Business February 11th, 2020

Creating A Culture Of Kindness With Zappos For Good

Who knew a water cooler talk could bubble into a company-changing idea?

In May 2016, a casual conversation between three Zapponians, Jeremy Kettle, Todd Martin and Tasha McKenzie, did just that.

Kettle, a passionate runner, was lamenting that he needed a new pair of running shoes, even though his current pair was only six months old. Both Martin and McKenzie agreed it would be nice to have a recycling program to keep all those old running shoes out of the landfills.

In America alone, at least 300 million pairs of shoes are tossed into landfills yearly. Coincidentally, the number of children around the world who have never owned a pair of shoes also equals 300 million.



The conversation continued as the trio brainstormed how much it would cost to create a shoe recycling program. Upon some digging, they realized it would be simpler and more cost-effective to redistribute the shoes, as opposed to salvaging them. Together, they thought about partnering with a non-profit to take second-hand shoes and get them to people who could use them. After all, Kettle’s running shoes were still in great shape — just not for a runner.

The three employees concluded there was an opportunity to do two things at once. One was to keep shoes, clothing and other materials out of landfills, so they didn’t contribute more waste. The second was to repurpose those items to help others who needed them.

This conversation gave birth to a company-wide initiative called Zappos for Good.



Reduce, Reuse, Reshoe

McKenzie took that watercooler conversation to heart, and just six months later, Zappos for Good launched, partnering with a nonprofit company called Soles4Souls. In the first 90 days, Soles4Souls received over 13,000 pairs of donated shoes from Zappos customers and employees. Soles4Souls, in turn, distributed them to people in need all over the world, including Haiti.

A team from Zappos traveled to Haiti to see how the donated shoes made an impact. The shoes enabled one woman to start a business to help raise her family. With shoes on their feet, her children could now attend school. Others climbed out of poverty by repurposing and selling the donated shoes.

Inspired, Zappos set a lofty goal. We asked customers to donate 100,000 items by 2020 and spent only $600 to spread the word on social media. Now that’s following Zappos Core Value #8: Do More with Less!

Our passionate customers, always willing to help out a good cause, contributed over 100,000 products by January of 2017, almost two years earlier than the original goal. By January 2019, donations were up to one million, and in October of 2019, two million.

Customers Asked, We Answered

Our customers wanted more. They realized, as did we, that the concept of giving shoes could apply to clothes, books, toys, and school supplies.

With 15 million children in the U.S. living in extreme poverty, Zappos wanted to help. Zappos for Good teamed up with The Kids in Need Foundation to provide low-income families much-needed school supplies, including backpacks, pens, pencils, and paper. As Dave Smith, executive director of the Kids in Need Foundation, said, “Parents shouldn’t have to decide between school supplies and putting food on the table.”

A more recent initiative created by Zappos for Good is aptly titled Closets for Good. Clark County, wherein lies the famous Las Vegas Strip, may be filled with glitz and glamour, but many families can’t provide even the basics for their children — things like school supplies, clothing, shoes, food, and hygiene items. Closets for Good is running in six different Clark County schools, with plans to open several more Closets this year.



Making The World A Better Place

You don’t need to be a big, fancy company to make a difference. If you’re shopping at the grocery store, buy an extra can of beans or vegetables. If you’re at Target or Walmart, grab another pack of pencils. Have a few extra bucks? Pick up a toy to give to the Toys for Tots or your local family shelter.

Or, you can make Zappos your partner in donating shoes, books, clothes, and more. Choose the cause that inspires you. For instance, we’ve partnered with Cotton and their unique Blue Jeans Go Green program, Soles4Souls, and others.

How does it work? Just box up your gently used items, log into your Zappos account, and print a prepaid shipping label. All it costs you is a little time and a box. Oh, and you’ll get free space in your closet to buy more stuff!

Zappos for Good can also help you host your own charity drive. Maybe your company gets involved in a local movement every year. Perhaps you and your extended family reach out and help those in need around the holidays. Zappos wants to help! We’ll provide you with all the supplies you need for collections. Just spread the word, collect the donations, tape the boxes shut, and ship them off to our charitable partners, free of charge.

Zappos strives to be more than an online retail company. Zappos for Good is one way we try to live our 10 Core Values and have a purpose beyond consumer sales. And although our company is known for many things, being a force for Good may be the most important.


Don't stop here!
To learn more about Zappos, or how to build a strong company culture,
sign up for a Zappos Insights training event or guided tour.

Get more info