The below article has been contributed by one of our judges for this year’s Meaningful Business 100, Deborah Leipziger. Deborah is an author of several key books in the field of sustainability and human rights and she advises companies around the world on social innovation and sustainability. http://deborahleipziger.com/
Albert Einstein wrote that “the world as we created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” How can we change our thinking to promote sustainability and sustainable development? How can we “be the change we wish to see”? How can we promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in new ways?
The Meaningful Business 100 are a cadre of social entrepreneurs and business leaders who are introducing new ways of thinking and acting to address the world’s biggest challenges: climate change, pollution, hunger, poverty, education, and health. These leaders are creating social value in four areas: equitable society, health, planet and prosperity. The Meaningful Business 100 hail from 40 countries and 18 represent large corporations, alongside 82 from SMEs and start-ups.
As a Judge for the Meaningful Business 100, I was inspired by the more than 500 nominations of leaders who are using business as a tool to create positive social change. People like Robson Melo, who was born in a Brazilian favela, went on to create Estante Magica, a program to empower Brazilian school children to write books, which are then published by Estante Magica. Robson is a positive maverick, a leader changing our view of what is possible, audaciously acting to create a different future in partnership with 4,000 Brazilian schools. Mike Brady is another Meaningful Business 100 leader, working to promote open hiring at Greyston Bakery and at companies across the world. To address poverty, we need new ways of hiring which are inclusive and provide opportunities to those formerly marginalized: refugees, the formerly incarcerated, and homeless.
What can we learn from the Meaningful Business 100?
We need new business models.
A large number of the companies represented in the MB100 are certified B Corps, including Danone, Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Seva Exchange, ArtLifting, Greyston Bakery, and Kin and Co. B Corps are certified by B Labs and are working to address social and environmental issues through business. They are required by law to consider the impact of their actions on workers, customers, suppliers, and the community. B Corps are harnessing the power of business as a movement for social change.
Founded by Liz Powers, a young Harvard graduate, ArtLifting creates a market for homeless and or disabled artists. Liz has created an on-line platform for selling art to companies and to consumers and has used art to lift over 100 artists out of poverty.
Waste can be a raw material for making products.
Many of the Meaningful Business 100 are upcycling waste to create new products and new ways of production.
Adidas has made 5 million pairs of shoes from ocean plastics. Patagonia is making 69 percent of its clothing from recycled materials. Mamut in Bolivia uses rubber tires to make flooring for playgrounds and sports arenas and is expanding to several countries in Latin America.
Kohler has created a WasteLAB to search for ways to use by-products from its production to create new sources of raw materials. This kind of circular production is echoed throughout many of the Meaningful Business 100.
Natura, the Brazilian cosmetics company, is creating synergistic production with other companies so that the byproducts it produces can be used by other companies in their production.
Data and technology can accelerate the adoption of the SDGs
A wide range of the Meaningful Business 100 are using data and tech to solve social problems. Copia has created a technology platform to collect food destined for landfill and to create logistics for its collection and use.
Ujuzi Kilimo is using data to enhance farming in Kenya. With mobile phones, farmers are able to harness data from sensors which capture information about the soil and rainfall to promote “climate-smart farming.”
BioBot Analytics is tackling the opioid crisis by measuring opioids in sewage to estimate consumption and leverage data to create solutions.
Oviva is digitizing nutritional therapy to provide patients with diabetes and children with allergies.
YGEM is using virtual reality technology to help Nigerian women learn self-defense.
Business can leverage social innovation through its supply chain
A number of the leaders in the Meaningful Business 100 are representing companies that are promoting sustainability through their supply chain. Ben and Jerry’s is sourcing only fair trade products for its ice cream. Yogurt maker Chobani is sourcing milk through cooperatives.
Each of the Meaningful Business 100 leaders is addressing the SDGs in innovative ways whilst incubating new approaches to development. To learn more about the MB100 and find out how you can be part of the community, go to: https://www.meaningful.business/