I love learning about companies doing cool stuff while supporting the communities they operate in. A few months ago I was contacted by Socialgiver, which gave me the idea for this post highlighting some of the socially responsible companies and organizations travelers can support while traveling through Thailand – from where to drink coffee to what souvenirs to buy. Read on for where to travel, eat and shop for a cause and click the blue subheadings to be taken to the companies’ websites.
While the idea of Socialgiver, a Bangkok-based social enterprise, may seem like a familiar idea, it’s a new concept in Thailand where fewer people make online purchases or use credit and gift cards. The site offers an online marketplace where buyers can purchase gift cards for hotels, restaurants, activities and events throughout Thailand with 100% of profits going to support a variety of different funds and foundations throughout Thailand.
What’s more is that when you buy a gift card it’s often valued at more than what you pay for it AND you can choose which project you’d like to support through your purchase. Companies featured on Socialgiver make in-kind donations to the site which allows for such a large chunk of the proceeds to be donated.
Of course, you can purchase gift cards as gifts, but buying stays and experiences through the site is an excellent way to travel through Thailand while having your money not only go further, but toward good causes.
For example, if you’re traveling to Bangkok you can purchase gift cards for a hotel stay, like at the welcoming and budget-friendly Hotel de Bangkok or even high-end spots such as the elegant Riva Surya right on the river, several of your meals, a night time tuk tuk tour (I’ve done it – so fun!), massages and even some of the city’s trendy bars. You could essentially cover your entire stay for less than what it would cost you to pay directly for the goods and services, and have 100% of the profit go to the project of your choice. Win, win, win.
On the site you can search gift cards by type or location. You can also give a straight donation to the company to help back projects supporting wildlife, disaster relief, children, people with disabilities, education efforts and more.
Thailand certainly does not lack in tour options, but not all tours are created equal, especially when it comes to how they support the communities they operate in or how much guides and hosts are compensated. I know of hill tribe villages outside of Chiang Mai that one day suddenly saw ATV tours zooming through the village and countryside without ever being notified or consulted. That’s terrible.
Local Alike curates unique tours and experiences throughout Thailand that emphasize immersive local experiences and community-based tourism – meaning directly supporting the people and community development of a place a trip or tour is offered in instead of an outside operator – by only working with local leaders and responsible tour operators.
The wide range of tours and excursions also tend to be very different than what you normally find from standard operators or tour shops both in the activities offered and where in the country they’re offered – there are many destinations listed on the site that you probably haven’t heard about!
Yogamour is a US- and Thailand-based nonprofit that supports underprivileged schools and communities in Northern Thailand through special yoga classes and retreats. While in Chiang Mai you can drop into the “Karma Yoga” class on Sundays at Wild Rose Yoga and 50% of the class proceeds will go to support Yogamour projects – including providing annual dental and eye care to children of a nearby hill tribe – or go on one of the volunteer yoga retreats to help firsthand within the community while also enjoying daily yoga sessions, boutique accommodation, massages and more. Learn more about their Thailand and Myanmar retreat traveling through Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan and Yangon this December here.
You can’t talk about socially responsible companies or brands in Thailand without mentioning Akha Ama based out of Northern Thailand. Aha Ama is a social enterprise coming from an Akha hill tribe village in Chiang Rai that grows, processes and markets their own coffee. The company was started by a young member of the village, Lee Ayu, who has now made quite a name for himself within the Slow Food movement and has two cafe locations in Chiang Mai: Hussadhisewee Road Soi 3 in Santhitham or Rachadammoen Road near Wat Phra Singh in the Old City.
Worth going for the name alone, Cabbages and Condoms is a Bangkok institution originally created to help promote better understanding and acceptance of family planning in Thailand as well as generate income support for the Population and Community Development Association (PDA). The restaurant serves traditional Thai fare in the center of Bangkok along with a large helping of creative decor made out of condoms. Gimmicky? Yes…but certainly a meal you won’t forget while supporting a good cause.
Colour Factory works with a number of different Thai designers to create gifts and souvenirs while backing Elephant Parade and The Asian Elephant Foundation supporting conservation issues. The company manages the flagship ‘Elephant Parade House’ in Chiang Mai the offers painted elephants for sale, art workshops and more to help raise awareness and funds for elephant welfare and conservation projects. You can visit the shop to purchase gifts paint your own Elephant Parade elephant figure for a unique souvenir. The company also organizes regular pop shops throughout the country.
Standing for “One Tambon One Product” (tambon is like a subdistrict in Thai), OTOP is a nation-wide initiative to encourage and support local hand-made goods and traditional handicrafts of each subdistrict. Items that are backed by the project receive special acknowledgment, branding and marketing support to sell the goods on a larger scale than what producers could do on their own both encouraging local enterprise and increasing income for producers and artisans across the country. OTOP products, from textiles and pottery, to food products and decor, are often considered to be some of the ‘best’ in the country. While there are specific OTOP stores found across Thailand, you’ll find highlighted displays of OTOP products just about everywhere, including large chain stores and shopping centers like Big C and Central shopping malls. Look for this label:
Note: I was a guest of Social Giver at Hotel de Bangkok but all opinions are my own.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
Enter your email for a taste of different worlds, must-read posts, and special offers.
(Don't worry, I'll never spam you — just send the good stuff.)