The easiest option in business is to take the path of least resistance, which in our current culture is to maximize profits and remain blinkered to the consequences of our actions.
It therefore takes determination and self-awareness to be able to create an enterprise that integrates doing good with doing well, or – on a deeper level – merging heart and mind.
What we now see is that our past dualistic thinking has not served us well. Charity workers have tended to accuse business executives of being greedy and uncaring, while in turn, companies dismiss NGOs as do-gooders who are not prepared to face up to the real world.
However, the sustainability challenges of our age demand we find new solutions, and this can come only from moving beyond judgments and name calling. Social entrepreneurs are showing us that a different future is possible.
Each year Forbes ranks the 30 Under 30, an annual encyclopedia of the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada. Following are some of those:
Cooper and Schulze were selected from thousands of nominations. Graduates of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in 2014, the two took a surfing trip to Bali, Indonesia which would ultimately change their lives and the fate of the ocean. Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about this growing problem. Fishermen from a local fishing village were pushing boats through piles of plastics. The two surfers recognized that the proliferation of plastic threatened both the ocean environment and the fishermen’s livelihood. Cooper and Schulze realized that they could hire fishermen to pull plastic from the ocean and thus began 4ocean.
Founded in January 2017, 4ocean funds its efforts from the sale of 4ocean bracelets made from recycled materials. Every bracelet purchased removes one pound of trash from oceans and coastlines. In less than two years, 4ocean has removed 2.2 million pounds of plastic and trash from the waterways. Additional 4ocean products include reusable bottle and cleanup combos.
Next on the list comes Sheena Allen. Sheena Allen is no stranger to the world of technology. In 2011, the Mississippi native started her first tech company in her senior year of college called Sheena Allen Apps. With no coding experience, the company went on to receive over 3 million downloads and a number of awards and media mentions.
Now Sheena is working on her next company, CapWay, which provides financial access and opportunity to unbanked, under banked, and the working, poor millennial demographic. A mobile-first platform, CapWay, provides debit cards to an audience not familiar with or untrusting of the traditional banking system. The debit cards are combined with financial education, recommendations and opportunities to help guide users on a path to financial health.
Jeanny Yao and co-founder Miranda Wang learned that about 92% of plastic waste is too contaminated to recycle, and instead ends up in landfills or polluting oceans. To combat this problem, BioCellection uses a unique recycling technology to turn plastic waste into valuable chemicals that can then be used to create new textiles and materials. The chemical process that Wang and Yao developed breaks down 300 grams of plastic each day–and it works on plastics that would be considered too contaminated for traditional recycling. The duo is perfecting the technique for the most common plastics, and has plans to expand to other types of plastics as well.
Today, less than 10% of packaging plastics are recycled. The rest goes to a landfill or becomes pollution. But longtime friends Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao are poised to radically change that statistic. The duo invented a proprietary chemical recycling technology that breaks down previously unrecyclable plastic into valuable base chemicals. Their startup BioCellection turns each ton of plastic trash into more than $2,500 worth of chemicals and prevents 20 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
These and aspiring-to-be 30-under-30 entrepreneurs are trying to change the world one social cause at a time. Like Richard Black, 17-year-old founder of Halfcode, is trying to change the world through AI. Using artificial intelligence to solve life’s social causes, he and his team are striving to bring about change.