These days, I think a lot of us want to give gifts that do more than put a smile on that special someone’s face. We want gift giving to reflect our own values and have lasting impact beyond the immediate act of generosity. For those of you facing those last-minute crowds, here’s some good gift giving inspiration:

  • Why not support a Canadian B Corp? These companies use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. To receive certification, Benefit Corporations must meet high quality and independent standards of social and environmental performance. Celebrate the holidays and feel confident that your gift giving is supporting a new approach to business, one that puts its values at the core of its work.ethical bean coffee
  • Ecojot – An eco-friendly stationery brand based in Scarborough, Ontario. Through its “GIVE” program, Ecojot donates a school workbook to a child in need with every sale of one of its jumbo journals.
  • Ethical Bean Coffee – Fair Trade. Organic. Community-minded. Environmentally-aware.
  • Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. – An environmentally and socially responsible enterprise producing fine handmade cheeses using fresh, locally produced goat’s and sheep’s milk.

And if the person already has everything? Give them a unique, sustainable experience, product or service instead:

  • Tiffinday – Rare meals, delivered. Entertain sustainably this holiday season with hors d’oeuvres, or enjoy a vegan, sustainable and litter-free lunch delivered right to your door.
  • LifeTimes: The Game of Reminiscence – Share life experiences, compare histories and tell your story with family and friends. The game includes 500 heartwarming memory prompts presented with period graphics and vintage photographs, inviting storytelling and conversation on a range of topics all about day-tchocosolo-day life in the 1950s.
  • Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF) – A not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest. LEAF actively engages residents in urban forest stewardship through planting, education and training.
  • ChocoSol – A social enterprise and community of innovative and dynamic individuals engaged in a trans-local trading relationship – great for that chocolate lover on your list.

Live in or near Toronto? Why not avoid the mall and hit up one of the city’s many social enterprises:

  • Evergreen Garden Market – Evergreen Garden Market is a mission-driven retail garden centre and market that equips Torontonians with the means to bring nature into their back yard or balcony.
  • Ten Thousand Villages – Commerce with a conscious. Often referred to as ‘Fair Trade,’ the company’s philosophy of helping to build a sustainable future is based on the principle that trade should have a conscience.me to we
  • Me to We Store – Me to We believes in business that is ethical, environmentally responsible and sustainable. Half of the profits from sales of the company’s products and experiences goes directly to its charity partner, Free The Children, with the other half reinvested into the social enterprise.

Nothing grab your fancy? Why not simply donate to that special someone’s favourite cause? Here are a few of mine (hint, hint):

  • Not Far From the Tree – A volunteer-run fruit-picking organization that puts Toronto’s fruit to good use by picking and sharing the bounty.
  • Global Agents – This cause aims to create lasting solutions to poverty by investing in the most promising early-stage, market-oriented ventures that are tackling these issues. Global Agents partners with strong leaders and innovative projects that are determined to find lasting solutions to poverty in developing communities.
  • YWCA Elm Centre – An innovative residential community located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Opened recently, the Elm Centre will offer 300 affordable apartments for single, low-income women, women with children, women living with mental health and addiction issues, and families of Aboriginal ancestry.
  • Try the Small Change Fund to find a project near you that could use some support. Small Change Fund provides a place for you to discover, share, connect with and support amazing grassroots projects in communities across the country – projects that need just a small amount of money to make a real and significant impact in the world through micro-philanthropy.
  • Or check out Tides Canada’s Top 10 for 2011 for other great charities that could use your support.

Happy gift giving. Cheers!

Hadley Nelles

Hadley works on the social innovation program at MaRS, helping social innovators and entrepreneurs connect with support services to turn their ideas into action. See more…