Franziska Iseli, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Sydney, is an author and serial entrepreneur. She's co-founder and CEO of Basic Bananas, which provides marketing mentoring for small businesses seeking to attract new customers and grow. She's also the founder of Oceanlovers, a business on a mission to inspire and mobilize the masses to save our oceans. Franziska attended EO's International Entrepreneurial Summit at the UN, bringing awareness to how entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to make an impact on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We asked Franziska how she's making an impact through entrepreneurship. Here's what she shared:
I was excited by September's Global Climate Strike, which shut down businesses for a day to raise awareness about inaction on humanity's biggest existential threat. We made a real ruckus, with many entrepreneurs and business owners joining the conversation and taking a stance.
I'm an eternal optimist, and though we are a long way from where we need to be on climate change, I'm seeing more and more business owners waking up to the realization that we must use business as a force for good. There are many significant global challenges to be addressed and a planet to be kept alive. Some of the world's most significant problems can be and are being addressed through innovative entrepreneurial thinking.
In June, I had the honor of running a think tank group at the United Nations headquarters during the International Entrepreneurial Summit sponsored by EO.
Countless stimulating discussions left me even more motivated to leverage our businesses to impact the greater good and bring our team and customers along with us on the journey. We've already adopted environmentally friendly, sustainable measures at our companies in hopes of making a difference while simultaneously inspiring fellow entrepreneurs to use their skills and resources to do the same.
The business case for impact projects
If you're not already sold on the importance of impact projects, maybe a few more facts will convince you to give it a go. Here's a big one: Using business as a force for good is not only good for karma; it's also good for business. A full 73 percent of Millennials are prepared to pay more for and buy from companies that are committed to sustainability and care about making a positive impact.
Doing good not only appeals to customers--it also bolsters a robust team culture and attracts talent. It's especially true that younger employees go to work not only for the paycheck but also to be part of something bigger, something meaningful.
I wholeheartedly believe that to be influential entrepreneurs, we have a responsibility to walk the talk and lead by example. With so many challenges to be solved, where might you even begin?
Five ways to start making a difference
Here are five ideas that have worked for us as we've intentionally become more sustainable.
1. Just start.
There are so many things you could or "should" do--it can be overwhelming even to begin. How do you determine which initiative to support? There are two ways to go about selecting impact projects. Either find something aligned with your company's vision or choose a cause you are passionate about, even if it's not directly aligned.
For example, at Oceanlovers, our vision is to "inspire and mobilize the masses to save our oceans." Naturally, we invest resources into ocean-awareness causes. On the other hand, at Basic Bananas, we support a variety of causes that reflect what the team is passionate about. These include sponsoring a school in South Africa, adopting a whale, and reducing plastic waste. A great place to look for inspiration is the United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDGs).
2. Appoint an impact ambassador.
As with any project, I've found that having someone in charge of our impact initiatives works best to drive progress and motivate others. Involving your team is also a great way to build your company culture. You may even choose different ambassadors to address different challenges. Our sustainability ambassador is responsible for projects that specifically address UN SDGs No. 14 "Life Below Water" and No. 15 "Life on Land."
A lack of knowledge and awareness is at the root of many global challenges. To keep us informed, our sustainability ambassador organizes movie nights for our teams, showcasing documentaries that focus on pertinent topics that inspire us to do our best. Using our voice through various communication channels, including social media, is another savvy way entrepreneurs can raise awareness.
4. Reduce plastic waste.
Our sustainability ambassador recently organized a plastic-free month with the goal of reducing plastic waste in our offices. I must admit, it's a lot harder than we thought! We didn't go completely plastic-free, but we minimized single-use plastics dramatically by bringing our own coffee mugs, banning plastic water bottles and not purchasing products packaged in plastics.
After 30 days of conscious effort, our behaviors started to shift. I feel very guilty now on the rare occasion when I buy take-out food or drinks in single-use plastic containers! We also invited customers to join in our mission, and many downloaded our plastic-free checklist to inspire their teams.
5. Share your projects.
To motivate your team and customers to support your impact projects, feature them on your website! An appealing brand has the power to influence positive behavior. People are looking to you for guidance. This is your moment to lead by example.
You never know how far or how many one small step may reach!