A new business entity is starting to emerge throughout the world. A benefit corporation is a for-profit business that focuses on some sort of benefit to society, as compared to a regular corporation that works to maximize profits. The increase in benefit corporations can partly be attributed to the coming of age of the millennial generation. As I discussed in my last post, millennials are seeking jobs that have a real impact on the world; jobs which may help those in need or save the environment. This led to an intriguing question. What millennial run companies are that make money while improving the world? Below is a short list of companies that came to mind. Some may be benefit corporations and some may not, but it is clear they are all changing the world in one way or another.
After reading Blake Mycoskie's (CEO of TOMS) book, Start Something That Matters, I could not be more impressed with this remarkable company. Blake started TOMS in 2006 after a trip to Argentina where he was introduced to the alpargatas shoe. This traditional Argentinian shoe is worn throughout the country and Blake wanted to bring them to the U.S. At the same time, he noticed many Argentinian children lacked shoes — which prevented them from going to school and increased the chances of infections. These two ideas combined to form the One for One business model. A true entrepreneurial pioneer, Blake decided that for every pair of TOMS sold one pair would be donated to children in need. Today TOMS has donated over 2 million pairs of shoes and are sold in over 500 retailers worldwide. TOMS has expanded their business model to eyewear and apparel.
Lauren Bush worked as an honorary spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Program. During her travels, she encountered the horrible consequences of malnutrition and hunger in the world. At the same time, Lauren noticed the reusable shopping bag movement. Together, these two ideas formed FEED Projects where every bag sold guarantees free school lunch for a year to a child in a developing country. Because the children receive the meal at school, FEED Projects also helps these kids receive an education. FEED Projects has been a huge success; partnering with companies like Amazon.com, American Eagle, and Whole Foods. To date, FEED Projects has donated over $6 million and 60 million meals.
Ben Rattay founded Change.org and its mission is to "empower anyone, anywhere to start, join, and win campaigns for social change." A certified benefit corporation, Change.org is the world's largest petition platform and makes money from "sponsored" petitions from organizations like Amnesty International. Today, Change.org has over 35 million users in 196 different countries. In 2011, a Change.org petition with 300,000 signatures forced Bank of America to drop its $5/month banking fee. A 2012 petition with over 2.2 million signatures helped spur public overage over the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Websites like Change.org have empowered people worldwide and will continue to grow their influence (honorable mention to Causes.com, a similar website created by Sean Parker, founder of Napster and the first President of Facebook).
With revenues of $5.1 billion in 2012, Facebook joined the Fortune 500 list for the first time. When Facebook went public in 2012 the company was valued at $104 billion dollars. It's easy to see how Facebook makes money, but Mark Zuckerberg has also revolutionized the world. Today, Facebook is available in over 70 languages and has over 1.1 billion users. This social network has transformed the way people communicate and share information. Protest movements throughout the world have been emboldened by Facebook and other social networks. As David Wolman wrote in Wired magazine, "the Arab Spring has shown the world what is possible when you combine social unrest with brave citizenry and powerful digital tools."
What other should be on this list? And why? Share your comments/ thoughts below.