Anyone can make an impact towards building a purpose-driven economy.
We’re in the midst of an exciting movement, one where businesses, organizations, and institutions are seeing their role in advancing a purpose-driven economy. But it’s the power of the individuals and leadership who actively drive these changes from within.
Whether you’ve been part of the social enterprise sector for decades or are just learning what that means, the movement needs you. If you question or doubt how just one person can make a truly meaningful impact, consider the ripple effect of your words and actions! By leading in your organization, in your community, and at home, you can spark positive changes that multiply with every person you meet. The work starts from within. Actively engage with the social and environmental needs around you and develop awareness of where you spend your time and money. Soon you’ll see how every aspect of your life holds an opportunity to make a difference.
Areas where you can make an impact:
Shop local social enterprises
Every dollar you spend has the potential to make a positive impact in our community. By supporting local social enterprises, you’ll empower their mission, stimulate the economy, and build long-lasting partnerships. Nearly every product or service has a socially responsible, sustainable alternative - you just have to find a swap!
The U.S. business-to-business market is nearly double the business-to-consumer market – that’s a lot of purchasing power! As a purpose-driven leader, you can advocate to redirect company dollars in a way that prioritizes local social enterprises and sustainable suppliers. Not only will this benefit the community, you’ll also signal to clients and customers that your business is one that cares. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Cleaning services: Hire a green cleaning service like Two Bettys, a woman-owned company that provides eco-friendly commercial and residential cleaning services. As an anomaly in the industry, Two Bettys ensures their employees earn a fair wage and 401K.
- Professional agencies: Building partnerships with like-minded organizations can change your processes for the better. There are many local certified B-Corps that provide marketing, graphic design, recruiting, and data analytics services. Check out Russell Herder, SmartSet, Cohen Taylor, and Professional Data Analysts, respectively.
- Entertainers and artists: If you’re planning an event and plan to book creatives or freelancers, ensure to compensate them fairly. Consider working with Pollen Studio to plan a unique mission-driven experience and use Last Triumph (a B-Corp) to find a local musician!
- Catering: Choose an organic catering company like Eat for Equity and Common Roots Cafe who support local farmers or order from Peace Coffee or Fresh Grounds Coffee, who employs young people facing barriers to employment. To support Latino-Minnesotan culture, cater or reserve an event space at La Dona Cerveceria, PBC.
- Corporate Gifts: If you can, first encourage allocating this budget to charitable donations, but if your company does decide to opt into branded swag, try sleek, customizable sustainable wood gifts from Woodchuck or ethically made branded totes from To The Market. Consider curated gift boxes that support independent businesses and underrepresented entrepreneurs from Giften Market.
You can make an impact by choosing to shop from local social enterprises for your everyday needs, and feel good knowing that each item represents a unique purpose. It’s all about choosing compassion over convenience and going the extra mile to make a difference. Form a deeper connection with the Minneapolis–St. Paul community and minimize your environmental footprint by implementing these simple swaps:
- Clothing: Skip the mall and find fashion that’s sustainably made by individuals earning fair wages. The fashion industry contributes to 8% of global emissions and is one of the biggest contributors to unsafe factory conditions. This is a big aspect of your life where every purchase counts! For ethical women’s essentials, try 3 Seams and Fair Anita. For graphic hats and tees that support local nonprofits, explore Spoonful and MNIMALIST. For exceptional and sustainable outdoor wear, shop from Askov Finlayson and Anywhere Apparel. Passionate about a specific cause? Love Your Melon donates 50% of profits to fighting pediatric cancer, and Hippy Feet socks are made to create jobs for the homeless.
- Homegoods: Go beyond the mass-produced goods from Target and TJMaxx and use the way you decorate your home to tell a unique artisanal story. Your story could highlight local makers with customizable quilts from Louise Gray or take your guests on a world tour with unique items from Ten Thousand Villages or House of Talents. Either way, your choices have a societal impact and can improve the lives of incredibly creative people.
- Bath and Body: Ever notice how most of our bath products are made with ingredients we can’t pronounce and packaged in thick plastic? There are several sustainable swaps you can make that reduce trash and support Minneapolis-based businesses! HiBar shampoo and conditioner bars are animal and planet friendly, Bodylish soaps and lotion bars are 100% organic, and Sebesta Apothecary will give you discounts for returning their empty containers – creating a circular economy.
- Food and Drink: If food is good for the soul, these social enterprises products are even better. Junita’s Jar cookies help end relationship violence, Hoyo Sambusa employs and empowers Somali women in the Twin Cities, and Humble Nut Butter is an organic woman-owned business and inclusive employer.
- Travel: If you like to travel and explore the outdoors, you probably worry about what you leave behind. For your next adventure, rent a Voyager Camper Van instead of flying and be sure to take a biodegradable bathroom kit with you from P-Kit, a B-Corp that employs adults with disabilities and sends proceeds to doctors in Ethiopia.
- Pets: Sure, pet superstores have everything, but no one’s more dedicated to animal welfare than these social enterprises: Dog Love Repeat and Dog Threads donate some of their proceeds to rescue and adoption services while Finley’s treats are made by individuals with disabilities, providing them a fun and supportive place to work.
So... how will you vote with your wallet?
Align your life with your values.
We all value the people around us and the planet that nourishes us, but living in line with your values requires a conscious effort. It will look different for everyone! For maximum impact and enjoyment, be sure to get involved in ways that are passionate and consistent.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are more than buzzwords, they are essential practices in building a more just and positive world. At a purpose-driven organization, DEI initiatives may be the core of the business, or they may be mindlessly overlooked in pursuit of another cause. However, every organization can contribute to and benefit from diverse perspectives. It is up to each individual to commit to appreciating the beautiful things that make us different and learning how to create welcoming spaces for everyone regardless of race, gender, age, ability, sexuality, or experience. What can you do?
- Ask yourself if your team is truly diverse. Which community voices may be left out of the narrative? It may be helpful to bring in an outside agency to address this problem. Consider asking for an audit or workshop from Ecotone Analytics, an impact measurement firm, or Mossier, an LGBTQ diversity & inclusion consultancy.
- Double check your hiring practices. Creating equitable hiring and recruiting pipelines is at the root of building a diverse and inclusive organization. Pollen recommends ensuring compensation offers are transparent and listed on every job application.
- Seek out minority-owned businesses or vendors. Whether you’re shopping for personal needs or recommending a new caterer, supplier, or delivery service for your company, there’s probably a minority or woman-owned business to support. These groups are at a disadvantage from the start, receiving less venture capital on average and battling generational wealth and social inequalities, so every purchase helps. For an extensive list of Black-owned businesses in the Twin Cities, click here.
- Consider how social inequalities may be embedded in your operations. Without realizing it, your business’s products or services may be inaccessible or unwelcoming to some. From providing unisex restrooms, correcting facial recognition software that ignores dark skin, or changing content choices that are rooted in oppression, there are many ways to correct embedded social inequalities. To better include people with disabilities, reach out to WeCo or Software for Good for an audit that is done by and for the people you’re trying to accommodate.
Climate change and pollution are some of the most concerning issues of our time. The good news is, we already know exactly what we can do to continue protecting our planet. Take your dedication a step further and ask your coworkers, family, friends, and favorite brands to do their part! Make your home, office, classroom, or co-working space more eco-friendly and socially responsible with these local solutions:
- Go further than recycling with Eureka, one of the only non-profit recycling centers in the country that offers quality employment and educates the community on zero-waste practices. For old office electronics, dispose sustainably with Tech Dump, another non-profit that secures data and recycles or refurbishes commercial technology.
- Switch to clean energy by installing solar energy panels from Litty Solar at your home, business, or community garden. You can even make your website more clean by switching to a sustainable server like GreenGeeks, a California based web host.
- Make environmentally-friendly food choices by growing your own produce at home, joining a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program like the Hmong American Farmers Association, or volunteering at a community garden like Appetite for Change.
- Start beekeeping with the Beez Kneez supplies and help bees repopulate and pollinate our ecosystem! You can do this at home or encourage businesses to partner with Beez Kneez like Can Can Wonderland has done – they have bees on their roof!
One of the most rewarding and unifying experiences for individuals is to give back to your community through volunteer work, charitable donations, providing resources, or better yet – making long-lasting structural change.
Corporate Social Responsibility
- Does your company have CSR programming and philanthropy? If not, start something! If so, how could it be more impactful? Do your volunteer days help solve a problem, or simply maintain operations? Do monetary donations simply reinforce a cycle of need, or are those funds used to empower communities and prevent negative outcomes?
- Ask if your company will sponsor pro-bono services for local non-profits or clientele groups that are usually economically excluded.
Volunteer your time
- You can look for volunteer needs through Hands On Twin Cities. You can also consider virtual volunteer opportunities to connect with a global community.
- Everyone has unique talents to offer the world.
- Could yours be used to mentor a nonprofit leader or social entrepreneur? Much like teaching someone to fish, this type of mentorship has a multiplying impact.
- Perhaps you’re a qualified builder or electrician? Volunteer with the Footprint Project to rebuild communities after natural disasters with renewable energy and sustainable architecture.
Help your dollar go further
- Have you ever wondered how ethical your bank is? Sunrise Banks is doing things differently as a Certified B-Corp focused on cultivating financial wellness.
- Impact Investing has grown exponentially in recent years, with top investing firms making the Environmental and Social Governance investing a new priority. You can take part in that movement with your own finances on several national platforms, or learn more about the Minnesota Impact Investing Initiative (MI3) here.
Make it fun!
- The Global Gaming Initiative has made giving back more fun than ever. Simply play one of their four games and 50% of proceeds from the game and in-app purchases will be donated to a charity!
Making a lasting impact starts with changing collective mindsets and uprooting the status quo. To do that, learn all you can about the social issues in our community, what organizations are doing about it, and then how to share that information with others!
- Take online courses from Acumen Academy or watch webinars from Net Impact.
- Learn what ethical business certifications and labels like Fair Trade, B Corp, and Organic really mean.
- Engage others in conversation.
- Invite coworkers, friends, and family to local events, farmer’s markets, galleries, and volunteer events. Ignite their passion for impact and you’ll start building a purpose-driven community.
- Practice your civic duties by registering to vote, voting for local, state, and national elections, and calling your representatives about pressing social issues and supporting small businesses.
- Follow and support groups that represent independent businesses like Take Action MN or MN Main Street Alliance.
Still not sure how to start making an impact as an individual?
- Learn more from the United Nations’ suggestions to take action on the Sustainable Development Goals from the couch, at home, and at work.
- Subscribe to newsletters that highlight businesses doing good and teach about ethical consumption: B the Change, SOCAP, Sustainable Brands, CauseArtist, Triple Pundit, and Brightly.
- Get involved with Social Enterprise MSP or Impact Hub!