How tackling the big challenges facing the world can create value for brands

Create business value and solving social & environmental issues at the same time

Professor Kon in Vietnam is professor of a local university in Hanoi. He is also an inventor of a pioneering low-cost technology that helps filter arsenic from freshwater. Paul Polman, is the global CEO of Unilever one the largest corporations in the world (turnover of > US$67b). As a visionary of sustainable business, he is an influential leader shaping the future of business. Both Prof. Kon and Polman are inspiring individuals, but bring them together and an entirely new picture emerges. They have joined hands to tackle a big challenge — water scarcity in Vietnam.

What makes this interesting?

Even until a few years ago it would have been impossible to think that local heroes like Prof and business leaders like Polman could come together to tackle pressing challenges facing the world today. But that is exactly what seems to be happening. Across many parts of the world. And multiple industries.

Our project in Vietnam with Unilever, Comfort

01. Drive sales & improve quality education in developing countries

Intel funded Girl Rising, a groundbreaking film, which tells the story of nine determined girls from nine countries and how the power of education can transform lives. The film is the centre of a movement called 10×10 to inspire global audiences to take action for girls. For decades, Intel has worked to improve education for the millions of girls and with film it has set its aims on tackling the challenge at a global level.

One might wonder, why does a technology company like Intel want to get involved in tackling global girl education? The answer is that quality education enables girls across the developing world to have access to technology. In short, it makes Intel relevant to local communities and thereby future customers across the world.

Girl Rising Trailer — Intel

02. Create PR value & raise people awareness around ocean conservation

Quentin Clark, the chief buyer at Waitrose, the UK grocery chain, believes that driving debate is crucial. Waitrose got involved in the marketing and outreach for the film The End of The Line, an independent documentary film about the impact of overfishing in the world’s oceans. Waitrose wanted consumers to ask whether their fish is coming from sustainable sources. They believe in selling fish but not at any cost.

A cynic might think, why does one of UK’s leading sellers of fish choose to get behind a movement to drive sustainable consumption of fish across the UK? The answer again lies in the business impact the partnership created. Fish sales at Waitrose grew 15% in the four weeks following the film’s launch and frozen fish sales went up 21%. Only 2% of the adult public in the UK watched The End of the Line but 9%, or 4.7million people heard about it. The film also created a huge amount of press interest in the issue of over-fishing, with a PR value of over £4 million. Many household names from Prêt a Manger restaurants to Whiskas cat food switched to sustainable sources of fish, attributing the film directly for this change in policy.

Through the film, Waitrose engaged with commentators, environmental organisations, politicians, ordinary people with no interest in sustainable fish and a good chunk of the food industry. Waitrose influenced popular thinking, a holy grail for brand engagement.

The End Of the Thin Line, Waitrose — Trailer

03. Empower communities & create long-term economic value

Back here in Asia, HUB Singapore is part of a global network of community workspaces for individuals and social enterprises who work on sustainable business ideas which directly benefit society. Grace Sai, the co-founder of the HUB has a vision that every business will be a socially inclined business which creates real value for society. That’s something core to Singapore-headquartered DBS Bank which has its roots as a development bank of Singapore. It wants to be at the forefront of the new wave of economic development in Asia and has adopted social entrepreneurship as its CSR.

The bank engages with the HUB and the HUB community frequently through sponsoring DBS HUB Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, an intensive weekend workshop that guides participants to build or grow their social impact ventures. Piyush Gupta, the bank’s CEO believes in creating long-term economic value, positively benefiting the communities the bank is present in, and delivering social value. And that’s exactly what its social entrepreneurship initiatives across Asia are creating — enabling DBS live up to one of its core values of living up to a higher purpose.

Inspiring talk at the HUB Singapore

Tackling big social or environmental issues is no longer seen as the realm of just NGOs or governments. Businesses and brands are actively getting involved and opening up to their huge consumer bases and local communities to also join the movements. As Polman had envisioned this is only actually fuelling business growth. And Prof. Kon is discovering that this is benefiting his country and its people.

Article written by Ashwin Subramaniam — Co-Founder @Gone Adventurin’

Ashwin Subramaniam

Firmly believe that companies can unlock great business opportunities in tackling social and environmental challenges in their communities. Check out our story at www.goneadventurin.com or if you'd like to get in touch for a coffee or chat, email me at ashwin@goneadventurin.com. We'd love to hear your story.

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