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Give Something Back Workplace Solutions

When Mike Hannigan and Sean Marx co-founded Give Something Back Workplace Solutions in 1991, they shared an interest in leaving the world a better place. While exploring how to accomplish that goal through their expertise in office supply sales, inspiration struck.

One evening, Hannigan was opening a jar of Newman’s Own spaghetti sauce when he had a sudden vision of a similar model for office supplies.

“We wanted to use business to create competition in the marketplace, but in a way where all the profits would be donated to nonprofit organizations rather than stockholders,” Hannigan said. Give Something Back Workplace Solutions (GSB) was born.

The two put their savings together and started making calls from Hannigan’s living room. They told prospects that GSB provided all of the supply services a business needs, with a distinctive focus on environmental and social responsibility.

“Our procurement process makes it easy for customers to choose environmentally preferable products,” Hannigan says. “We also offer our customers the opportunity to decide, in a broad sense, where the profits from our company will go back into their communities.”

To involve customers in allocating donations, the firm assigns customers into regions that receive donations proportionate to the number of customers in the region. Customers in each region are asked to vote on which organizations receive the donations. Says Hannigan, “We developed this market-based mechanism to share the wealth more democratically.”

Through the company’s Green Office Initiative, customers are guided towards products that are both cost-effective and better for the environment. The majority of the company’s current paper sales are in 100% post-consumer waste products.

“We have educated our customers that environmentally friendly products are a better choice, financially and sustainably,” Hannigan says, “and we move people in that direction.”

Give Something Back Workplace Solutions' social responsibility doesn’t stop with its products. Its employment policies also support hiring a diverse workforce representative of the communities they sell products in, and taking good care of their employees.

“Being a community-stakeholder business, we believe it’s important to use our employer policies to build our strength and wellness,” Hannigan says. Marx and Hannigan say membership in American Sustainable Business Council has been a great fit for their mission.

“We’ve always seen ourselves as part of a broad movement to connect business to the community,” Hannigan says. “We’re committed to ASBC’s growth because we benefit and so do our customers.”

Down the road, Hannigan and Marx would like to see more impact investing and more focus on how businesses can make a social impact in their communities while making a profit.

“We’ve been profitable for 25 years, not just because of our social mission but because we’re a good choice for our customers,” Hannigan says. “We show other companies that you can beat your competition while doing the right thing. Businesses get the products they need, save money on them, and have the added benefit of helping the world around them.

“This isn’t a sacrifice; it’s a formula where everybody wins.”