Buy Sexy Underwear, Send a Solar Lamp to a Haitian Family

Shot from PACT's Press Pack. Boy Does That Bum Glitter!

PACT underwear, known for organic ingredients and a solid social mission to share profits with worthy causes has a new holiday campaign: buy a pair of holiday themed underwear and send a solar lamp to Haiti. The campaign will send a solar lamp to Haiti for every customer purchase (i.e. you’ll probably buy more than one pair, and each swipe of your credit card represents one lantern.) PACT has teamed up with with EarthSpark and Citizen Effect’s Light Up Haiti Program to offer the lamps.

Gift with Purchase campaigns that include both expensive luxury goods and desperately needed utilitarian goods delivered with the same swipe of the credit card often strike me as gratuitous. That’s because the donation is being used to hawk products. We can more easily justify a purchase if it’s “for a good cause.” But the good deed loses some of its shine if it comes with unnecessary products. Especially sexy ones. Check out the press photo at left.

PACT’s traditional lines sell for $20 a pair for the ladies and $24 for the gents. Buyers of their underwear are not exactly hurting for money. Yes, things are better over here and we can buy luxury underwear for ourselves and our loved ones at Christmas. Yes, we should donate money and goods to those in need. Must we be encouraged to donate by the dangle of a tempting luxury bauble in a department store? I can see where the idea came from. Many of PACT’s collections feature a designated non-profit. Previous lines have benefitted children’s literary groups, clean water campaigns, and land conservation. These have all been well received by the blogosphere and shoppers. I can just imagine the  brainstorming session where someone said “lights on our underwear… it’s still dark in Haiti!” While lights are desperately needed in Haiti, I don’t want to have to buy whimsical expensive sexy time underwear to provide them.

I’m all for donating to worthy causes. I just wish that PACT could have stepped back from this particular pairing to realize the company was delving into a more urgent need situation than any of the other charities they’d worked with. If they had realized that this might put a bad taste in shoppers’ mouths, perhaps they would have restructured the campaign a bit. Instead of putting the onus on the customer to make the gift with their purchase, imagine if PACT had made the gift to Haiti at the outset of this campaign as a holiday present in honor of their new line of light themed undies. I’d find that much easier to applaud.

Readers, what do you think? Does this campaign cross the line or am I being overly sensitive to consumerism and first world guilt?

Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

2 responses

  1. Full disclosure…this is from Jason Kibbey, PACT’s founder and CEO.

    To follow up on the author’s point about giving, I would encourage anyone who would prefer to give directly to go directly to Citizen Effect’s website and purchase one there.

    If someone buys one pair of PACT, the percentage that goes to the lamp can be up to 90% of the purchase price. That shows how committed we are and marks an expanded charity partnership for PACT, a young and scrappy company. In many cases, PACT is willing to lose money to support this cause.

    While we want to use our educational and financial reach to support critical issues, it’s true that some make us uncomfortable. But Haiti needs all the help it can get.

    We are proud to support a very worthy cause with our sustainable, cotton underwear – even when the juxtapositions of beauty and need are unusual for the marketplace.

    Our partners at Citizen Effect and Earthspark International with whom PACT worked very closely might enjoy telling you why they wanted to partner with us. We are trying to help Haiti by bringing it back into focus now and to use our platform—premium organic cotton underwear—to make a meaningful impact.

    Thank you,

  2. More full disclosure… I am the founder of Citizen Effect.

    Thanks for the post, I think it is a really important discussion to have. Please email me and set up a call to discuss the program more. I would love to hear more of your thoughts and share our thinking behind this initiative.

    And I say this with all due respect, but I think you have it backwards. Companies that simply give to causes to save their corporate souls is more and more seen as green or blue (social) washing. No company can give its way to social responsibility. No check can make up and pay for the ills the manufacturing and production process wreaks on the environment and society. That is why we partnered with PACT. While they are not perfect (neither are we), they are engineering sustainability into their product through their materials selection and their marketing through the causes buying their products support. When we decided to do this project, I asked my self if it was better for me to buy some Hanes underwear or buying PACT, knowing that it would light a families life in Haiti and give me the option to donate more money to light even more lives in Haiti. It was a very easy decision.

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