materials to packaging. Follow their story on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and be the first to know about new products to love and new causes to support.