Saving the world can be profitable, and a new tool is showing how
With their dollars and reach, entrepreneurs and investors have significant leverage to tackle the world's most pressing problems. A new tool shows them how — and that it's good for business, too.
The Global Opportunity Explorer details out 300 ways companies can engage in "sustainable innovation," leading to better societies as well as new business opportunities.
The platform's purpose is to inspire entrepreneurs and investors around the world to see big challenges — like world hunger, water scarcity, and gender equality — not as risks, but as potential markets.
Built and developed by sustainability think tank Sustainia after five years of research with 18,000 business leaders and 17 expert panels, the Global Opportunity Explorer is categorized by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — the United Nations' blueprint to make a better world by the year 2030. The site covers 10 business sectors, including food, health, transportation, and technology, which you can pair with an SDG to find tangible solutions.
Work in the fashion industry and want to tackle clean water and sanitation? Read about Aura Herbal's technology to use natural dyes for clothing. Work in tech and want to tackle gender equality? Learn about Code to Inspire's initiative to teach Afghan girls how to code. Each example tells you why you should care, and how these efforts address the Global Goals.
The site also features 45 new markets, from smart cities to the regenerative ocean economy, with key statistics on how those markets are expected to grow in the near future. For example, the global market for refrigerated road transportation is expected to grow more than 26 percent between 2017 and 2021, which means the time could be ripe for an innovative startup tackling food waste.
"More and more businesses are seeing the SDGs as inspiration to create innovative solutions that address some of the world's biggest challenges," said Lise Kingo, CEO and executive director of the U.N. Global Compact, which helped launch the platform.
"The Global Opportunity Explorer brings all of these solutions into one dynamic place where companies, investors, and entrepreneurs can connect and work together to bring these solutions to scale for real impact," she said in a statement.
By compiling all of these solutions in one place, the Global Opportunity Explorer could help companies that want to have more of a sustainable or positive social impact find new partners. If Adidas can join forces with Parley for the Oceans to design a new sneaker made from plastic ocean waste, who knows what other impactful collaborations could pop up.
"From our position focusing on sustainability, technology, and innovation, we are convinced that existing and new technologies will be combined and drive solutions supporting the world’s 2030 agenda," said Bjørn K. Haugland, chief sustainability officer at DNV GL, a Norwegian engineering firm that worked on the platform.
The Global Opportunity Explorer launched in late April with 300 solutions, but it isn't finished by any means. The creators want "continuous co-creation and crowdsourcing" to expand the platform and tap into the countless good ideas for sustainable innovation still out there. Anyone can submit their ideas here.