As we enter 2021, it’s impossible to deny that we are facing some of the biggest challenges of a generation. It is not just the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout which is driving the need for paradigm-shifting ideas - many of the problems facing society today existed before, and will long outlast, this current public health crisis.
As founders and future founders, we are all problem solvers. There is a role for business to play in how we rebuild our societies for the better, and at Virgin StartUp, we know that entrepreneurs can - and will - help shape our world. So, the question for us is: what world do we want to shape?
At Virgin, we’re in the business of changing business for good. In 2021, we're at an opportune and crucial moment to ensure the changes we make now leave a positive impact on the planet and society. For founders, that starts with how we build meaningful, purposeful and sustainable businesses.
At Virgin StartUp, we are here to empower founders to build the types of businesses people are telling us they want to build, and, particularly, those the world needs. To change business, and in turn, change the world, for good.
We’re launching our Future of Business series to uncover what will define the businesses of the future, and how we can build sustainable startups which generate a positive impact - not only for founders and shareholders, but for the planet, and people, too.
We’re going to be spending the next few months shining a light on how founders are already using their startups to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, and will be sharing advice and insights from experts and insiders to help the founders of the future change business for good.
How do we build businesses which don’t accelerate the climate emergency, entrench inequality or benefit only shareholders? How do we, to borrow a phrase, “build back better”?
Throughout The Future of Business series, we want to help founders navigate the complexity of these issues and bring them down a few thousand feet to include real, practical advice which founders can act on.
On our social channels and here on our website, we’ll be spending the next few months focusing on the three areas your business will have an impact on: people, the planet, and profit.
As a founder, it can be hard to grasp the impact your startup can have on the people it touches. These are not just your partners and employees, your suppliers and their employees, too - it’s the communities your business operates in, and, of course, it’s your customers.
We are in the midst of a climate emergency. Fossil fuel emissions generated by commercial operations are a key driver of climate change, and it’s up to us as founders to start designing sustainable solutions. We all have a responsibility. From carbon offsetting and careful supply chain choices, to building products which people actually need - that last - and reducing the purchasing cycle and eliminating waste, businesses can do better. And we want to show you how.
Profit is essential for all businesses. Companies that contribute to the local and national economy, create employment for people and design products, services and experiences of value, are the lifeblood of our economy. How do we ensure that profit is generated not at the expense of people and resources, but to benefit them? The B Corp movement has shown us that businesses are able to conduct themselves on the basis that people and place matter. The B Corp certificate enshrines in a business a commitment to operate in a way which is conscious of the impact it is having beyond the bottom line. To make profit not just to benefit a founder, or a stakeholder - but to benefit the community and beyond, too.
The long fight starts here
It’s impossible to engage with all of these complex issues from day one; it’s normal if your startup doesn’t engage with all cases of its wider impact from the start. In fact, it’s often impossible to do so. But committing to constantly seek out ways to do better and to have long-term goals which are bigger than ourselves and our own businesses are a good place to start.
It can be overwhelming as a startup founder, faced with the responsibility of building a sustainable business and employing people, especially at the beginning of the journey when resources, employees and cash flow may be at a minimum. No one should be expected to solve huge global issues on their own. But the collective effort of everyone in the startup community to build more sustainable businesses will leave a lasting impact on future generations, and inspire them to do the same.
Each week, we’ll be sharing stories from our community, as well as expert advice on how to build businesses which focus on people, the planet and - not just - profit. Make sure to follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for exclusive content and to use #futureofbusiness to join the conversation.
If you're a founder with purpose, our new Collective Impact investment-readiness programme in partnership with Crowdcube is open for applications now. Find out more and apply here.