Shopify is a platform that social entrepreneurs can use to create businesses that not only meet market needs, but also drive movements for the causes that they believe in.
Socially responsible business founders and social entrepreneurs are creating systems that promote change and a better future beyond the products and services they sell. They are guided by moral imperatives, which allow them to make business decisions and keep the community, economy, environment, and environment in their minds.
Nine of these founders were interviewed by us to find out more about their efforts to create jobs for previously incarcerated people, trade directly with farmers, and produce products with low carbon footprints.
What does it take for a company be socially responsible?
Traditional companies may view corporate social responsibility as an extra project beyond their primary goal, but socially responsible business maintain long-lasting relationships with non-profit partners. Social enterprises are creating ventures that are cause driven and powered by social goals.
These entrepreneurs are demonstrating that businesses of all sizes can make a positive difference through this new wave in commerce change.
- Sweet Beginnings. A company that creates natural honey products using previously incarcerated people.
- ChocoSol traders. ChocoSol is a bean-to-bar chocolatier that works directly with Indigenous farmers of Latin America.
- TAMGA Design. Transparency is a sustainable fashion line that is carbon-neutral and sustainably produced.
- Satya. A natural remedy for eczema. We are committed to sustainability and local economies.
- Backcountry wok. Producer of healthy camping meals in compostable packaging.
- Free Package. We are the curator of sustainable alternatives for household and single-use products.
- Alaffia. Creator of hair and skin care products. Empowering women in Togo.
- Bold. A coffee and tea brand that supports youth programs.
- TPMOCS. A producer of a line baby moccasins by Indigenous artisans. This promotes employment and education.
Beelove is an all-natural honey line and honey-infused bodycare products that are made by Sweet Beginnings a social enterprise located in Chicago. Sweet Beginnings is an urban apiary that extracts honey from North Lawndale. It employs people who have been released from prison to give them a new chance at civilian life.
Brenda Palms Barber founded the organization to address North Lawndale’s 40% unemployment rate. The organization offered training for small motor repairs and landscaping, but it found its niche in beekeeping.
People fear bees and being stung. This perception is also held by people who have been incarcerated.
Daphne Williams is the Chief Growth Officer of the company. “There’s an interesting parallel in bees with people returning to society after being incarcerated,” she says. People fear bees and being stung. People have a negative perception of people who have been in prison. It was possible to remove the stigma from both by having a business that married bees as well as formerly incarcerated persons.
Sweet Beginnings works closely with North Lawndale Employment Network to provide cognitive behavior therapy and training to re-enter the job market. Daphne explains that hiring people who have been in prison before is “all about giving them confidence that they can go out and look for a job on themselves” after their Sweet Beginnings term ends.
Sweet Beginnings began selling Beelove products within the same community that it was caring for. Local farmers markets and events were a great way to show Beelove products and to reconnect employees with the public. Beelove products were also embraced by local co-ops and retailers due to community demand. Daphne says, “It’s about the alignment and recognition of the work we’re doing within the community that has allowed us to be in these retail areas.” Daphne and her team will continue to work together as they seek out bigger business opportunities and scale up production.
ChocoSol’s coffee and chocolate are rich and deep, reflecting the social impact this education-oriented social enterprise has. Michael Sacco was not born to be a coffee roaster and bean-to-bar chocolatier.
Michael says, “I was working with Indigenous communities in Oaxaca (Mexico) on solar technology to roast coffee and cacao.” “But everyone was more interested in the chocolate and the coffee than the renewable technology technology,” Michael says. The transition from technology to food allowed Michael the opportunity to use chocolate, coffee, and education as a means of ecological regeneration, education and economic impact.
ChocoSol works closely with Chiapas and Oaxaca farmers to improve the diversity of their forest gardens. They focus on polyculture farming which combines different crops, rather than traditional commercial farms that only grow one.
While I was working with Indigenous communities in Oaxaca Mexico on solar technology to roast coffee and cacao, everyone was more interested in the chocolate and coffee.
They are part of a communal land rotation that gives way to three sisters (winter squash and maize and beans), forest gardens and semi-wild forested forests. Michael says that this cycle lasts over 100 years. Michael’s business philosophy is to think long-term and keep future generations in mind. To ensure that packaging materials are biodegradable, and sourced sustainably, the learning community is a place for sharing knowledge and passing on chocolate making techniques.
Michael also believes that working directly with farmers is a way to bring economic opportunities to the Indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Chiapas. Michael says that fair trade and organic certification can be a barrier to entry if you are dealing with multiple producers, not just one. Even though their products are organically grown, these smaller farmers don’t have the financial and language resources to become certified. ChocoSol always paid more than the Fair Trade requirements in order to guarantee that its farmers and their families are compensated fairly.
Michael and his team will continue to work on local projects to rehabilitate farm lands in Canada. The food waste from cacao roasting (including the burlap bags in which the cacao is shipped) can be used to make biochar, which can then be used as all-natural fertilizer. Michael says that Michael will be working with a Hamilton farmer to carry out a series eco-regenerative plantings of polycultures. “We will have a tree on the northern side of the mountain and an annual crop on the top. A perennial crop of strawberries, mint, fiddleheads or sweetgrass will be planted on south side of mountain.”
TAMGA Designs makes sustainable clothing from trees. Eric Dales and Yana Dales, business partners, are creating sustainable fashion pieces and a lifestyle movement. They are sharing their lessons to encourage change in the industry.
Yana and Eric worked in Bangladesh as humanitarian aid workers, where they were immersed in communities that had been greatly affected by fast fashion. “We were witnessing many social and environment problems. Eric says that TAMGA was needed to show that it can be improved.
The Dales started out with a goal to create a socially responsible supply chain. This goes beyond traditional corporate social responsibilities. Yana and Eric spent much time looking for fabrics that have low environmental impacts. TAMGA’s pieces use Lenzing Modal, which is made from European forest beech wood that has been sustainably managed, or Tencel from eucalyptus timber, which is a renewable resource that does not infringe land for food crops. The award-winning closed loop process in which 99.8% of the solvents and water used to make Tencel fabrics is recycled, results in fiber made from these Tencel fabrics. Every part of their supply chain from fabric mills, cotton farms, sewing machines, and packaging makers are listed on their website. This is not only transparent but also allows them to share their knowledge with other industry professionals.
TAMGA Design also shares their process to become a carbon-neutral business. It tracks its carbon footprint and purchases offsets from Gold Standard. Eric states that these projects will not only bring back the carbon absorption capacity of the environment but also create jobs and benefit communities where they are implemented.
The Dales will remain true to the main reason they started TAMGA Designs: knowledge sharing is at their heart. This helps other brands adopt more responsible business practices. Eric stresses that businesses need to realize that investing in sustainability is a smart investment for their entire business.
Satya produces natural skincare products that are both plant-based and fragrance-free. Satya’s products are made with only five organic ingredients. They provide relief for dry skin and soothe it.
Patrice Mousseau founded Satya shortly after her daughter Esme was born. She had severe eczema and was prescribed steroid creams. Patrice used her journalistic skills to research natural alternatives after being given steroid creams. Patrice says that she made her first batch in her Crock-Pot and it helped Esme with her eczema.
She had much of the recipe left over so she gave some to her Facebook friends. Friends and family members asked Patrice for more. She says, “I had to make three additional batches in the Crock-Pot immediately because I couldn’t keep up with people who asked for it.”
Patrice didn’t think she would launch a business. She was curious if she would find a place in the normal business world. She was able to sell Satya’s balms as a side hustle because of the increased demand from her friends. Her sales at farmers markets and other events eventually led to major retailers‘ attention. Patrice says, “We ended up selling in around 70 stores in Vancouver’s lower mainland, just by word of mouth and then Whole Foods asked to carry our product.” Satya was a huge fan of Patrice’s homemade recipes and she became a major part of the Satya-Patrice relationship.
Shipping played an important role in increasing the brand’s retail presence and bringing in more sales via Satya’s online store. Patrice says that instead of sending the products to fulfillment houses, they hired moms who stay at home in different areas. We ship them the products and then they ship to their regions. This reduces shipping costs, allows us to employ them, and makes it easier to get the products to our customers faster.
Satya was Patrice’s method of solving a problem in a proactive manner. Patrice applied the same creativity to every subsequent decision. Patrice was able to find an offset partner for Satya’s stick that required plastic packaging. Patrice explains that they are paying someone to travel to a developing country and collect plastic, and then return the plastic to their local Plastic Bank depot. “They exchange it to get credits that can be used for medical care or educational items.” Satya’s environmental impact is offset by Patrice working with the Great Bear Rainforest.
We hired moms who stay at home in different areas to fulfill orders instead of sending them to fulfillment houses. We send them the products and then they ship to their respective regions. This reduces shipping costs, allows us to employ them, and makes it easier for customers to get the products quicker.
Patrice continues to work on projects that support Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities. She is well-acquainted with the importance of support and representation in communities in order to grow their economies and is looking for ways to expand her influence in areas such as Sioux Lookout in northern Ontario.
Backcountry wok creates nutritious and flavorful dehydrated meals that are packed with 100% compostable materials . This product was created out of a personal need by founder Melanie Ang. Meanie says that her background was in marine biology and she did a lot in the backcountry. “I ate a lot dehydrated camping meals. They were very packaged and created a lot waste.”
Melanie realized how counter-intuitive it was for meals to have a negative environmental impact and still complete conservation work. Melanie also missed the nutrition and flavor of the meals she used at home so she started to experiment in her kitchen to make the camping meals she desired.
Melanie felt uneasy about her lack business experience when she started her business by dehydrating and cooking for her friends. She says that although this was once a source of insecurity for her, it is now an asset. Melanie used her knowledge in conversation and sustainability to establish the guiding principles of Backcountry Wok. She based her business decisions and practices on “a core sustainability component” rather than preconceived notions about what a business should look like.
Backcountry Wok was founded in 2017 and has grown from Melanie’s kitchen. Backcountry Wok has grown significantly since its inception. It went from being an incubator to a shared kitchen, and then to a larger facility to meet demand. This is because there were fewer travel options, which led to more people camping, and brick-and mortar stores had to be closed.
“Our online sales increased by 1,300% this summer,” Melanie, Backcountry Wok’s founder, is working with local businesses to offer workshops on sustainable camping practices and other outdoor activities.
6. Package Free
Lauren Singer was a prominent environmental activist whose TedxTeen 2015 talk became a viral sensation. Lauren Singer shared the story of how all the trash she had produced over the past three years was able to fit in a 16-ounce Mason-jar. This is what she documented on her website Trash is for Tossers. Lauren began to think about how she could address environmental problems on a macro-level by starting businesses.
Lauren says, “I am a problem solver and I believe the function of business should be to solve problems.” Lauren focuses on laundry detergent and wonders why it is filled with chemicals that can harm our waterways and packaged in plastic.
Lauren developed The Simply Co. organic laundry detergent. She experimented with natural ingredients such as baking soda, washing soap, and Castile soap. She says, “It was my way to bring to market a product that I knew was safe & effective to try to make it more accessible to everyone.”
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