Cotopaxi: Empowering Workers & Minimizing Waste at the Same Time

Photo: @cotopaxi

Photo: @cotopaxi

In 2016, I was "responsibuy-ing" a backpack for a trip to Costa Rica. Using DoneGood’s chrome extension, I found Cotopaxi -- a fairly new outdoor gear Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corp. I bought the Inca backpack (love it!) and the following year I was fortunate to meet Davis Smith, the Founder and CEO. He visited Wharton, where he completed his MBA, to talk about launching a venture-backed social enterprise.

I learned about the young boy in Peru who inspired Davis to launch a business that creates a positive impact, and about Questivals, the company's customer acquisition strategy based on millennials’ preference for experiences. One of my favorite aspects about the company, though, is The Del Día Collection, which empowers factory workers and minimizes waste all at once.

The Del Día Collection

Luzon Del Día Backpack

Luzon Del Día Backpack

Why do you think The Del Día Collection is so colorful? Some think that the vibrant and varied colors are due to simple aesthetics, but they are actually due to conscious decisions in the design and manufacturing process. Factory workers in the Philippines get to design the color combination of each item and make it using repurposed nylon fabric. It’s a win-win: workers are invested in their work because they have creative control, the planet has less waste in landfills, Cotopaxi reduces fabric costs, and customers get to buy one-of-a-kind backpacks that are good for people and the planet.

I love how Cotopaxi leveraged product design to motivate employees and minimize waste. Giving workers a say in the products they spend their day making can go a long way (see video below). The pride the sewers show for the backpacks they created makes me smile. For me, Cotopaxi's Del Día Collection demonstrates that workers can be co-creators, and not only beneficiaries, of social good.

 
 
Anairis Hinojosa