So you’re shopping and have a choice between Sweater A, and Sweater B, the one that saves polar bears. This so-called “embedded giving” where you buy something and part of the money goes towards a charity has become quite popular, especially during the holiday season, but did you ever stop to think if the polar bears are really getting the money?
Some companies sell items saying that a “portion” or “share” goes to a charitable organization, but the actual percentage is not covered in any specific contract between them and the charity, or governed by disclosure requirements. This disturbing lack of transparency opens the door to companies that want to use the charity angle as a marketing hook, without passing on much in the way of bucks to the actual charities. For instance, the supposed recipients of charity dollars in an embedded giving campaign in a Barney’s catalog only found out they were beneficiaries after the NYT talked to them.
If you really want to help out, donate directly to the charity. You can use a site like Charity Navigator to make sure that most of your money goes to the cause, and not the corporate coffers.