Improve Your Startup’s Business Model Through Social Impact

StartingUpGood
StartingUpGood Magazine
3 min readFeb 10, 2016
“Too busy to improve” by Alan O’Rourke (Source: Flickr)

Positive social impact not only improves society and the environment, it may also revolutionize your startup. Companies like Lush, Ambient Water, Wine of the World, John Todd Ecological Design and even Google expanded their markets and improved their models by analyzing their business through a social impact lens.

  • Lush, a fresh handmade cosmetics company, studied its portfolio of 500+ ingredients across 4 climate zones to figure out how to decrease its growing pressure on its suppliers and the environment. In particular, the company worried about almonds, an extremely water intensive crop experiencing a surge in worldwide demand. By forming direct trade relationships with farmers instead of buying off the commodities market, Lush realized the company could (1) save money in its overall supply chain (2) have farmers grow their ingredients by orchard design, alternating crops on the same farm land which regenerates the soil (3) grow almonds in a way that mimics patterns of nature and puts more water into the system than the crop takes away (4) create a more complex and resilient supply chain.
  • Ambient Water, an early stage startup, created a technology that extracts water from the humidity in the air. Its flagship system produces up to 400 gallons a day, the amount used by an average American family of four, and the company is working on a much larger version that would produce thousands of gallons a day. The target market has been oil-and-gas exploration companies, which buy and truck massive amounts of fresh water to its sites for hydraulic fracking. However, Ambient is now exploring installations in Latin America including one at a Colombian bank, and working with farming organizations that grow produce in warehouses and other urban settings.
  • Mika Bulmash, founder of Wine for the World, left Washington DC in 2011 to pursue her passion for the wine industry in South Africa. After working in cellars and vineyards, and meeting with more than 70 stakeholders, Bulmash realized the tremendous opportunity for emerging-market wine regions within South Africa, and worked to solve their bottleneck issues with the highly regulated US market. Since the launch last year, Wine for the World has introduced 10 varieties of wine to the New York market, secured $400,000 in angel funding, and supported responsible growing and producing practices.
  • John Todd Ecological Design machines use flora, fauna, and bacteria to naturally cleanse water, treat sewage, and turn wastewater into fuel and food. One of its installation is an aquaculture system that turns fish waste into nutrients to grow vegetables, and another serves as a lab for hands-on education at Berea College in Kentucky. But the company really flexed its social impact punch when it installed a 1,968-foot aquaculture system to depollute an urban canal in China, an infamous emerging-market polluter.
  • Google Glass, an optical head-mount display that allows ubiquitous computer access, may change the world in much the same way as smart phones, but after a test trial, it became clear the product promises to transform the lives of people with limited mobility through its very sophisticated voice command. “On our whirlwind camping trip, and beyond, I have used Glass to take pictures, record videos, find directions, search for facts, and dictate emails and text messages,” wrote Alex Blaszczuk, who lost the ability to move her arms after a tragic car accident two years ago.

For information on how to get started with social impact and our pro bono consulting services, please visit our site at StartingUpGood.info.

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StartingUpGood
StartingUpGood Magazine

Supporting fresh entrepreneurial approaches to do good in the world. Check out our magazine: https://medium.com/startingupgood