Today on the show, we’re going to find out how Cotopaxi addresses the needs of those living in extreme poverty from our guest Davis Smith, CEO of Cotopaxi.
Cotopaxi’s line of technical backpacks, lifestyle backpacks, water bottles, men’s, women’s and unisex apparel are clearly designed with the outdoor adventurer in mind. In fact. many of the products are personally tested in the wild by the CEO before release.
Cotopaxi creates innovative outdoor products and experiences that fund sustainable poverty relief, move people to do good, and inspire adventure. Based in Salt Lake City, UT, Cotopaxi is an outdoor gear and apparel brand that is also a Benefit Corporation, funding nonprofit organizations that address the most persistent needs of those living in extreme poverty. Each purchase of a Cotopaxi product contributes to its health, education, and livelihood initiatives in developing countries. Cotopaxi donates at least 10% of profits to the organizations that address the most persistent needs of those living in extreme poverty: health, education and livelihoods. Its partners include: Charity:Water, Brighten Your Corner, Health & Ed for Nepal, Juconi, Kilimanjaro Kids Community, Maria Imaculada, Philippine Community Fund, Qosqo Maki, Radiating Hope, Choice Humanitarian and Who Lives.
What Cotopaxi is doing is truly remarkable. It’s all about giving back and helping others. Certainly the company and its investors seek to make a profit, but always with an eye on helping others and ensuring that an amount is allocated to the charities that it supports. This is at the forefront of the culture of the company.
One area that the company takes particular pride in is its factory selection process. Cotopaxi believes in empowering people and choosing factories that believe in the same. To ensure the right ones, it sends in AP photographers and journalists to document what is going on in the factories without anyone from the Company being there. It really wants to ensure that the factory conditions are worker friendly and not sweat shops.
This philospohy ties quite nicely into the launch of a recent new product line, the Luzon del Dia Daypack which means of the day. For it, Cotopaxi went to the factory and told the seamtresses that it wanted them to design their own bags using the leftover materials from the factories. Many of the factories are used for producing most of the world’s largest brands and often have a large amount of excess material. The Company told them to use this material and design bags using their own creative skills. They were given a pattern to use for the type of bag, but were allowed to choose any colors that they wanted, and design it as they pleased.
The net result was that they designed a number of truly beautiful bags. What was unique was that the worker’s character was reflected in the bags that they produced. They felt extremely proud of their accompllishments and being able to show that they were real craftsmen. They love what they do. They’re very talented and take pride in the fact that Cotopaxi can now share their story in a unique way with each one of the bags.
Social impact is at the core of Cotopaxi’s business
As reflected above, Cotopaxi is focused on giving as a mission and it is part of the daily dialogue within the organization. It is something which is not just a slogan, but a way of life. It is embedded in the DNA of the CEO, David Smith, and is all based on his experience growing up in many undeveloped countries and observing the hardships of so many.
Based on his experiences, his life’s goal to help eradicate poverty and increase the living standards of millions around the world. His team works tirelessly to create the best working environment for their factory workers, create sustainable, durable products and support volunteering, active community work and philanthropy throughout the company.
Davis hopes that his company’s initiatives will lead the way and cause other companies to think about more than their bottom line and begin to think about how they can impact their local communties and the world in a positive way. He feels it’s an evolution we’ll see.
I’ve been fortunate to see things that most people only see on TV; heartbreaking things. Things that change the way you think and feel. -Davis Smith CEO
We believe in empowering people and choosing factories that do the same. -Davis Smith CEO
They have less than us not because they’re lazy or don’t have a desire to get out of poverty or any of those things, but simply because of where they were born. Just their circumstances. I needed to find a way of helping people who have less than us. We have so much opportunity. -Davis Smith CEO
Other Major Points
- Cotopaxi is organized as a Benefit Corporation and is the first company ever organized as such to receive VC funding
- It strives to lift humanity in all it does. Every aspect of its production must treat people well.
- Its goal is to be a standard bearer in how other businesses can do good in the world.
- The company continues to revaluate how it can be of greatest benefit to the needy and has hired a Chief Impact Officer to ensure
that the funds are properly allocated and provide the greatest benefit to those to whom they’re distributed.
- The use of tutors and educating children seems to provde the greatest long-term benefit to the needy.
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BIO OF CEO DAVIS SMITH
Davis is the CEO of Cotopaxi, an outdoor gear brand with a social mission at its core. He was previously the Co-CEO of Baby.com.br and Dinda.com.br, Brazil’s Startup of the Year in 2012, which raised over $40M in venture capital. In 2004, he also founded, and later sold, PoolTables.com, America’s largest pool table retailer. Davis holds an MBA from the Wharton School, an MA in International Studies from the University of Pennsylvania’s Lauder Institute, and a BA from Brigham Young University.
- Facebook: /Cotopaxi
- Twitter: @gearforgood
- Instagram: @gearforgood
- Find Davis Smith on LinkedIn
- Email Davis, firstname.lastname@example.org