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Action sports-focused apparel company Volcom has been developing a grassroots, catchy and growing donation program called Give Jeans a Chance for the past three years. It’s part of the Give Back series of programs, spearheaded by Derek Sabori, Volcom’s director of CSR and a 15-year Volcom veteran.
Buoyed by youthful exuberance and the endorsement of a range of Volcom-sponsored professional skateboarders, surfers and snowboarders, the Give Jeans a Chance program illustrates the power of a brand to reach out to its audience and spark a philanthropic spirit.
We talked to Sabori about the Give Jeans a Chance program, which is specifically focused on donating jeans to youth in need — since as much as 40 percent of the homeless population has been under the age of 18 in recent years — and Volcom’s overall New Future sustainability platform.
TriplePundit: Tell us about the Give Jeans a Chance program. How did it start?
Derek Sabori: The program is in its third year and stemmed from our Give Back series, in which we designate certain products each year and a portion of the proceeds from those styles goes to select non-profits. For example, we did a t-shirt design with Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) and we raised $20,000 for them through the sales.
The Give Back series is all about raising awareness and funds for groups that are doing great things in our community. It’s about telling a story with our products. We focus on the demographic we speak to — youth involved in action sports.
With Gives Jeans a Chance, we partnered with the National Coalition for the Homeless. Jeans are our biggest product and a marquee program. So how can we give back? Well, every community has a homeless program that needs clothes. So we’re collecting used jeans and jackets that are then donated to homeless shelters.
3p: How has the program grown and changed since it started?
Sabori: We started by putting collection bins in retail stores. That went well but people wanted to start collecting jeans on their own, so we started a DIY program. We recruit Give Jeans a Chance ambassadors to start collection programs in their communities. They set up collection bins in their schools, churches, etc., and use posters and social media to spread the word.
They can enter to win a $1500 grant for the non-profit of their choice and the chance to tell their story on Fuel TV.
We set an ambitious goal this year to collect 50,000 pairs of jeans around the world. Last year, Coastal Edge, a customer of ours in Virginia Beach, partnered with the local school district and together they collected 6,500 pairs — more than half of the 12,000 pairs Volcom collected around the world last year.
The contest for the DIY program just ended October 31 and we’re still tallying the totals, but we’re pretty confident that we’ll reach our goal of 50K.
3p: Why does this program resonate with people?
Sabori: Because it’s easy to see and easy to understand. So many of us are fortunate enough to have multiple pairs of jeans. They might be a different cut, or something we don’t wear anymore.
If you’re buying Volcom, chances are you can afford to do so and may have an excess. That makes it easy to give.
If you start a drive, you do the donations, too. You don’t drop the jeans at Volcom…you go and find a shelter and deliver it. They get to see where it’s going. It’s not money just going into the big machine, it’s a product going from their hands into someone else’s hands.
3p: Talk about the overall sustainability program at Volcom.
Sabori: It’s called our New Future program. We knew we had such a strong voice and could reach a lot of kids, and we knew that if we manage our environmental impact, manage our events’ footprint, etc., and engage in outreach by talking to communities and schools and industry colleagues, we have a real opportunity to influence a paradigm shift.
The stronger our program is, the more we challenge other brands to do things that are good, and vice versa.
3p: What’s an example of that kind of reciprocal pressure?
Sabori: Patagonia. They’ve always been a brand that we look to. It’s a different audience, but similar bloodline. Everyone here is aware of them and what they do. That has challenged us… and now Patagonia is creeping into action sports. We think that’s really cool and they are one of the early influences to teach us that you can have a business and give something back and focus on being responsible.
There are a lot of companies that do good things and don’t tell their story, but i think it’s important to advocate and wave the flag a little bit.
This video details the Give Jeans a Chance program: