An old post from September 2019 stuck in my drafts
It’s safe to say I grew up in a divided household. A happy household…but definitely divided in terms of politics and social views. My dad has always been a rational businessman believing in everything meritocratic. Meanwhile, my mum is a left-leaning hippy social worker, who has always measured success in terms of “people helped” or “lives impacted”. As a result, there were numerous heated discussions over the years — was Thatcher a milk snatcher or the best thing that happened to corporate Britain? Can small-scale local activism really impact change or is it a waste of time?
I spend a lot of my adult life exploring my interest in both business and social impact, not quite wanting to “pick a side”. I studied International Relations and did an MBA, I worked in private equity and in venture philanthropy, trying to find a way to blend the two worlds and bridge the gap…
Joining Northzone — one of Europe’s leading VC funds — has been revolutionary from this perspective.
To be clear, Northzone does not have an impact fund mandate — its purpose is to generate financial returns to its investors. Nonetheless, as I’ve discovered since joining, it is standing behind several innovative, impact-minded entrepreneurs addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues.
The reason is that the team here not only supports “doing the right thing” but also fundamentally believes that companies with a purpose and a mission, can outperform other companies in the long run. In other words, it invests in impact-minded entrepreneurs because of their social focus and passion not despite of it.
Shining the spotlight on some of the examples:
Tier Mobility, the leading European provider of micro-mobility solutions has committed to full carbon neutrality from January 2020. Unlike other mobility providers, it is prioritising its commitment to sustainability and has set an ambitious agenda for reducing emissions, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As the CEO and co-founder, Lawrence Lauschner has said “Climate change is the most urgent topic of our time. We are in a now or never situation, which requires us to take immediate actions”. Amongst other measures, Tier will improve the longevity of its scooters, will introduce swappable batteries, operate warehouses with green energy and will be purchasing carbon offsets to neutralise the remainder of emissions. All these steps are not only game-changing for Tier but will also be a significant step towards environmental sustainability in the micro-mobility market.
NA-KD is one of the fastest growing e-commerce fashion businesses in the world. It operates in an industry that traditionally has had a negative impact on the environment and is currently working hard to develop a comprehensive approach that will integrate sustainability and circularity in its core business model. A big step forward have been the NA-KD Reborn collections. All NA-KD Reborn collections are made from 100% certified sustainable fibres including Organic Cotton, Recycled Cotton, Recycled Polyester and Lyocell. Moreover, NA-KD are partnering only with suppliers that follow their strict guidelines and code of conduct across the world. NA-KD also recently launched a number of other sustainability initiatives such as: new collections with sustainability influencers, improved recycled materials for packaging, reduced freight forwarding and a carbon offsetting scheme. Finally, it’s working on a big, innovative initiative, NA-KD Circle, that will be a pioneering idea in the field of sustainability.
Wagestream works with works with employers to let employees draw down a percentage of their income in the month for a small, flat fee. Through this innovative proposition, it targets a very real problem that impacts financial inclusion for a proportion of the population and reduces the need for disastrous “payday loans” that plunge borrowers into deep debt. It is essentially positioning itself as a “social impact” start up, aiming to secure financial wellness for all. As Peter Briffett, CEO and Co-Founder of Wagestream says “The antiquated monthly pay cycle inflicts huge financial damage on household finances and its days are numbered. Too many people are pushed into a corner by in-work poverty and forced into the hands of payday lenders and high-cost credit. Wagestream is at the point of scaling up rapidly and this historic investment is going to accelerate the pace at which companies across the country liberate their staff from payday poverty and the disastrous social consequences that stem from it.”
These examples expand beyond Northzone’s portfolio to many other successful ventures demonstrating that entrepreneurship can really be a huge driving force in creating positive social impact.