Case Studies of Good Businesses
Business case studies serve as examples of successfully implemented sustainable business models, which not only benefit the planet and the people but also lead to an increase in profit. To inspire and highlight how purpose-driven brands acquire a competitive advantage, we brought a couple of instances, broken down by category, based on The Guardian’s Sustainable Business Case Studies. They illustrate our core belief, how economic growth, social prosperity, and sustainability go hand in hand.
SolarAid created demand in the African market, leading to a 720% increase in solar light sales in Tanzania in 2012. How? The international charity’s goal is to provide a brighter future for African villages, combating poverty and climate change at the same time, this way linking social impact with environmental impact.
To build the solar light market in rural Africa, SolarAid set up SunnyMoney, a social enterprise to develop a unique distribution model. They worked with headteachers, appointing them to promote the benefits of solar lights and the dangers of toxic kerosene, reaching the heart of communities in areas with weak transport and communication infrastructures.
Buying solar lights reduced the carbon footprint of people, saving each family money and allowing children to study an extra hour each day with the new lights. SolarAid can serve as a role model for future leaders, creating demand in a difficult environment, while also enabling people to live more sustainably. They achieved this through putting environmental and social objectives ahead of financial imperatives.
A company that successfully integrated sustainability in its business, cut its impact on the environment, stepped up its contribution to the community and encouraged healthy lifestyles among its staff is UK-based Commercial Group.
Their Green Angel concept engages employees in actively promoting sustainability, acting on issues that matter to them, such as reducing waste contaminants, waste to landfill and volunteering with a community project. With a purpose-led approach, they aim to create a sustainability ripple-effect, encouraging workplace behaviors to be replicated at home.
This program significantly cut Commercial Group’s environmental footprint, saved money for the company, led to business growth and also improved staff wellbeing, having a positive impact on human capital.
Both the social and environmental performance of a company needs to be taken into account when delivering products and services. Shared Interest aims to change lives across the globe, by providing financial services and business support to fair traders.
Both the social and environmental performance of a company needs to be taken into account when delivering products and services.
Their financial model relies on a constant flow of funds between Shared Interest, fair trade producers and buyer organisations, now worldwide. They also take responsibility for supporting the communities in which the company operates, placing sustainability at the heart of their concept. Innovative and stimulating, Shared Interest is praised for effectively building new businesses (helping those starting a business), empowering future leaders and communities and changing lives.
Interface Inc. is set to accomplish a ‘mission zero’, meaning decreasing its environmental impact to zero by 2020. For that, not only small tweaks were needed in the system of modular carpet manufacturing but a monumental shift in the way the company operates - but they took this step through a sustainable transformation and now they are seeing the outstanding results.
They were successful in eliminating all energy-related emissions of the company, now operating on 100% biogas from a local fish processing company through green waste in their Dutch plants. Turning to renewable energy saved them from the carbon-related price movements, benefitting the company financially.
As the founder and CEO of the largest designer and carpet tile maker company of the world, the late Ray Anderson addressed their vision as “To be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: People, process, product, place and profits - by 2020 - and in doing so we will become restorative through the power of influence.”
The purpose-led business model influences every aspect of the company, serving as a role model with sustainable standards for the world. It did not only reduce environmental impact by reducing fossil fuel emissions and landfill waste but it also increased Interface’s profitability, leading to reaching over $1 billion in annual sales.
We chose Interface’s vision as a case study because it shows that the tragedy of the commons can be overcome, ensuring beneficial results for the triple bottom line: profit, planet, and people.
The New Belgium Brewing Company creates shared value, addressing environmental and social problems, while also establishing economic benefit, providing a true example of a good business, who does good and therefore does better.
The New Belgium Brewing Company is a different kind of example that can inspire and empower future leaders to opt for a socio-economic transformation or start a business with that in mind already. They have a strong commitment to sustainability and social impact in the industry of beer brewing. As these processes consume a significant amount of water and energy, approaching the social and environmental performance with care was necessary.
Setting and accomplishing their goals as maximizing energy efficiency and recycling, while minimizing resource consumption to preserve the ecosystem made them a certified B corporation. B Corps are those organizations that are driven by purpose and profit, using business as a force for good to benefit workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
Becoming the United States’ first wind-powered brewery, they have a special sustainable business model through a stock-ownership plan, focused on the 3 areas of climate change, land and water protection, and social equity. They not only contribute to their communities and provide excellent products and services to customers but also offer an appealing place to work, making them the United States’ third-largest craft brewery, recognized by Forbes as a Small Giant.