UPDATE MARCH 2021: Unfortunately the bUnited program has been shut down during the corona pandemic. It was not economically viable.
Get paid to save the planet! That’s the promise bUnited makes and all it wants in return is your email address. This year they’ve already gained over a million new members. Free money always sounds amazing. It also makes you wonder: is bUnited a scam? Well, when I can get free money and save the planet at the same time, I sure want to find out. So I’ve become a member of bUnited.
bUnited is a consumer organization. It wants to unite consumers to form a big, powerful movement. Power is in the numbers. bUnited figures, that if eco-friendly consumer unite, they can inspire (or even force) retailers, manufacturers, factories and multinationals to become as sustainable as can be. When the people that buy their products get together and say ‘we only want to buy from you if you’re eco-friendly, inclusive and peaceful’ then that’s what companies will have to listen to. Or go out of business.
$10 for referrals
When you become a member you can get $10 for every person that you bring to bUnited. You don’t have to pay a dime yourself and the people you refer don’t have to pay anything either. So where does the money come from?
There’s no such thing as free money. It always has to come from someone or somewhere. In this case, the money comes from companies that work with bUnited.
Companies pay bUnited for the privilege to give all bUnited members discounts. Companies are used to pay large amounts of money to advertise on media platforms like Facebook or Google. bUnited contacts those companies and asks them to subscribe and spend some (or all) of that money to give discounts to bUnited members. They promise up to 30% savings.
When you are a bUnited member, you do not have to buy anything. Because sustainable businesses don’t encourage buying more stuff you don’t need. But the things you do need anyway could become cheaper when you buy through bUnited. Things like phone service or car insurance. So in a nutshell: companies pay bUnited for a subscription, bUnited pays that forward to its members and adds discounts to all kinds of products.
Here’s the catch: bUnited can’t negotiate amazing deals if there aren’t many members yet. So getting members is key to its success. So far more than a million people already signed up, but it’s still just the beginning. And because the amazing deals still need to be negotiated, the first members don’t have many deals to choose from yet. Depending on the country you live in, you might not have any deals to choose from at all.
The launch of the Vodafone partnership in Germany is on hold and won’t be back on until January. So far, the only deal I could find was a 20-50% discount on movies at the Brazilian movie chain Cinemark. It should go live in November. A great bonus here is that with every movie ticket bought 25 square meters of rainforest is saved. Cool, but just the mere beginning.
So, in the beginning, all you’ll get from bUnited is the money you get for all your referrals. And you’re going to have to wait to get that money too. After all: bUnited can’t pay out referral money until it has made deals and been paid by companies that want to contribute to this consumer organization. Negotiating deals can take a lot of time. It seems like patience is in order.
Refer people while you still can
On the other hand, the sooner you get all your friends and family members referred to bUnited, the more credit you’ll build. If you start signing people up when bUnited is a big hit, most people will already be a member. And you’ll miss out on the referral bonuses. It doesn’t cost you anything, so there’s nothing to lose. Only to gain. That alone was reason enough for me to become a member of bUnited. Because, you know, what if…
This is what bUnited states on its website about the time it might take to start earning: “Some people will be able to withdraw some earnings within 60 days. Most people will be able to withdraw some earnings later in 2019, and continue to get paid until they have received the full amount – it could take a couple of years. Withdrawing earnings is based on when bUnited gets paid by companies giving discounts to bUnited members. This will vary by what country you are in, how fast the membership grows there, and the speed at which companies sign up.”
Climate action drives bUnited
Climate change is a driving force behind bUnited. The founders want everybody to take action. And to do it now. Not tomorrow. Now. Jorgensen: “We created bUnited to be part of the forces that cause the changes we need. People, united with their purchasing power, can be an enormous source of power to force real change.”
Where you spend your money is powerful. And the more people consciously spend their money with sustainable companies, the more other companies will start to listen and need to become green too.
Companies that want to do business with bUnited, have to meet a few requirements. They have to “immediately fund at least one climate change initiative” (like saving the rain forests, planting trees or stop hunger) and they have to “make their operations more sustainable”. bUnited plans to save 1 billion square meters of Amazon rain forest every year by supporting the Rainforest Foundation. And to plant 1 million trees per year with The Nature Conservancy. bUnited supports several NGO programs and wants to add more when the community starts to grow even bigger. Right now bUnited supports The Ocean Cleanup, The Water Project, Feeding Children Everywhere and Unicef.
The founders of bUnited are experienced business people. You’d expect they know how to approach and talk to companies and how to negotiate a good deal. That gives me hope for the future of bUnited. Jim Jorgensen is one of those people. He’s co-founder and the chairman of bUnited. He’s a social entrepreneur who wants people to spend their money for good, not for wasteful items. And the best way to do that is to make all companies sustainable. That’s why he doesn’t talk with eco-friendly companies only, but also with the likes of Shell for instance.
In his bUnited blog post, Jorgensen explained why Shell is just as important as a partner as an eco-friendly company. “If bUnited can reward Shell by giving them more business every time it improves its environmental and social processes and the bigger bUnited gets, the bigger customer of Shell we become and the more important it becomes that Shell executives listen to what bUnited members want them to do.” The power is in the numbers.
Let’s summarize and get to the pro’s and con’s about bUnited. Why should or shouldn’t you try out a membership with this consumer organization that wants to save the planet?
What I love about bUnited
- it’s free to join
- it pays you for referring others
- you get discounts
- it’s eco-friendly
- it’s inclusive
- it’s available in most countries
What I dislike about bUnited
- it’s early stages
- not many discount deals yet
- unsure when you can withdraw your earnings
So is bUnited a scam? Not in my book, not at all. Sure, it is still a baby that has only just begun to crawl and needs some time before it can run. But the sustainable goals are superb and heartfelt. It’s clear that bUnited has every intention to pay its members for referrals as soon as deals get negotiated. And members can look forward to future discounts, as I’m confident bUnited will use its huge member base (over 1 million members and counting) to get the deals we want.
Worst case scenario? bUnited won’t make it and can’t do what it’s promised. No saving the planet, no discounts, and no earnings paid out to members. That’s a huge blow to climate action. But for the bUnited members personally, there’s no loss at all. You pay nothing to become a member so all you’ll lose is the 30 seconds it takes you to leave your email address. It’s a free gamble. And I’m taking it for sure.
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