The 2022 Trust Barometer study by PR firm Edelman found that “societal leadership is now a core function of business” – almost 6 in 10 respondents (58%) said they purchase from brands based on the company’s beliefs and values. This echoes a 2020 study by Zeno Group, which revealed that consumers globally are four to six times more likely to purchase from and champion purpose-driven companies.

It’s clear that consumers increasingly want to know where their dollars are going and why, and carefully curated promo products can play a lead role in cause-related or give-back campaigns, such as those that support the environment or veterans’ organizations.

Do your research and ask questions to find out what suppliers are doing and what products are available, advises Kara Keister, MAS, founder and “promise keeper” with Ohio-based distributor Social Good Promotions and Regional Relations Committee delegate to the PPAI Board.

“There are wonderful organizations like PromoCares and the current PPAI initiatives that are uncovering amazing stories of corporate social responsibility, but we have found that simple conversations oftentimes bring light to phenomenal programs that simply aren’t talked about,” she says. “The great news is there are so many fantastic give-back products to choose from.”

Find a cause that aligns with your client’s brand and, more importantly, a story that will resonate with their customers. The same goes for employee gifts – younger workers in particular are looking closely at a company’s mission and values. Often that means they want products that are better for the planet and practices that are socially responsible, says Hilary Barnes, a field sales manager with supplier PCNA. She recommends apparel from tentree to appeal to eco-conscious employees and customers.

“They plant 10 trees for every single product sold, whether it’s a ball cap or a jacket or a hoodie,” she says, “and every single hangtag has an individualized QR code so the end recipient can actually scan that QR code and see where in the world their 10 trees are planted, which is cool. It’s an easy way for the everyday person to see the impact.”

Keister recommends Hanes and “anything from SanMar” for eco-friendly brandable apparel, and Charles River and PCNA for their corporate give-back programs.

“If we’re doing a basic T-shirt, we’re always showing a Hanes piece,” she says. “And SanMar’s corporate social responsibility mission and their commitment to the communities that manufacture their garments is absolutely incredible. We also work a lot with Charles River, and they have a wonderful give-back program that they curate every year.”


6 Tips For Designing And Launching A Give-Back Marketing Campaign

  1. Choose a cause that has a connection to your company or campaign.
  2. Choose a reputable recipient. (Try charitynavigator.org for information.)
  3. Determine your level of giving (a percentage, a match or a flat amount).
  4. Choose the product(s) that will be part of the program and when they will be introduced.
  5. Tell your story. Who is your program supporting and why?
  6. Share your success. Let people know the positive impact you’re making together.

READ MORE: 3 Steps To Getting Started With A CSR Practice


Here are a few promo products with a broader purpose:

man wearing red organic cotton T-shirt

The fashion industry is notoriously wasteful, but plenty of apparel brands are making great strides toward sustainability. This Unisex Organic Cotton Tee from Allmade is made with 100% organic cotton in a process that saves over 64 gallons of water compared to a conventional cotton tee, and the company is certified carbon neutral through a partnership with CarbonFund.org. Available in eight colors (shown in red) and sizes XS-4X.

Allmade Apparel / PPAI 743984, S1 / www.allmade.com

man wearing a gray fleece zip-up vest over a white collared shirt

The Port Authority Collective Smooth Fleece Vest, made of soft polyester fleece, is available in men’s and women’s cuts (both in sizes XS-4X) and black, navy or gray (shown). Supplier SanMar is a member of the Fair Labor Association and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. “When we work with purpose, we make our business a force for good,” says Jeremy Lott, company president.

SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16 / www.sanmar.com

pair of glass tumblers made from repurposed wine bottles with gift box

“We love to partner with our friends at Refresh Glass whenever possible,” says Keister. This 12-oz. Mixed Color 2-Pack is created from wine bottles collected from local bars and restaurants. Each glass is unique and dishwasher safe with smooth rims. Single laser engraving included per piece (logo or text). Colors vary.

Refresh Glass / PPAI 757521, S1 / www.refreshglasspromo.com

woman wearing black fleece eco-friendly zip-up jacket

This tentree EcoLoft Zip Jacket (women’s cut, black only, XS-XL) combines style with sustainability. Made with recycled polyester sherpa fleece, it features a woven patch pocket with hidden zipper on the chest. The company supports 1% For The Planet and plants 10 trees for every garment purchased, which can be tracked with the QR code on each hangtag so recipients can see where and when their garment’s trees are planted. 

PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15 / www.pcna.com

woman wearing pink packable pullover with half zip

This unisex Pack-N-Go Pullover with hood is wind- and water-resistant, lightweight and breathable, and it folds into its own front pouch pocket with zipper closure for easy packing on the go. Available in 16 colors and sizes XS-5X, 10% of sales from select pink styles (including the hot pink shown), are donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Charles River Apparel / PPAI 111644, S10 / www.charlesriverapparel.com

 organic lip balm tube

Every purchase of this USDA Organic Lip Balm, available in four flavors and made of 95% organic ingredients, including beeswax, supports beekeepers around the globe. Raining Rose donates 1% of its annual profits to Heifer International, a nonprofit that supports farmers and beekeepers all over the world.

Raining Rose / PPAI 232508, S7 / www.rainingrosepromos.com

man wearing dark green crewneck sweatshirt

This 50/50 poly/cotton Hanes EcoSmart Crewneck Men’s Sweatshirt comes in 25 colors (forest green shown) and sizes S-5X. The company sources most of its cotton in the USA, and they use recycled polyester threads to keep 60 million plastic bottles out of landfills each year.

Hanes / PPAI 191138, S10 / brandwearunited.com

vacuum insulated stainless steel travel mug

Available in black or white, the Perka Clayton 20 oz. Double Wall Stainless Steel Travel Mug keeps drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours. It’s designed with a comfortable handle, and the curved body shape is compatible with most vehicle cup holders. A portion of all proceeds is donated to Shelter to Soldier, a nonprofit organization that rescues dogs to train as service animals for veterans in need.

Logomark / PPAI 110898, S11 / www.logomark.com