By Nicole Etchart, Co-Founder and Co-CEO
The effects of climate change are alarming and efforts to prevent them can appear to be just as severe.
That was the feeling among many of the educators, accelerators, incubators, donors and investors assembled by the Lemelson Foundation a few years ago to consider how to help social entrepreneurs to improve their environmental impact.
It’s difficult enough for these entrepreneurs to develop sustainable socially focused businesses without also having to worry about how these businesses will impact the environment. Can´t we leave that to the corporations and policy-makers?
The moral response to this question is no, we cannot.
One, because their efforts to date have not gone far enough. And two, because it is everyone´s responsibility to help save our planet. The good news is that this is not a zero sum game.
Going green makes business sense.
For this to happen entrepreneurs need to be given tools that are easy to use and that don´t compete with the many day-to-day demands on their time and attention.
In other words, this cannot be a daunting task.
It’s with this in mind that NESsT, as a recipient of the 2015 Lemelson Foundation Inventing Green grant, set out to develop a tool that early stage entrepreneurs can use to improve the product/service life cycle of their enterprise in a way that makes sense for them.
The I2E Inventing Green Tool uses a value chain framework to identify the different sources of pollution that can exist in any type of enterprise. After completing a 25-30 minute online survey, the entrepreneur receives a score on how they are doing in each of the five areas of the product/service cycle of the business.
- Sourcing and procurement
- Operations and manufacturing
- Distribution and client relations
- Reverse logistics
Using this report as a baseline, and with the help of a mentor, the entrepreneur then develops an action plan to improve the environmental performance in each needed areas of the business.
The I2E Inventing Green tool then takes it a step further by enabling entrepreneurs to manage and track their progress with quantifiable metrics that are connected to both economic success and generation of social and environmental impacts.
The tool is ideal for enterprises that are validating their business model or preparing to scale, and want to capture metrics for internal planning and external reporting but they find existing assessment tools too burdensome.
The initial use of the tool among NESsT Entrepreneurs has been very positive.
Many admitted that they had not realized the numerous environmental impacts of their business. Having to identify the value chain of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, customers, competitors, collectors helped the entrepreneurs to see the many opportunities they have to reduce harmful effects, decrease costs and make environmentally informed decisions. By so doing, the entrepreneurs realized that they have the potential to become greener, but that they are also greener than they thought.
The three NESsT enterprises featured in our October newsletter are companies who have placed the environment at the center of their business model.
Courrieros, a Brazilian eco-delivery business that hires and trains at risk youth as bikers to deliver e-commerce and restaurant orders to customers. The result is a reliable and low carbon service that is highly valued by customers.
FrutiAwajun, a Peruvian enterprise that commercializes forest products sourced from the local Awajun communities and uses innovative technologies to improve their value. For example, a pulper that extracts the pulp of the Ungurahui fruit to be used in gastronomy such as juices and ice creams, and a drying mat, which uses solar technology to transform the fruit into oil that can be used in the production of cosmetics, adding a new usage to the fruit. The mat also reduces the transportation costs and the oxidation of the fruit, generating higher margins and higher income for the Awajun, in an environmentally sustainable way.
Amaz Foods, a Peruvian cocoa business, sourcing raw materials from cocoa farmers in the Amazon jungle that use organic and eco-friendly practices. The company processes the cocoa into cocoa bits and syrup and sells them domestically and abroad also using environmentally-friendly processes.
All three of these entrepreneurs know that they still have room to improve their environmental impact and will use the I2E Inventing Green Tool to do so.
FrutiAwajun plans to reduce its operations waste in the Ungurahui production plant to 0% while highly reducing the use of water. The enterprise will sell the seeds to charcoal producers. The rest of the pulp and shell will be mixed together and used by the fish and bovine food industry. It plans to gather the used pulp bags from clients, and will give them to recycling companies, avoiding the increase of plastic pollution.
Amaz Foods identified areas for improvement such as distribution monitoring, especially in relation to transportation for delivery within urban centers. Courrieros plans to expand its reach to new areas of Rio, reducing CO2 emissions by 200 tons.
Even for those NESsT enterprises where environment is not at the center of their business model, the Tool can also be helpful in adopting green practices. Fashion, food, healthcare and IT businesses offering employment to those most in need, can reduce the use of electricity, water, gas; source sustainable supplies and use reverse logistics when recycling their equipment or other byproducts of their services.
The outcomes of the Tool to date convinced NESsT that we need to make it as accessible as possible to early stage entrepreneurs. This is why we are very pleased to have joined the Lemelson Foundation led effort to integrate and disseminate the green tools developed by Venture Well, the Presidio Graduate and NESsT.
“We believe the most successful inventors, inventions, and associated businesses will be those who deliver the most value while consuming the fewest resources,” said Carol Dahl, executive director of The Lemelson Foundation.
The tools are distinct but complementary because each of the three organizations works with students and entrepreneurs at different stages of professional development – from early stage ideation to the establishment of profit-making enterprises.
Join our efforts by disseminating the tool and help early stage entrepreneurs reduce the strain on the environment, not only because it’s good for the planet, but also for their businesses.
Not much is known about the informal economy in Peru, yet it is one of the reasons why many people face poverty, particularly women.
1) The prevalence of informal work.
Even though Peru has the most informal workers, it is not reducing its informal sector at a faster rate than its neighbors.
2) Women are among the highest group forced into informality.
3) As a result…
Women are forced to turn to informal labor because many companies force them to work 12-hour or even longer days and often pay below minimum wage. By working in the informal sector, women have greater flexibility to balance their work and family responsibilities, but they sacrifice income stability and long-term benefits.
With the necessary reforms in education, social programs and infrastructure, the informal economy can be reduced to just 1.4% of the national economy by 2050.
In the meantime, social entrepreneurship and businesses like Housekipp are responding to this need by offering training, contract employment and education loans for the children of women from low-income backgrounds.
By lending to Housekipp, you can help Housekipp thrive — a challenging task as only 30% of small and medium businesses participate in the formal economy.
Become part of a movement that promotes formal employment for women across every industry. Thank you for joining us!Lend Now
Sources from 2016
Economía informal en Perú: Situación actual y perspectivas (CEPLAN)
International Labour Organization
Inter-American Development Bank
With your support, women in Peru will have the opportunity to improve their income, receive professional training, and access micro-loans for their children and families to thrive. By lending $25 or more, you can help Housekipp reach 100% so that it can train and employ 240 women by 2021.
The Story Behind Housekipp
In 2015, Grover and Roberto saw a great need among Lima’s home and office owners (seeking quality housekeeping services) and a great disadvantage among the traditional housekeepers (informality tends towards low income and no benefits).
In Lima, less than 1% of housekeepers have a formal contract with their employers and most of them are treated with indifference. Without a contract, women working as housekeepers earn below minimum wage and lack access to respective work benefits such as healthcare, pension and vacations.
They discovered a way to cover both needs and created Housekipp – a social enterprise that trains women to reach five-star hotel cleaning standards and connects them with the increasing demand from Peruvian homeowners and office managers. This ensures a steady income source. Grover and Roberto partnered with Diana who has extensive experience in premium hotel management and services. She leads the training efforts with the Housekippers.
Over time, the founders realized that Housekippers would benefit from additional support. Many of the women are single mothers and some are survivors of domestic violence.
This is why Housekipp provides flexibility on working hours and ongoing career development. The management team assess each woman’s skills and strengths to identify additional responsibilities she can grow into, such as administration, purchase management or sales. Housekipp also provides trainings on personal finance, counseling, and microloans to support Housekippers’ children and their education.
In a year and a half, Housekipp has trained and worked with more than 30 Housekippers who now have stable contracts, private health insurance and the other employment benefits.
With your support, Housekipp will be on track to employ 240 women by 2021. Become a part of Housekipp’s journey to formalize the domestic services sector by ensuring contract employment for women in Peru.
Hear directly from Denisse, the impact that Housekipp has had on her life.
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