“Cotopaxi strongly believes in the power of business to drive social change and the power of adventure to connect the world”.
As an avid hiker and adventurer who is passionate about giving back, I’m always on the lookout for innovative, unique companies that create amazing products while also giving back. Cotopaxi is a company that creates outdoor adventure products while also funding sustainable poverty alleviation around the world and inspiring people to be adventurous and do good.
Founded in 2013 by Davis Smith and Stephan Jacob, Cotopaxi was inspired by Davis’ childhood growing up at the foot of Cotopaxi in Ecuador where he spent his youth hiking and exploring his magnificent environment. He also saw the devastating impact poverty had on communities and people. After years of running several successful eCommerce websites in South America, Davis wanted to start something different that would incorporate his passion for adventure along with his desire to give back and make meaningful strides towards reducing global poverty. Together with fellow Wharton business-school graduate Stephan Jacob, Cotopaxi was born.
Cotopaxi is unique because it is the first company to incorporate as a “Benefit Corporation” and then receive venture funding. Benefit Corporations are a new type of business that allows for-profit entities to pursue social and environmental goals while also focusing on maximizing profits. Receiving venture capital from investors demonstrates the strong belief that this is a company that can make both a profit and a difference.
Corporate giving is included within Cotopaxi’s founding by-laws holding them legally accountable to a Board of Directors just like a non-profit but giving them more flexibility with their giving. Cotopaxi employs a high impact giving model that provides targeted grants to advance three core pillars of development to create a sustainable pathway out of poverty:
- Health: Reduce preventable disease and under 5 mortality rate.
- Education: Improve primary literacy rates and access to quality education.
- Livelihoods: Create opportunity for entrepreneurial training and job skills development.
Historically, Cotopaxi has given 2% of revenue to fund grants in these three areas of development and has partnered with non-profit organizations in Central and South America, Africa and Asia (to see complete list of partner organizations and operations, click here). They are working to build an endowment to do more active grant-making as the company grows, and have also began giving back within their local community by creating a volunteer-run initiative to provide computer science training for refugee youth in Salt Lake City, Utah where Cotopaxi is based.
Cotopaxi: “Gear for Good”
What I love about Cotopaxi is that their “Gear for Good” is highly innovative, with lots of colorful, unique designs. They provide creativity and sustainability in the making of many of their products. For example, the popular Del Dia backpack is made from remanent materials that would otherwise have been headed to the landfill. The designers re-use salvageable materials and incorporate them into their products. The sewers are empowered to create each backpack uniquely. No two Del Dia packs are the same.
Cotopaxi also cares about the quality and environment of their factory workers. They work closely with factory owners to ensure quality production as well as safe and fair working conditions for their employees. Their designers spend a great deal of time in-country visiting and working with the factories and also provide community initiatives for the workers.
Finally, Cotopaxi aims to make adventure and giving part of people’s lives. They run a blog and a series of different fun adventure events to inspire people to pursue an adventurous life that also makes a difference. To learn more about Cotopaxi, visit their website at www.cotopaxi.com. You will certainly be glad you stopped by!