Long gone are the days of technocratic approaches and top down organisations and governments leading the way in international innovation. Now is the time of the new, the small, the grassroots. The exciting, the innovative, the flexible. Now is the time of the start-up.
Some may grow exponentially, some may stay small, but no matter their size or scale, it is impossible to deny the explosion of new businesses being set up in the last decade – according to the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2018, the revolution continues to grow, with the total value creation of the global start-up economy from 2015 to 2017 reaching $2.3 trillion — a 25.6% increase from the 2014 to 2016 period.
A growing number of these have an ethical purpose. Companies are no longer driven and assessed by the traditional metrics of finance, performance, or even the quality of their products and services, but are increasingly judged on their relationships with their employees, customers, and communities and their impact on society at large.
A few of my favourite ethically minded companies at the moment are:
While not small anymore, the cheekily named toilet paper company “who gives a crap”, was started through a crowdfunding campaign by Simon Griffiths, Danny Alexander, and Jehan Ratnatunga, and a publicity stunt, where Simon sat on a toilet for 50 hours to raise funds.
No access to clean water and sanitation services. Did you know that 40% of people don’t have access to a toilet? This amounts to 2.3bn people across the world without access to clean water and proper sanitation and means that around 289,000 children under five die each year due to diarrhoeal diseases.
The toilet paper is made from environmentally friendly materials – not virgin trees, and 50% of profits are donated to charities working on water and sanitation projects: WaterAid Australia, Sanergy, Shining Hope For Communities and Lwala Community Alliance. To date it has donated over £650,000.
Brides do Good is a bridal shop which sells pre-loved or sample wedding dresses, set up by Chantal Khoueiry.
Child marriage. Did you know that 15 million girls are married before they’re 18 every year? This amounts to 28 girls every minute, or one every two seconds. In many cases, child marriage forces girls out of education and into a life of abuse. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, Brides do Good aims to end child marriage by 2030.
Brides Do Good sells wedding dresses to ethically minded brides, donating a third of the cost of every dress sold to Plan International and Too Young To Wed – charities focused on protecting potential child brides.
Founded by Laura Marotta and Katy Renwick, Imperfectly Good is in its early days, delivering healthy lunches to people’s offices, using food which would otherwise go to waste.
The dedicated Imperfectly Good team collects surplus food which would otherwise be thrown out, and turns it into delicious soups and salads for its hungry customers. As well as contributing to reducing the shocking amount of food that goes to waste in the UK, Imperfectly Good also plays its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as its lunches are all vegetarian and delivered on bikes!
As a start-up you have the advantage of often having the liberty to be as flexible as you want, yet you may find it difficult to get your idea off the ground. I personally believe the rise in ethical businesses will have a significant role to play in international development, trade, innovation and cooperation, and would therefore like to see them promoted and supported by governments worldwide.
Do you agree? What are your favourite start-ups tackling some big issues? Tweet us @OfficialCause4 and let us know.