This piece first appeared on the DeVoe Moore Center Blog.
BetterWorldBooks, a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company promotes and advocates for literacy around the world. Their online book-selling platform enables consumers to be participants in the company’s Book for Book™ initiative which was launched in 2011. Via this program, purchases made on the company’s site have supported the distribution of 28 million books to children in developing countries.
The company was founded in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame. They started out with a small venture selling textbooks online. Their startup built up momentum and formed the social enterprise that it is today — a business with a mission to promote literacy. BetterWorldBooks’ believes that education and access to books are basic human rights. The company supports this ideal by funding high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world.
As a Certified B Corporation, BetterWorld Books values the reusability of books and the societal impact it has in economically disadvantaged communities. With distribution warehouses in Mishawaka, Indiana, Reno, Nevada, and Dunfermline, Scotland, the company has a domestic footprint in the United States and a global one that contributes to individual literacy and the potential for a better life for people in underdeveloped areas. As of September 2016, more than 21 million books have been donated. Roughly 28 percent have been college textbooks. These books have been donated to schools in Africa through Books for Africa, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes books to children and adults in Africa.
Two other literacy partners work closely with BetterWorldBooks: Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that strives to improve literacy and gender equality in education, and the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), a national nonprofit organization which creates educational and economic opportunity for the most at-risk children and parents in the United States. Collectively, these organizations have donated more than 5.3 million books to underprivileged children and adults in developing countries.
BetterWorldBooks has domestic influence in the United States and through a network of over 2,300 college campuses and partnerships with over 3,000 libraries nationwide, the company has converted more than 250 million books into more than $24 million in funding for literacy and education. The company not only capitalizes on the value of unwanted books, but earns a reputation for its philanthropic approach in investing in the reusability of books which in turn contributes to the social and economic well-being of people around the world.
Investment in the company proves to be beneficial to investors as well. BetterWorldBooks is consciously aware of its impact on the environment and values its stakeholders. Since its founding in 2002, the company has committed itself to environmental sustainability, adding a third bottom line to the two of social impact and profit. Unsold books are recycled and kept out of landfills. Through the use of carbon-neutral shipping, shipping and distributing books becomes environmentally sustainable. Thus, for every tonne of CO2 a package or parcel of books is produced in transportation, an equivalent amount of CO2 is saved through a verified emission reduction project somewhere else in the world.
BetterWordBooks is an example of a growing trend within the US and across the globe to define their businesses in terms of improving the welfare and prospects for marginalized people and communities. Using a sustainable business model where profits also serve their social mission, children, families, and the planet benefit.
Gianni Vasquez is a staff writer and intern for the social entrepreneurship group.
The feature image is from the DeVoe Moore Center website.