Inspired Innovation and Positive Disruption

The world needs an infusion of good news and inspiration. The announcement of the Meaningful Business 100 (MB100) comes at the best possible moment, to inspire and help us to reimagine how business operates. After eight months of isolation due to the pandemic, comes the bright news of the MB100, launched in October. It’s been a joy to serve as a judge for the MB100 again this year, and the profiles have been a source of profound inspiration for me.

What can we learn from these 100 business leaders who are guiding us toward a healthier planet and a more regenerative world?  From leaders of well-known global brands such as Patagonia and IBM to small social enterprises, the MB100 is a gold mine of business ideas, innovations and trends for a more resilient world.

The MB100 focus on how business can promote the UN Sustainable Development Goals and focus on areas such as health, education, gender equality, and renewable energy. The MB00 are changing the way we design, make, sell and use products and the very contours of our world. While some of the enterprises they run are small, they are changing the landscape of their sector and in some cases, of business in general. 

Positive Disruption

The MB100 leaders are creating a new landscape for business and a new language of opportunity. Duolingo has changed the way we learn by creating a free tool for learning languages. Beyond Meat is making it easier for consumers to follow a plant-based diet, with major benefits for health and reducing climate emissions. IBM is channeling the power of open source technology to address food safety and to fight food waste through Food Trust, a platform which connects suppliers and retailers using blockchain technology.   

Waste as Raw Material

Many of the MB100 leaders are turning waste into viable products. USB Materials is “redefining the concept and value of everything we discard”, converting household waste into substitutes for wood and oil-based plastic resins. Toast Ale is using waste from bakeries to make beer and sharing the technology on its open platform to allow others to do so as well.  In Mexico, Javier Larragoiti of Xilinat is turning household waste into a sweetener which is healthier than substitutes currently available.  In India, the Radix Group is generating energy from organic waste to produce biocompressed natural gas (Bio CNG). 

Regenerative Organic   

The clothing company Patagonia has made a commitment to sourcing cotton grown in a way that is both regenerative and organic. Using age-old techniques, cotton growers are returning nutrients to the soil. Patagonia has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025 and carbon positive by 2040.

Technology to Promote Accessibility

The Brazilian company, Solar Ear manufactures solar-powered hearing aids, which make them far cheaper and longer-lasting than conventional hearing aids. The company has developed an app that allows its team of technicians to diagnose hearing loss simply with a smart phone. This allows people in marginalized and/or rural communities to receive a diagnosis and then to access an affordable hearing aid. According to Solar Ear, seven percent of the population suffer from some kind of hearing impairment. The Solar Ear model aims to reach children in Brazil before they turn three years of age, so that they may attend school and learn. They also train, hire and employ deaf people to give opportunities for people to break the cycle of poverty.  This form of opportunity employment is a theme echoed by other MB100 leaders.     

Temiw Giwa Tubosun has developed LifeBank which uses data and smart logistics technology to deliver blood, oxygen and medicines in two African countries. The technology helps to deliver the products on time and in the right condition.  Her goal is to save 1 million lives. Currently they are able to get urgent medical supplies to local areas within 55 minutes.

Through geolocation technology, apps are promoting accessibility, including Guiaderodas which rates public places on their accessibility for people in wheelchairs. Safe in the City uses artificial intelligence, crowd-sourcing and geolocation to create safer and more inclusive spaces for women.  

Gender Equality

The Impact Investing Exchange is the first exchange devoted to impact investing and women. The Women’s Livelihood Bond Series aims to provide $150 million to benefit 3 million women while advancing 13 of the Global Goals. Quoted on Bloomberg, the Exchange was founded by Dureen Shahnaz, the first Bangladeshi woman to work on Wall Street.    

Aime Rebecca is the founder of Patapia which provides financial services and training to support women refugees setting up small businesses in Uganda. She founded Patapia to empower refugee women to become financially independent. Aime herself is a refugee from the Congo.   

The MB100 are pressing a reset button, adopting new business models and changing paradigms. Congratulations to all of the MB100 in 2020! I look forward to profiling other winners in future issues of this blog.

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