Consumers in the West (including more privileged South Africans) typically take for granted the purchases they make every day that are out of the reach of others in poverty. The ‘buy one, give one’ model aims to tackle this problem by matching small purchases and donating them to those in need, such as bus tickets through Detroit, USA’s WeRide program, or a pair of shoes through the popularTOMS brand. Operating on a much grander scale, Canada’s World Housing is now using the model to help build shelter for families in the poorest parts of the world.

The project works with builders in North America, who become certified by the organization by paying a service fee of around USD 3,000 for each househunter they become connected with through a World Housing listing. Those looking to do good while they plan their new home can use World Housing to source a condominium. By doing this, they can be guaranteed that a their contractor’s fee will go to one of the organization’s NGO developer partners, who will construct quality housing for families living in garbage dumps. According to the social enterprise, there are currently 120 million such people in the world, who don’t have access to clean water or energy and live in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

Through the scheme, consumers looking to buy a new home can help another family do so on the other side of the world without any extra cost. Are there other charitable business models that could be scaled to an extent such as this?

We cab’t help feeling that similar initiatives, both big and small, could work in South Africa.