Skip to content

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” In 2013, that became more than just an old saying for Chris Janssen.

October 28, 2016 By: Muska Ulhaq

The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) are proud to announce the 2016 RBC Impact Entrepreneurs who will be showcased at the 9th annual Social Finance Forum. Taking place on October 27th and 28th, the Social Finance Forum is the best place to engage and profile leaders in Canada’s diverse social finance scene and to capture advancements from the world stage.

As a student at Western University, Chris noticed that many of his peers had stacks of old textbooks sitting in their dorms. Chris ran a small textbook drive, and by reselling the books at affordable prices to younger students, fundraised $500 for Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Students loved the opportunity to donate used textbooks when it helped their peers and important causes.

Upon graduation, Chris had a lecturing role at the University of Finance and Banking in Rwanda where he found a very different scenario. Smart and ambitious students were sharing photocopied, out-of-date material.

With these experiences and an entrepreneurial spirit, Chris and co-founder Tom Hartford launched Textbooks for Change (T4C) in 2014 to improve the educational landscape for post-secondary students around the world.

What began as the vision of one social entrepreneur has since inspired students, professors and community members from across the globe to grow Textbooks for Change into a top-rated B Corp.

The Problem – Affordable and Accessible Educational Material

There is a lack of affordable and accessible educational material for post-secondary students around the world.

Over the last 10 years, post-secondary textbook prices increased by 82% for students in North America. The average Canadian student spends an average of $500-$1,000 per semester on textbooks. Many textbooks go out of edition each year, and students are left with material they cannot resell.

In East Africa, there is a much different situation. Universities purchase textbooks from international publishers for about $50/textbook. As the vast majority of students are unable to purchase their own textbooks, these resources are shared via the campus library.

Unfortunately, university libraries in East Africa are under-funded, under-resourced, and face internet connectivity issues. While university enrolment rates are increasingly drastically (there are over 440,000 university students in Kenya), there is a lack of resources to support their studies.

The Solution – Textbooks for Change

T4C developed a social enterprise model to address these problems that is sustainable, scalable, and effective. Here is how it works:

  1. In Canada, students and community members can donate textbooks via dropboxes on campus and at donation centres like Goodwill.
  2. T4C donates 50% of these textbooks to campus libraries in East Africa. There are six campus partners who offer courses and programs similar to those in North America.
  3. 20% of textbooks are resold to students in North America for affordable prices via online marketplaces. On average, students save up to $50 per purchase when they buy a textbook from T4C versus traditional means.
  4. 30% of textbooks are recycled if they are out of date or in unusable condition.

Results and Success

Since launching in 2014 as a B Corp, T4C has had some tremendous growth and created impact on the environment, their local community, and in the global community. Here are a few highlights:

  • Over 260,000 textbooks have been collected and repurposed from across Canada
  • 130,000 textbooks have been donated to 6 campus partners in East Africa and are being implemented in the library system
  • 32 universities and colleges in Ontario host a Textbooks for Change dropbox, including the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, and Western University.
  • 3,000 trees have been saved and over 665,000lbs of textbooks have been diverted from landfills

In 2015 and 2016, these efforts led to Textbooks for Change being named a “Best for the World” B Corp for ranking in the top 10% of over 2,000 companies worldwide.

Textbooks for Change is in the process of expanding their reach in North America and optimizing their impact in East Africa. The team’s ultimate goal is to make education a fundamental human right, not a privilege.

Learn more at

By Chris Janssen, Founder & CEO, Textbooks For Change