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20 Global Startups That Are Changing The World

January 12, 2016 business / startups

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There are plenty of reasons why businesses give back or have a social enterprise business model. A common thread, though, is that the company founder has a personal connection with the cause in question.

Whether they saw a need, were touched by a situation or angered by the unfairness of it all, these people acted to create a solution. More often than not, their companies solve more than one problem, and really do change the world.

Read on to see how 20 businesses across the globe are saving lives and making those lives better every day. You’ll be inspired.

Yellow Leaf Hammocks

This social enterprise creates sustainable artisan jobs in rural Thailand by selling their “ridiculously comfy” handwoven hammocks across the globe. Yellow Leaf Hammocks believes that by creating long-term jobs, families can move from extreme poverty to brighter futures.

“By focusing on livelihoods,” the team writes, “we can cut out the middle man, get money directly into the hands of smart + resourceful mothers and empower families to tackle their own problems (without being subject to anyone else’s agenda).” In addition to long-term economic health, Yellow Leaf Hammocks’ “Four Pillar” approach to sustainability includes environmental stewardship, social equity and cultural vitality.

Elephant Parade

Based in Thailand, this business is more of a social enterprise, exhibiting hand-painted elephant statues, designed by artists and celebrities, all over the world as well as selling them online at ElephantParade.com. At the end of the exhibitions, the Elephant Parade statues, each a unique piece of art, are auctioned off. Net auction proceeds plus 20% of the site’s profits are donated to The Asian Elephant Foundation, and Elephant Parade writes that it pledges to “donate a minimum of €50,000 per year.”

With respect to its elephant welfare and conservation cause, Elephant Parade’s goal is to support projects and organisations that focus on:

  • the health and wellbeing of elephants
  • solutions for the human-elephant conflict
  • raising public awareness and education

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Sanergy

Starting with Nairobi, Kenya, Sanergy is bringing affordable sanitation to urban slums across Africa. The four-step process includes building low-cost sanitation facilities close to where people live; selling those facilities to local owners, who become franchise partners; collecting the waste daily; and converting it into useful by-products like fertiliser, which can then be sold to farmers.

In addition to providing accessible hygienic sanitation, Sanergy provides jobs. In Kenya, for example, where unemployment stands at 40%, Sanergy employs 251 teams members, well over half of whom live in the informal settlements served by Sanergy. These employees receive medical and life insurance as well as pensions. In addition, 381 residents have become franchise partners, and have themselves created 147 jobs for their neighbors.

DayOne Response

Addressing the vital need for clean water in disaster relief situations, DayOne Response has developed one solution called the DayOne Waterbag. This is a 10-litre personal water purification unit that can be transported like a backpack. A closed system, which prevents contamination, it is designed specifically to be distributed after a disaster. It purifies 10 litres of water in 30 minutes, and is reusable so a family of four can have clean drinking water for up to 2 months.

Mumzworld

This shopping site in the Middle East carries child-related products as well as those for their mothers, like maternity clothes and accessories. Mumzworld is involved in multiple charitable foundations and social efforts, including matching gifts donated to the Sharjah Social Empowerment Foundation. Mumzworld also supports START, a charity for children affected by war, as well as other efforts related to childhood nutrition.

The team at Mumzworld write that empowering people to improve their lives is why they started the shopping site. “We believe we are all responsible to make positive contributions to this world we live in and we will not rest until we can make a difference — however small,” they say. “We are founded on the idea that true success isn’t only about making money. It’s also about giving back, helping others and making the world a better place than we found it.”

Mealshare

Founded in 2013, this social enterprise in Canada makes it easy to help feed people in need. When you choose a Mealshare item from one of Mealshare’s 250 partner restaurants, you get your own meal, plus one will be donated. The site that exists to “end hunger in our lifetime” has provided more than 500,000 meals to date.

Toilets for People

Poor sanitation kills, and of the 2.5 billion people who live in unsanitary conditions, children are most at risk of dying. Toilets for People has a mission to change that, with training and education as well as their product, The Crapper: “aka the Compact, Rotating, Aerobic, Pollution-Prevention, Excreta, Reducer, … an affordable, self-contained, waterless composting toilet that uses a proven technology to safely treat human waste.”

Environmental engineer Jason Kass, the founder of TfP, says his social business “specialises in serving communities living in flood-prone and waterlogged areas where conventional sanitation technologies like pit latrines and flush toilets fail.” His team believes that “smart investments in sanitation can reduce disease, increase family incomes, keep girls in school, help preserve the environment, and enhance human dignity.”

Seabin

Developed by a couple of Australian surfers, Peter Ceglinski and Andrew Turton, the Seabin is a device that they hope will clean our oceans “one marina at a time.” Sucking in all floating debris, like a vacuum cleaner, the floating rubbish bin captures everything from rubbish to oils and fuel. It works best on calm surfaces, like in marinas, inland waterways, ports and harbours, where much of the ocean’s pollution ends up.

Wecyclers

The goal of Nigeria’s only recycling venture is two-fold: to provide value for trash for low-income households, and to raise awareness about the importance of recycling. The latter includes not just the environmental benefits but goes to social welfare, too, in terms of pollution and disease reduction.

Wecyclers builds and manages a fleet of low-cost cargo bikes to transport the incentive-based household recyclables to collection hubs. The materials are sorted and then sold to Nigerian recyclers.

“Beyond the empowerment of people through efficient use of waste,” writes Wecyclers founder and CEO Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, “we have also found out there is an increasing need for recycling on a larger scale in Nigeria. Nigeria can be said to be at a virgin state in recycling, as very little has been done compared to the volumes of recyclable materials generated and the progress made by other developing states. To this end, we have a resolve to push the recycling agenda in Nigeria.”

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Wello

Defining itself as a social venture with a bold mission (to deliver clean water to a thirsty world), Wello has reinvented the wheel. In many countries, water collection is a job left mainly to women and girls, who spend at least a quarter of each day collecting enough water for their families. By providing a solution, Wello says their time might be better spent at things like education and jobs.

Additionally, in areas where safe water is not ready available, water-borne diseases and illness related to poor sanitation practices, like handwashing, are rampant. Wello’s solution is the WaterWheel, which allows users to transport twice as much water in half the time, simply by pushing it along, instead of headloading.

Back to the Roots

Founders of Back to the Roots, Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora were college students when they found out they could grow food from waste — in this case, it was mushrooms from coffee grounds. Their sustainable food business started in 2009, with the introduction of the first boxed product, Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden, quickly following.

By providing products that allow people to grow their own food at home, Back to the Roots is achieving their goals of healthy communities and green development, in which you “undo” food and make it personal again.

Mozambikes

The idea for Mozambikes came about on a roadtrip across Mozambique by the sight of “person after person walking along the side of the road with massive containers of water or bundles of firewood on their heads,” writes co-founder Lauren Thomas. By branding bicycles with advertisers’ logos, the social venture can provides quality bikes at less than half the usual price.

With transportation scare in rural regions of the country, bicycles are efficient, affordable and easy to maintain. Mozambikes creates employment directly, in their warehouse where the bicycles are built, and then makes a developmental impact across the country through the bikes they sell. People use them to get to and from jobs, or creates transportation-related jobs, like delivery services. Health, safe and community are other areas positively impacted when people have access to a reliable form of transportation.

Sanivation

Sanivation describes its business as “Closing the sanitation loop in Kenya. Toilets to charcoal. No mysteries.” The social enterprise is working to deliver safe, clean and efficient sanitation services throughout East Africa, so that the developing world does not continue to suffer over 4,000 children’s death each day, directly link to the lack of basic sanitation.

The service in urbanising communities installs a container-based toilet in people’s homes, charging a monthly fee to collect the waste. The waste is transformed into a “clean burning alternative to charcoal” which is sold as an affordable fuel.

Access Afya

This social enterprise runs a chain of micro-clinics across Nairobi’s informal settlements together with a “Healthy Schools” program. Both allow healthcare for the people who need it most, children and the very poor. The health system in Nairobi is often too expensive for many to access otherwise, and the services provided by Access Afya are priced to be affordable, while the school program delivers check-ups, treatments and training.

Six schools are currently enrolled in the program, according to Access Afya’s blog, and a new health care package is being launched that includes:

  • free medications and lab tests
  • regular doctor’s visits during deworming sessions at schools
  • a health club membership
  • a comprehensive check-up at the beginning of every term
  • extended hospital-stay insurance and fire insurance (fires are common in informal settlements)

Juabar

A phone charging kiosk in rural Tanzania powered by the sun, Juabar uses a 50W solar-PV system, which can charge as many as 20 phones or other small electronic devices at the same time. The stated mission of this social enterprise is to “develop profitable small business opportunities in Tanzania while meeting community energy and connectivity needs.”

Entrepreneurs lease the kiosks and are currently serving thousands of customers, who need to charge their devices in a largely off-grid world. Juabar continues to support its network of partners after the initial set-up through regular training sessions, covering everything from customer service and bookkeeping to basic technical operations.

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Gham Power

Powering Nepal’s businesses and rural communities, by way of solar technology at affordable prices, is what Gham Power is all about. Using solar microgrids doesn’t just provide electricity to households and local shops, but allows entrepreneurs and businesses to generate income. Everything needs power, from a rice mill to a telehealth clinic.

There’s an ongoing need for solar-powered lights and charging stations as a result of the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Gham Power has started a Rebuild With Sun campaign to provide these to relief workers as well as to the displaced who are still living in shelters and tents.

Arbutus Medical

This Canadian company is working to reach the unserved by developing medical devices like the Arbutus Drill Cover. A reusable barrier that can be sterilized, the cover provides a fully-sealed sterile barrier for an industrial power drill. With Arbutus Medical making it safe to use an industrial power drill, surgeons have a cost-effective alternative to orthopaedic drills that cost around $30,000 — previous choices being hardware store drills and hand drills. The bottom line is that the cover allows for “safe orthopaedic trauma surgery in low resource settings.”

The company writes that the drill cover has been used in more than 4,000 surgeries to date, both in low-resource and emergency relief settings.

Plastic Bank

Co-founders David Katz and Shaun Frankson in Vancouver say Plastic Bank has a dual mission: to clean up the global environment and to create employment opportunities. Plastic waste collected from land, oceans, beaches and waterways is recycled. Those who harvest the plastic receive fair value, basically turning garbage that pollutes the world’s oceans into currency, which in turn helps people struggling to rise above poverty.

The recycled material is trademarked “Social Plastic,” and the company goal here is “to lead the movement towards worldwide demand for the use of Social Plastic in everyday products. As educated consumers begin to demand the use of recycled ocean plastics in the products they buy, the value of ocean plastics will increase.”

ECOlunchbox

Sandra Ann Harris, founder and president of ECOlunchbox, started the mission-based social enterprise in 2009 at her kitchen table, where she’d pack lunches for her kids. Unable to find plastic-free, reusable and eco-friendly lunchware, she made her own non-toxic, stainless steel lunchboxes.

Healthy for people and the planet, the plastic-free lunch boxes and cotton lunch bags are waste-free, too, helping people reduce their reliance on plastic food containers and bags.

Andela

A staffing company, Andela wants to integrate “full-time, genius-level remote software developers into your team.” The company mission is to connect employers with “untapped talent around the world.”

How do they accomplish this? Andela founder Jeremy Johnson has created an in-house program that teaches qualified African students to code. Those students are paid during the course and then become part of the Andela workforce. Calling itself “a new type of technology staffing partner,” Andela says it “will change how you think about sourcing talent.”

images by: Ashes Sitoula, Emilian Robert Vicol, jbelimed

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