Companies can no longer ignore their global impact if they want any sort of competitive edge. Redefining what success in business looks like, enterprises big and small are proving their worth by voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability and performance—distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.
Take for example Apolis, the LA-based socially-motivated lifestyle brand that has revitalized communities around the world through ethical sourcing—bridging commerce and economic development. Founded in 2004, brothers Raan and Shea Parton took the idea that business can create social change and began partnerships with manufacturers in Uganda, Peru, Bangladesh and even at home in Los Angeles. Part and parcel with their commitment to global advocacy, the team understands the impact of sourcing and manufacturing locally—empowering individuals and communities to have agency in their future. Taking the blinders off, they saw connections, for example: a need for ethically-sourced, organic cotton in the West and an abundance of decommissioned cotton farms in Uganda with skilled farmers hard-pressed to make ends meet. Revitalizing livelihoods by giving access to global markets has proven not only fulfilling, but viable and even fruitful. Apolis has recently earned accreditation as a ‘B Corporation’ (or simply, a B Corp). “B Corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic certification is to milk. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.” Essentially, it is the stamp of ultimate approval for the modern enterprise. You can shop online, in store, or perhaps, if you’re lucky, you’ll find their ‘Nomad Market,’ a traveling seasonal installation featuring Apolis’ product collection, stories and films, in your hometown.
806 East 3rd Street, Los Angeles
Another smart spin on business is Danish cyclist platform, Baisikeli (Swahili for “bicycle”) that claims to be building ‘bikes for a better world.’ “Baisikeli is a bicycle salvage workshop, an ethical bike rental company and a remarkable international development initiative based on resource sharing, skills transfer and micro-loans.” Capitalizing on the fact that 400 000 bicycles are discarded in Denmark every year, the team decided to turn waste into wealth: salvaging, fixing, re-selling and renting out the bikes locally before shipping them to Africa where they generate work, education and facilitate more than just better transportation. “Beyond low-cost mobility, Baisikeli’s most important long-term benefit is the transfer of knowledge and skills in fields like repair, logistics and administration. This occurs continuously, as all Danish employees spend some months every year working from Africa whilst exchanging skills with their African colleagues. We are aiming for nothing less than creating a networked bicycle industry in Africa.” Individuals (as well as hospitals and groups) in Africa can purchase a bike through simple microloans that can be paid back slowly over several months, or create a business of importing, locally appropriating and re-selling/repairing bicycles in the community.
Turesensgade 10, 1368 Copenhagen
Personal fulfilment aside, taking on a ‘global impact’ perspective, that is to say, keeping track of good business as much as caring about the good society, has fueled the creative fire for businesses—flipping problems on their head and turning poison into the antidote.