Better World Books' Socially Responsible Business Model

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : BECG105 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 300;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 300 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Corporate Social Responsibility
Case Length : 19 Pages
Period : 2002-2009
Pub Date : 2009
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Better World Books
Industry : Retailing
Countries : US


The case examines the business model of Better World Books (BWB), the US based online bookseller. Founded in 2002, the company collected old and new books from individuals, booksellers, recyclers, libraries and colleges. Apart from donations, libraries and colleges also sold old books to BWB. BWB either donated the collected books to the organizations promoting literacy or sold them online.

BWB's business model reflected its commitment to the triple bottom line approach. The company made efforts to achieve social, environmental, and economic sustainability. It directly donated books and gave financial support to literacy initiatives worldwide. Moreover, a percentage of each sale was given separately to the individuals, libraries, or colleges as well as literacy partners chosen by them.

By donating and selling used books, BWB helped to keep away millions of pounds of paper waste from landfills. The books that did not sell were recycled. BWB also had a Carbon Neutral Shopping Cart, through which, the company collected two to five cents on the cost of each book from every customer at the 'Checkout' link on its website. The collected money was used to buy carbon offset to compensate the environmental impact of shipping by the company and its literacy partners. In the financial year 2008, BWB earned revenues of US$ 21 million and had a revenue target of US$ 31 million in fiscal 2009.


Analyze the business model of BWB, a 'for profit' social venture;
Understand how BWB's business model contributes to its commitment to the triple bottom line approach;
Study how BWB minimizes the environmental impact of its operations.
Examine the revenue model of BWB's business and evaluate its sustainability.


  Page No.
Most Promising Social Entrepreneur 1
The Online Bookseller 2
The Business Model 3
Profit With Purpose: A Triple Bottom Line Approach 6
The Challenges 10
Exhibits 12


Better World Books, Business Model, Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs, Campus Collection Program, Library Discards & Donations program, Promoting Literacy, Commission Junction, Triple Bottom Line Approach, Social Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability, Economic Sustainability, B Impact Report, US Environment Protection Agency, Wastewise Program,, Carbon Neutral Shopping Cart, Foundation, Incentive Stock Option, Social Entrepreneurship

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