Why founders are not just building businesses, but building our collective future

It all started with a piece of cheese produced by a local shepherd. Laboratory analyses confirmed that the levels of dioxin in the cheese were so high that, if it had been grated onto the ground, the area would have been needed to be cleared.

A few years and thousands of deaths later, the court handed its first sentences to the former owners of Ilva, a steelmaker located in Taranto, who year after year had destroyed ecosystems, wasting human lives.

This story from southern Italy is just one of the many examples of how so-called ‘business as usual’ is destroying our planet. This status quo has triggered a call from citizens for a more sustainable and inclusive form of business and society.

In recent years, companies have started to pay more attention to requests from their stakeholders and in this regard, platforms for collaboration like the one provided by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals was set to be a useful tool to speed up the process. In fact, we are still well behind the milestones fixed by the United Nations.

The Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals are a product of the United Nations who introduced them in 2015 as a global collaborative tool to foster cooperation across the world and accommodate these requests from societal stakeholders.

Spanning from ending poverty anywhere, to ensuring quality education across the world, the ‘SDG’s were designed to provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for the people and the planet both at present times and in the future. In other words, they represent a true call for action for policymakers, businesses, and society at large.

A transformational opportunity for entrepreneurs

This is the reason why the Sustainable Development Goals represent a transformational opportunity for entrepreneurs as well. By building a business, entrepreneurs are building our collective future society, so it should be a no-brainer to look into them.

Indeed, consumers are nowadays increasingly sensitive to businesses that show awareness of key topics like climate change and social justice. In particular, young generations care about businesses that show at least a willingness to take care.

Let’s take, for example, Generation Z. According to recent research by McKinsey & Company: “Nine in ten Generation Z consumers believe that companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues. Younger people think that environmentally and socially focused companies are better prospective employers and the vast majority say they would be more loyal to companies aligned with those values.”

It is all about purpose

This helps to explain why entrepreneurs should encapsulate purpose in both their long-term strategies and their daily operations. But how?

Assuming businesses are not perfect machines and that we are not taking a solutionism approach, here is a tentative to-do list for an entrepreneur eager to make an impact:

  1. Firstly, work with a superior business model in mind, that is, one where your customer is not passive but part of a group gathering around something they care about. This will help you and your business to get advocates, expand the customer lifetime value of your customers, and cut the costs for acquiring new ones.
  2. Secondly, actively engage with your community members. As an entrepreneur, taking part in a constant dialogue with a community would help you contribute to the formation of a brand-new world from the ground up. Dialogue improves transparency, trust, and reciprocity.
  3. This will help you to embed within your community, that is, the people you are serving through your business. This is of utmost importance as on the internet has empowered people to validate and take a real part in the value creation process that a new venture represents. It is only by embedding in the specific context that you can make the most of the needs expressed by your community. Within this context, regularly prototype and test.
  4. Fourthly, make the most of the guide provided by the Sustainable Development Goals as the horizon of your action to deliver with a profit with purpose logic in mind. There are plenty of best practices around to take inspiration. Just surf across crowdfunding platforms like Wefunder, La Bolsa Social, Lita, Seedtribe, Crowdfunder, and so on to form an idea and deliver on that.
  5. Last but not least, try to keep in mind that a customer approaching a startup is most of the time looking for a special relationship. In the end, it is a bet, so bet(ter) together.

Easy? Not at all. But I guess it will be worth it.