Goody Goody Gumdrops

Profitable Activism? The Mutual Launches as Groupon for Greenies

home green marquee 02 Profitable Activism? The Mutual Launches as Groupon for GreeniesThe Mutual, a for-profit, socially-minded startup is launching out of New York next week, the latest in a new trend of “businesses that are good for the world but also will hopefully print money.” (See also: Skillshare, Bitcoin, PublicStuff, and now Couchsurfing.) A venture from ad agency veteran Dan Vallejo and tech lead and designer Matt Pestritto, the idea works like this: environmentally-minded customers will pay $10 a month, which will either go to the cause of their choice or be distributed across the network. In return, users get access to memebers-only perks, like a private tour and tasting at Brooklyn Brewery, one of the startup’s first partners. 

The Mutual bills itself as a smart alternative to Groupon for local merchants. “Daily deals like Groupon destroy margins for businesses and create discount-addicted shoppers that do not return,” Mr. Vallejo said in a press release. “We took the essence of what makes a coupon work and redesigned it to be customizable for the needs of individual businesses, and more importantly to foster loyalty and repeat business in the process.”

Mr. Vallejo worked at the behemoth ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and helped launch its sustainability arm, OgilvyEarth.

Partner causes so far include:

Carbonfund.org – Air
Oceana – Water
The Trust for Public Land – Earth
World Resources Institute – Reform
Center for Ecoliteracy – Education

The Mutual takes a 20 percent cut of the membership fee, and also plans to offer employee benefits programs and B2B perks, likely to be a relatively productive source of revenue. It seems like a good idea, but we wonder if their projections are a bit rosy. “Their forecast looks promising, with 250,000 members, a sliver of Facebook, The Mutual would help direct nearly $20 million to charity each year,” said Chris Perceval, Director of Corporate Relations at the World Resources Institute, in a press release. Ah, if only everyone could have “a sliver of Facebook.”

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com