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You Don't Have to Be All That Corporate to Make an Impact With Corporate Social Responsibility

Small businesses are making a big splash with their mission-driven awareness in social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is often talked about only in the context of large enterprises. However, weaving social consciousness into your company’s fabric is possible -- and even advantageous -- at the small business level, as well.

We are seeing a definite uptick in the number of business owners who are integrating the Triple “P” Model (People, Planet and Profit) into their companies. The earliest days of the models' planning proves it is especially working for women, as well. A Dell-sponsored survey at Circular Summit, an annual event for women entrepreneurs, showed that the majority of women business owners say that they want to make a positive impact on the world, while turning a profit.

Altruism advances many purpose-driven companies, but there are also clear business advantages that make the "Triple P” model not only viable, but also smart. With the end user in mind, we know that millennials now have more buying power than any other generation. 87 percent of those consumers prefer to buy products from companies that have an environmental or social benefit.

Small businesses that aren’t looking to meet this consumer demand are missing an enormous opportunity that will only continue to grow. Mission-driven companies also report 30 percent higher levels of innovation and 40 percent higher levels of employee retention.

These factors are used in establishing and holding on to market leadership and minimizing unnecessary costs. We are in an era where the power of technology allows small business owners to expand their impact reach to even the most remote corners of the world.

We saw the "Triple P”s in action at the second annual Circular Summit Pitch with Purpose competition. Pitch with Purpose is a global pitch competition for women-led businesses that support the resolution of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Here's how the three finalists have combined people, planet and profit.

Saathi pads.
This company was started by a team, that includes three women MIT graduates. Saathi designed the world’s first 100 percent biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads made from waste banana tree fiber. Saathi’s pads are currently available in rural areas of India. The company has plans to rapidly grow to a production of one million pads within the next three years.

According to Saathi co-founder Amrita Saigal, “Lack of access to sanitary pads is a critical women’s rights issue and a leading reason for higher school dropout rates for girls and in lost income from days off work, and is one the main causes of UTIs and other infections.

Saathi’s pads ensure that women have access to affordable sanitary products that allow them to continue their daily lives uninterrupted, while also keeping waste out of garbage bins. The process is also supporting a supply chain that benefits Indian farmers by using traditionally unused byproducts of banana farming. Saathi has also made a further commitment to sell or recycle all of their manufacturing waste.

Saathi was awarded the top Pitch with Purpose prize, taking home $15,000 cash, thanks to Johnson & Johnson and Guggenheim Partners, a Dell technology suite and mentorship from Circular Board.

Still in its pilot stages, Narra is showing incredible promise with an innovative model that will bring money lending to the world’s two billion unbanked adults, half of whom live in the world’s poorest households.

Through Narra, any woman can use a mobile device to create a digital ID stored on a blockchain public ledge and request and receive in a loan in five minutes. “Having access to loans enables financial inclusion. Microcredit has proven to be an effective method for poverty alleviation,” said Evelin Weber, Narra founder.

“However, women in rural areas tend to lack collateral, steady employment and the credit history necessary for fair loans.” Initially, Narra is operating in the Philippines with plans to expand operations to India, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Trumbull Unmanned.
Trumbull Unmanned is pioneering UAS/drone use for environmental data collection in the energy sector to help better manage natural resources, compliance and environmental impact. This effort is led by U.S. Air Force veterans Dyan Gibbens and JR Gibbens.

Trumbull operations have included flying in the Arctic to monitor ice pack movements, observing gray whale migrations and researching oil spill response efforts. In addition to their commercial efforts, Trumbull also created a free Drone Camp with Microsoft, Rice University and BP for middle school youth to encourage STEM learning.

Of the Trumbull mission to combine environmental responsibility with emerging technologies, Dyan Gibbens says, “For me, I aim to be a servant leader and collaborative leader in the UAS industry, the energy industry and STEM empowerment.”

The combination of purpose and profit will continue to be a strong driver for new small businesses, as well as of enterprise-level corporations eager to meet consumer demand and retain employees.

Whether it’s through responsible supply chain sourcing, “buy one give one” models, philanthropic initiatives, product innovations or partnerships, this is a trend that we shouldn’t expect (nor want, of course) to go away anytime soon.


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