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'Social impact' has become one of the most popular buzzwords of the last couple of years. There has been an important change in consciousness and people are more willing to look beyond their personal gain and consider how they can make an impact with their business. There are many factors contributing this transformation, but millennials have been chosen as the main driving force behind this shift.
In a World Economic Forum study, 5,000 millennials surveyed in 18 different countries indicated that the overall top priority for any business should be "to improve society." On top of that, millennials are investing in organizations that prioritize the greater good more than any previous generation, according to a United States Treasury survey. If we look at it purely from an economic point of view, it's worth noting that 70% of millennials are willing to pay more for a product that makes an impact on issues they care about.
Looking at these numbers, it's easy to see why multinationals and big enterprises are catching onto the importance of social responsibility, but they're not the only players in this game. A new type of market is gaining power and importance, small stores and startups born with the sole purpose of doing something good. Social entrepreneurs are using the power of business principles and market forces to solve social, cultural, environmental, and health-related problems, both locally and globally.
Being an entrepreneur is not easy, and it only gets harder when impact comes before financial benefit, especially when it comes to looking for possible investors. Nevertheless, there are countless people out there fighting for a better world and leaving an incredible footprint behind thanks to their work. The following list is just a small example of some of the many remarkable social entrepreneurs who are impacting the lives of thousands of people all over the world.
Jacquie Berglund, FINNEGANS. FINNEGANS is a brewery with the mission statement of "turning beer into food". Berglund's family struggled financially all her life, so she's always known that she wanted to help the poor so they wouldn't have to go through that. FINNEGANS is a volunteer-run beer company that has always donated 100% of its profits to its non-profit partner, the FINNEGANS Community Fund, aimed to buy produce from local farmers to donate it to food pantries in all the states where the brewery operates. They didn't stop there, though, they also pioneered the idea of Reverse Food Truck: a truck that collects donated food all over the US and Canada. They surpassed $1 million worth of donations in 2016 and they're looking forward to get to $2 million.
Mark Constantine, Lush. Constantine and Liz Weir opened this business to sell cosmetics and natural hair and beauty products with some very strong values when it comes to environment and ethical consumerism. They make their products without any unnecessary packaging to prevent waste generation, and all their creations are 100% organic and cruelty-free. On top of that, they've also donated more than $10 million to environmental and social causes, such as LGTB or refugee campaigns.
Carlos Edmar Pereira, Livox. Pereira's daughter Clara has cerebral palsy and he wanted to create something that would allow him to communicate better with her. Livox is a software for Android tablets that enables people with motor, cognitive, and visual disorders to communicate and learn. The platform was created by technology professionals, speech therapists and occupational therapists, and it uses intelligent algorithms to interpret the user's finger movements to express their needs and desires.
Christopher and David Mikkelsen, REFUNITE. In 2005, these Danish brothers met Mansour, a 17-year old Afghan refugee who had lost contact with his parents and five siblings during their escape from Kabul. While they were helping him search for his family, they discovered the sad lack of family tracing programs and decided to do something about it. In 2008, they developed REFUNITE, a free platform where more than 600,000 refugees are currently searching for missing family members via SMS or through the website. So far, they have reconnected more than 38,000 family members and they keep getting important partners (such as Facebook and IKEA) who are funding the endeavor.
Kyle Parsons, Indosole. When Parsons went to Bali in 2004, he bought a pair of sandals with soles made from motorbike tires. Interested by the story behind them, he found out that more than one billion waste tires end up in landfills all over the world every year. That's why he felt motivated to launch Indosole in 2009, a for-profit shoe company that creates stylish sandals and shoes using Indonesian discarded tires. With every pair of shoes they sell, they're saving one tire from hitting the landfill, and, additionally, it creates sustainable local jobs and invests in the community by raising money so Balinese kids can attend school.
Brian Linton, United by Blue. Linton has always loved water, so he created his outdoor clothing company mostly because he wanted to create a business that would have an impact on the oceans. For every product sold, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from the oceans and other waterbodies through their organized cleanups. So far, they have removed more than a million pounds of trash in 177 cleanups all over the US and Canada.
Evan Lutz, Hungry Harvest. 1 in 5 fruits and vegetables go to waste because of aesthetic imperfections or logistical inefficiencies. That's why Hungry Harvest buys "ugly" surplus produce from farms all over the US and deliver them to their customers' doors via subscription based model. As of today, they've recovered more than one million pounds of produce for 5,000 subscribers, and for every box they deliver, they donate between one and three pounds for people in need.
Mateusz Mach, Five app. Mach created Five when he was 17 as a communication app for teens to send ironic hand signs and gestures to their friends, but it turned out to be really useful for the deaf community and he decided to pivot and change to concept to adapt it to more pressing needs. Five is the first sign language messenger in the world with more than 800 ASL signs in the form of small animation icons, face expressions, and the possibility of using text along with the signed messages.
Social entrepreneurship is on the rise and it's changing the way we do business. It's not an elusive concept reserved to the few who have the right resources anymore. It's a movement available to anyone who wants to create impact with their work, and the protagonists of this article are a great example of how important that work can be.
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