Roots of Goodwill®’s Sustainability

By Susanne Fredericks, Sustainability Specialist, Goodwill Industries International
Local Goodwill organizations have been environmentally and socially responsible, adhering to the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ of ‘People, Planet and Prosperity’ since before the term existed. Our founder Reverend Edgar J. Helms once said…“Goodwill saves the waste in men and things”.
Goodwill was founded on sustainability principles, starting in the late 1890s, when Reverend Helms began finding salvageable materials to provide to individuals and families in need.  In 1902, when Goodwill Industries was officially born, the focus was still on salvaging materials but Reverend Helms learned that those he was serving wanted a ‘hand up, not a hand out’, so he began repairing and then reselling the goods collected. In turn, this meant less waste to landfill as well as taking care of the community, creating jobs and generating profits redirected to the mission – again addressing all three aspects of ‘People, Planet, Prosperity’.
Sustainability is ubiquitous –internationally, the importance of sustainability is recognized by large multinationals as well as governmental organizations. Over 82 percent of the S&P companies published corporate sustainability reports in 2016. In smaller organizations, there is recognition that sustainability is not just for tree-huggers, it makes good business sense. Goodwill understands this, and continues to grow and expand on its original mission, which was – and is – closely aligned to the Triple Bottom Line.
According to a UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs study, the global population is forecast to soar to over 9.7 billion people by 2050, creating huge demand for the world’s finite resources.  One important resource which is already scarce in many parts of the globe and which will become scarcer is water. According to a McKinsey & Co Report, ‘Charting Our Water Future’, we could be facing serious water scarcity as soon as 2030 if we continue to use water at the current rate.
As the population has grown, it has also urbanized. Today, 53 percent of people are living in cities, towns and other urban areas, accounting for more than 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions, energy consumption and use of material resources. Practically speaking, identifying cheaper energy sources, reducing pollution, and general resource reuse and repurposing makes economic and financial sense – which is why sustainability is no longer a fad, it is here to stay.
There are many reasons why we should care about sustainability but if you remember nothing else from this blog, remember that Goodwill was founded on the principles of sustainability and your donation supports your community and the planet! The next time you are cleaning out a closet and wonder if your donations really have an impact, keep in mind that the jeans that you may no longer be able to use are not waste. Did you know that it takes nearly 1800 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans? By donating them, they help to create jobs, train individuals, strengthen families AND reduce the negative impact on the planet. Your jeans matter!
For more information on Sustainability Trends following are some suggested resources: