Imagine a world where a portion of every purchase you make – donated by the retailer – goes directly into the pockets of those who need it. That’s the goal for Jeremy Meltzer, who launched i=Change last year in a bid to revolutionise the world of commerce. Weaving philanthropy into our everyday purchases, the organisation facilitates giving back via partnerships with retailers, whose customers then choose from a selection of causes to donate to. The brands already on board include Nine West, Esther, Dumbo Feather, Fabrik Store and, of course, the olive oil Jeremy makes with his father, Yellingbo. i=Change are also currently in talks with some of Australia’s biggest brands, with plans to take the movement stateside too.
“Overwhelmingly consumers say they want to buy from brands that give back,” says Meltzer, who hopes to raise millions of dollars for women’s and girls’ development projects. “They want to be part of something bigger than the pair of shoes. We’re not going to stop people buying stuff: retail is growing; e-commerce is growing 20 per cent a year. But we can offer a deeper experience around their purchase, to make them feel that their purchase is actually touching someone’s life. And that’s the stuff we don’t forget: things that connect with us emotionally last far longer than the act of simply buying and receiving something.”
And the retailers involved can expect to benefit too. “We have really proven the engagement, the new traffic, the repeat traffic – and now we can confidently talk to big brands about the return on their investment,” says Meltzer.
The idea for i=Change came to Meltzer at 3am in New York one night. When it still seemed like a good idea the following morning, he began to put the plan in action. “When I woke up and had my Weetbix I thought, ‘I think there’s something in this – what if we simply give back, and we ask our customers where it should go?’ So we tested it out with Yellingbo with a really basic system on our site and six projects to choose from,” says the Australian social entrepreneur. What transpired was within the space of just three weeks, Yellingbo had received a six per cent increase in sales and lots of buzz on social media. “I thought, we’re simply giving back a dollar from a bottle of olive oil – what if we could build something other brands could use and enable them to give back? Then when I looked at the figures of how much people are selling online I thought, ‘Wow – we could create something really game-changing.’ Imagine if we could partner with best practice NGOs, and then we could partner with big brands, and they could give a dollar with each sale – then imagine how much money we could raise and how many lives we could change.”
But if i=Change keeps growing at its current speed, we won’t have to imagine – giving back via every purchase we make will become the new normal. “What I know to be certain is that what we accept as normal can be shifted very quickly,” says Meltzer. “The most prosaic example is the mobile phone – we can hardly imagine life without it but anyone in their thirties knows what life was before it. That’s essentially what we hope to do with i=change – to make businesses giving so normal that if you’re not giving back, you’re no longer relevant or competitive.”