COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — Actress Olivia Wilde, who starred in the award winning “Her And Last Year’s Rush,” is considered to be in the prime of her career, yet the actress has decided to dedicate a great deal of her time not spent acting to her new business, Conscious Commerce, a website that promotes philanthropy in a different way.
Rather than just asking people to donate money to a cause, Conscious Commerce asks consumers to donate money by buying products that they want. In this way, the website establishes a connection between specific brands and charities, because every purchase that a consumer makes will give a portion back to charity.
In regard to this new way of encouraging people to be philanthropic, Wilde says, “It should be shocking when a product is not somehow helping the people who made it.”
Wilde’s founding partner of Conscious Commerce is creative director Barbara Burchfield, lovingly referred to as “Babs” on the company website. Burchfield’s philanthropic work began in 2008 after a trip with Artists for Peace and Justice, an education organization that helps some of the poorest areas of Haiti. Wilde serves a board member for the organization.
Burchfield also co-created the Global Citizen Festival with Ryan Gall, which allows 60,000 fans to take online actions in support of non-profit organizations in order to earn a ticket to see the artists perform in Central Park.
Burchfield and Wilde went on several aid trips to Haiti after the major earthquake in 2010 and came up with the idea for Conscious Commerce to be an organization that would raise money for the local people and groups working on the ground.
On their website, the pair believe that the short-term only effects of traditional fundraising called for a different approach. They write, “The Conscious Commerce mission is to create a guide for conscious living by promoting the causes, brands, people and lifestyles that are forging a new paragon of living.”
Conscious Commerce is already receiving support from popular brands, with its first collaboration with American Apparel. The clothing brand created Message Bag that was, “born from Olivia and Babs’ passion for their work in Haiti.” The bag was in the style of a traditional book bag and included a blank tag inside for the consumer to write on. The bag has been featured in Vogue.com and Forbes, with the proceeds from American Apparel’s sales of the bag going toward the Academy for Peace and Justice.
The company recently made a deal with Anthropologie to create a partnership between a designer for clothing brand and New Light India. Designer Yoanna Baraschi reached out to Burchfield about being able to help a nonprofit focused on women. Urmi Bassu, an advocate for ending poverty through education, runs new Light India. The nonprofit helps young girls in Calcutta who in danger of being brought in the commercial sex trade. The partnership will allow a portion of Anthropologie’s sales of Baraschi’s dress to go towards a school for girls in India.
In a recent interview, Wilde demonstrated her passion for her work and for promoting philanthropy through her definition of empathy as, “the acknowledge of our connectedness, and the ability to tap into it. The only time we abandon selfishness, and plug into what makes us an extraordinary species.”
Burchfield and Wilde’s company is tapping into a consumer market that spends billions of dollars on goods that they want and are harnessing these spending habits to help those in need. Conscious Commerce will continue to work to match brands and nonprofits in efforts to promote giving and to help alleviate poverty worldwide.