9 most inspiring positive impact businesses

If you’re looking to create a positive impact through your organisation, let us help you with these 5 ways that are (relatively) easy to start contributing to a better world today.

The most inspiring positive impact businesses are not those who have the most money, but those who have the most heart.

There is no greater emotional payoff than seeing the positive impact your business has on a community. Whether it’s providing jobs, donating to local charities, or simply making a difference in people’s lives, watching your business make a difference is incredibly rewarding. It’s what keeps us going when things get tough and make all the hard work worth it. 

One of our biggest inspirations is Sheryl Sandberg. After working at Google for a number of years, she became the first woman to serve on Facebook’s board of directors, is now the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook and has written two best-selling books. The first is “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” in which she discusses the types of impactful businesses so you can find the best fit for your company and start making a positive impact right away.

She also wrote “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” alongside Adam Grant where they combine stories, research, and practical advice to help you build strength for life’s challenges and help your family and community do the same.

Sandberg is an advocate for gender equality in the workplace and believes that businesses should be designed to enable all employees – not just a select few – to achieve their greatest potential. She preaches that businesses should focus on creating a culture where employees feel comfortable taking risks and speaking up. 

This type of culture leads not only to happier employees but also to better business outcomes. Sandberg’s work has had a profound impact on the way businesses operate today. By sharing her own experiences and insights, she has helped countless business owners create cultures that foster innovation and creativity. 

Her message is clear: It is possible for businesses – both big and small – to make a positive impact on their communities and beyond.

The single big secret to creating a successful business with a positive impact is to start with your passion. It shows in your work and you’re also more likely to have a positive impact on your community and the world.

In this article, we’d like to share 10 of the most inspiring positive impact businesses we’ve come across and how you can get there yourselves.

1. The Ocean Cleanup

You’ve definitely come across them at least once either on social media or in the news. 

Founded in 2013 by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat at the age of 18 with the simple mission of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic.

A non-profit organisation, when Slat was 16 and scuba diving in Greece he saw more plastic bags than fish and thought: “Why can’t we just clean this up?” This question led him to research the plastic pollution problem for a school project. In 2012 he held a Tedx talk and when the video went viral, it prompted him to drop out of school and found the company.

To date, they’ve won numerous awards and partnered with universities all over the world.

From cleaning oceans they moved to rivers and most inspiringly, in 2020 they launched their first product, a pair of very cool sunglasses, with all the waste they collected. 

By turning the catch into useful, durable goods, we can turn the problem into a solution. And, by getting a product made out of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, supporters can help fund the cleanup of more ocean plastic – turning the pollution of yesterday into the cleanup of tomorrow.

2. Patagonia

Under their umbrella, they work with most famously outdoor apparel and gear but also food, investments, multimedia and more. 

What’s most inspiring is their pledge and commitment to activism. Have a read:

This work is urgent and lifelong. We will never be “done.” We’re recommitting our time and resources to this essential part of our mission. We welcome having our eyes opened to what we ignored. We’re building a foundation for our work by listening more deeply to our colleagues of colour to learn from their experiences and insights. We’ve begun company-wide learning sessions to create a shared understanding of what it means to be an antiracist company. And we’re updating policies to make equity more explicit.

Since 1985 they’ve donated 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. The company has awarded over $140 million in cash and in-kind donations to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups making a difference in their local communities. 

3. Gravity Payments

“Take care of your team, and they’ll take care of your clients.”

A credit card processing and financial services company. It was founded in 2004 by Lucas and Dan Price. Known in the media for its unique and inspiring culture, the company received media attention in 2015 when CEO Dan Price announced that his employees would receive a minimum salary of $70,000. They later raised this amount by another $10,000 in 2019.

The increase led to more employees buying homes, having babies and paying off debt. Employees stayed with the company longer and were more engaged, helping Gravity’s revenue to triple.

Their culture has earned them the 2014 & 2015 Best Workplaces Award and the 2013 Hire Power Award by Inc. Magazine

If you’re curious, here’s what they say:

Gravity Payments recognizes the value in establishing an entrepreneurial, goal-oriented, rewarding, honest, and innovative culture, which is what makes our company such a remarkable place to work.

We believe in a holistic and balanced lifestyle, supporting our team members with:

  • Open paid time off
  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Flannel Fridays
  • Company-sponsored outings
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Catered breakfasts and lunches

4. Picha Eats

In 2013, everything started with one meal and a question. After many years of teaching refugee students and watching them drop out they asked:

“How can we help parents from the refugee community to be financially stable, so that their children can receive an education?”

Now an accredited social enterprise, they have 20 kitchens and 26 chefs with 60% of their chefs now able to monthly rent fully from income made with PichaEats and a total of RM 650,000 given back to their chefs. 

Beyond just making a living, they provide their chefs with intangible lessons and renewed confidence.

I have learnt a lot here -food business management,various authentic cuisines and how to set up our own cooking related Instagram profile for us to become an entrepreneur. Thank you for all of your effort. We all are delighted that we found you and we truly appreciate it.

– Chef Bareera

I learnt a lot, and I am proud of the achievements I have achieved in the last 5 years.

– Chef Aeada

Picha doesn’t just empower my life. You built my confidence too

– Chef Reem

I thought I can’t make it alone here in Malaysia but I did it. I didn’t know I can be strong

– Chef Nisreen

5. MarinaTex

MarinaTex was created as a final year project by Lucy Hughes at The University of Sussex. Studying Product Design, Lucy developed an interest in utilising waste products and looking to nature for inspiration.  

After a tour of a fish processing plant and wholesaler, they identified various waste streams to work with. After researching the different waste streams it became apparent that the fish skins and scales had the most potential locked up in them due to their flexibility and strength enabling proteins.

Today their product is a biodegradable plastic alternative that’s compostable, stronger than LDPE (commonly used in plastic) and of course, award-winning. 

Here are the values that guide them:

  • Form, Function & Footprint Design: Placing the product’s environmental impact at equal importance to its form and function.
  • Product Life Cycles: Designing beyond the consumer with disposal in mind.
  • Circular Economy: Currently, the model is linear: they take from the earth, make with it, and then dispose of it.
  • Value in Waste: Seeing value and utilising the waste product is a good way they can maximise the resources they are using.

6. Sunway xFarms

An answer to the growing food problems (pun intended in all the ways), utilising hydroponic farming and maximisation of underutilised urban spaces, the farm can grow more than 10 times the yield per sqft using up to 90% less water. 

They offer not only freshly harvested vegetables but the option for patrons to become growers, or they’d say growers, themselves. Hosting composting workshops, on how you can grow your own food at home, Sunway is transforming how we view our food and providing people with ownership over their produce. 

Here’s what their patrons have said:

“The one thing I enjoyed most is the DIY Kits. Putting knowledge to practice via DIY is really a good feeling. I have also started to re-grow from leftover kitchen vegetables by propagating them in water. Green fingers I am not, but I’m hopeful. I think more awareness is necessary as Malaysians are still far behind in terms of veganism and plant-based lifestyle.”

– Ezreen Malek

“The fact that we are able to turn waste into something more useful shows a great potential in the future advancement in zero waste. Now I am more aware when I’m ordering food, remember not to request plastic cutleries and am reorganizing spaces to fit in a compost bag in my apartment. ”

– Kelvin Chen

7. Thaely

A founder at only 23, Thaely was initially developed as a design exercise by our founder Ashay Bhave to develop an ethically produced sneaker that only uses components recycled from waste materials. Through two years of development, they created and perfected a waste plastic bag material used in their shoes today. You’d never guess their stylish shoes were made from recycled plastic bottles, rubber, plastic bags and of course 100% vegan glue.

Even their packaging is recycled paper which is embedded with basil seeds and dyed with waste coffee grounds. In 10 days you’ll have a fully sustainable source for pesto.

To date, they have recycled and upcycled more than 48,00 plastic bottles and over 40,000 plastic bags in their products.

8. Liter of Light

Liter of Light is a global, grassroots movement committed to providing affordable, sustainable solar light to people with limited or no access to electricity. The technique was developed by Alfredo Moser of Brazil and was first launched in the Philippines by Illac Diaz under the My Shelter Foundation in April 2011.

Liter of Light was then started up in the Dominican Republic by the German volunteer Nicolai Rapp in 2015 who then distributed the project with other German and local volunteers in over 7 provinces. They achieved the installation of the bottle and solar nightlights in more than 1000 houses with global fundraising

Their volunteers teach marginalised communities how to use recycled plastic bottles and locally sourced materials to illuminate their homes, businesses, and streets. Its open-source technology has been recognized by the UN and adopted for use in some UNHCR camps.

Having installed more than 350,000 bottle lights in more than 15 countries and taught green skills to empower grassroots entrepreneurs at every stop, they have no plans of slowing down.

9. Groundnut Shell Planters

Every year the students of the Zilla Parishad High School in Chintalkunta, Gadwal district, Telangana, participate in an annual sapling planting drive. In March 2020, Srija A, a class 9 student of the school was digging the soil to plant a sapling but to her shock and dismay, she found a plastic bag after having dug a few feet underground.

“I immediately realised this was from one of the earlier sapling drives. I did not want this to continue every year so I started to think of a sustainable solution to raise seedlings.”

She then went on to develop a biodegradable planter made from groundnut shell pulp with the help of her teacher. In their initial test, the planter disintegrated in less than 20 days. 

Srija was awarded a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Innovation award, under the innovation by school students category, in September 2020 and was later validated by the T-Works, Telangana, who offered a prototype design for machinery that can help Srija increase production capacity.

It’s up to you now

So if you’re thinking of starting or pivoting to become an impactful business and help change the world, here’s where you can start:

  1. Do your research. Understand what it means to be an impactful business and what specific steps you need to take to become one or apply them to your company. 
  2. Start small and grow incrementally. Don’t try to do too much at once; rather, focus on making a small difference in your community and expanding from there.
  3. Get others involved. It takes a village to make an impactful business, so reach out to other businesses, individuals, and organisations for support. Find ways to connect with other impactful businesses and collaborate on projects or initiatives or get their advice.
  4. Be authentic and honest about your intentions. People will respect you more if you’re upfront about your goals and how you plan on achieving them.
  5. Stay the course! Making a positive impact is not always easy, but it’s worth it in the end. Persevere through the challenges and celebrate your successes along the way

We can’t wait to watch you change the world!

Do you have a favourite impact business that should be featured? Or do you run one yourself? Let us know in the comments.

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Maarten van Rijn

Maarten van Rijn

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