Posted: Wed 2nd Jan 2019
To give you some inspiration, we look at the world's big challenges and the Enterprise Nation members and small business owners who have stepped up to try and make an impact.
1. Tackling food waste
Farming reduces species diversity and impacts the environment and food production is a significant contributor to global warming. Yet we're throwing away a huge amount of food; about 200,000 tonnes per year could be recovered in the UK.
How can start-ups make an impact?
It's a daunting problem. But customers are keener than ever to shop responsibly. Small restaurants boast about sourcing food locally and food product businesses are putting effort into sourcing ingredients responsibly.
The Wonky Food Co is tackling the issue by turning unwanted fruit and vegetables into products such as relishes, sauces, soups and salsas.
"My brother John first came up with the idea while working on a kiwi farm in New Zealand and being shocked and dismayed by the amount of fruit that was thrown to the ground because it wasn't quite the right size, shape or colour," said co-founder Ashley Cavers in an interview earlier this year.
2. Reducing the amount of plastic in the oceans
The BBC's Blue Planet II shined a light on the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world's oceans. The documentary says 8m tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean every year and it can prove fatal to marine life.
Zero Waste Club sells everything from biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes, to organic pasta, beans, cereals and baking ingredients. It's all presented and delivered in recycled, compostable paper packaging. Co-founders Pawan Saunya and Rishi Gupta won student Start-up of the Year competition with their plastic-free online grocery store.
"I studied world development at A-level and just could not believe the appalling harm that plastics are doing to the environment. We looked around and there was a lot of talk about it, but no solutions. We decided we didn't want to just sit still and watch the world burn. We decided to try to do something about it ourselves," Saunya told Enterprise Nation in April.
Plastic Freedom founder Beth Noy, a speaker at Enterprise Nation's massive StartUp 2019 event on 19 January, lives on a beach in Southport and loves adventure sports like snowboarding, fat biking, mountain biking and surfing. Her hobbies brought the problem of plastic waste home.
"I started to notice how much plastic was used in everyday life and really started to hate that I was 'forced' into buying it. I guess it was at this moment that Plastic Freedom began," said Noy. "It took me a couple of weeks really evaluating what plastic products I was buying so that I could start to eliminate it once and for all. Purchasing plastic-free food means everything is fresh, healthy and so much cheaper."
The online store now offers everything from bath bombs and body scrubs to bread bags and cleaning brushes.
It's not just about selling plastic-free products either. Startups can act in a way that reduces the amount of plastic their businesses use or encourage consumers to make a difference.
Start-up Where the Wild Is organises travel experiences in the Nordic countries. It aims to promote balancing tourism with environmental protection, donating to ocean conservation charity Zing and getting tourists involved in beach clean-ups.
3. Making an impact on mental health
We're living through a revolution in the way we talk about mental health. People are becoming more aware of the issues and confident in talking about it openly. But there's still lots of work to be done and startups are working hard to make a positive impact.
Helen James started Nutriri to try to end body stigma and disordered eating after 30 years of yo-yo dieting. Her frustration with the high failure rate of dieting services led her to develop her own solution.
The social enterprise runs five-week courses to coach people in a safe and nurturing space. The team help people find food and body ease and be happy with tailored experiences that are based on three years of research.
Victoria Spence almost died after suffering from an eating disorder. She co-founded #GirlGains to unite women, create a community and educate, empower and inspire them to become the best versions of themselves (read more about her story here).
Starting an Instagram account as a "recovery diary" she benefitted from the pep talks other women gave her. These relationships developed and a team formed around the platform that Spence had created, launching the Fit and Fearless podcast on the BBC and working with major brands on Instagram.
4. Developing natural food products
People have become increasingly concerned about the environmental impact and quality of the food we eat. Startups are meeting this desire with products that are conscious of the impact they make and building brands around making a difference.
Not.Corn is "disrupting the snack category" with a healthier popcorn option. The spark of inspiration for founder Rushina Shah came when she saw her aunt popping a grain called sorghum, which was not the traditional corn kernel, and was an Indian tradition.
"I have been constantly searching for easily accessible snacks, which not only taste delicious but do not contain any refined sugars and other 'nasties'. I became more and more fascinated in diet and nutrition and realised that a lot of products which claim to be healthy are in fact not," said Shah in an Enterprise Nation profile.
Not.Corn's launched into health stores, other retailers and online.
5. Reducing the release of toxic chemicals
Chemicals are present in countless products used by consumers, from pesticides and automobiles to toys and clothing. It's difficult to control the release of toxic substances into the environment during the production of chemicals and disposal of products.
Consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of the products they buy. Startups are working hard to reduce the amount of chemicals used in products and the impact they have.
"Styling funk" brand No Gunk prides itself on using natural ingredients. Founder Sal Essa had a vision of a healthier way to style your hair after years using gel and then wax and clay.
"We formulated the funkiest grooming products on the market, combining premium natural and organic ingredients with functionality and convenience," Essa said.
The all-natural approach has worked with the brand winning Best Male Hair Product 2018 at the PURE Beauty Global Awards.
6. Become a Certified B Corporation
Certified B Corporations commit to meeting a higher standard of social and environmental performance, public transparency. These businesses work across all sectors.
"Society's most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and non-profits alone. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment," the organisation explains.
Certifying as a B Corporation is becoming more popular and signals to consumers that your business has committed to making a positive impact.
MAMOQ is a Certified B Corporation. Its shopping philosophy helps the team "understand the things we buy and make choices we feel good about". It includes five steps - meaning, accountability, material, opportunity and quality.
"Is this a meaningful purchase? Do you love it? Will you really wear it? Is there a story behind it? Or a nice memory? Fight fast fashion by seeking meaning in the things you buy and only choosing the things you truly love," its value statement on "Meaning" says.
This means MAMOQ only works with suppliers that meet its values and offers Carbon Neutral shipping among other benefits.
It's amazing to see so many Enterprise Nation members building businesses around making a positive impact on the world. What are you going to do?