Entrepreneurs who believe business success and social impact are mutually exclusive have a lot to learn about business success, according to a recent article on Forbes.com by Sean Grundy, CEO of Bevi, a social enterprise focused on eliminating single-use plastic bottles.
While no one denies that “having to succeed on two fronts makes the job of a social entrepreneur even harder” than that of a regular entrepreneur, Grundy said a thriving mission-driven business has the potential to help change the entire world for the better.
“When business interests and social or environmental interests clash, business interests usually win,” Grundy writes. “Yet when businesses truly support a cause, they can drive large-scale change quickly. And there’s no time to better embed a mission into a company than at the very start, making the mission an inseparable part of that company’s business model rather than an afterthought.”
In fact, Grundy believes social enterprises have some important advantages over traditional for-profit companies, including:
- A better crop of job candidates. “When you can offer employees the professional development of a high-growth business with the impact of a nonprofit, you’ll be amazed by the quality of candidates who apply to your startup,” Grundy says.
- Brand authenticity. While many profit-driven companies hire consultants to help them invent a “mission” other than making as much money as possible, social entrepreneurs know and believe in their mission from the start. And that sort of genuineness is favored by many consumers in today’s market. “Industry incumbents may copy your product or your sales process, but they’ll never be able to capture the authenticity of your brand in customers’ eyes,” Grundy notes.
- Thinking bigger. Building a better world isn’t a small-scale operation. “You need to go after multibillion-dollar markets and reshape the way you do business,” Grundy writes. “In short, to really achieve your vision, you need to become a unicorn.”
- A stronger work ethic. “When you know your product will improve the world, you feel a moral obligation to succeed, even when the odds are stacked against you,” Grundy points out. “When you’re a mission-driven company in a sea of profit-driven competitors, you have to just keep swimming. Great investors recognize that mission-driven entrepreneurs are less likely to give up, and some even build this into their investment theses.”
- Far-ranging impact. Your social venture’s success will inspire other mission-driven entrepreneurs and “show them a path to success,” Grundy concludes. “If you fail, you may still lay the groundwork for a competitor to achieve your vision (which would be disappointing, but better than nothing). If you succeed, you’ll give investors more confidence that startups can, in fact, do well and do good at the same time.”
Forbes describes Grundy’s company, Bevi, as “one of the fastest-growing beverage companies in the world.” Conceived by Eliza Becton after she learned about the Pacific Garbage Patch, Bevi offers smart, eco-friendly water coolers for offices. Bevi machines allow users to mix up purified still and sparkling beverages—including both plain and flavored varieties—to create their own signature drinks with the push of a button on a touchscreen. “Our main motivation was cutting out the waste associated with plastic bottles, both from the actual manufacturing of bottles and the fact that most of them end up in landfills as well as just the trucking of full beverage bottles,” Grundy told Boston Magazine in 2015.
Bevi’s website claims the company’s beverage dispensers have “saved the waste generated by over 65 million plastic bottles.”