5 More Examples of Social Enterprises Scaling Impact Through Corporate Partnerships

Carly Bainbridge

In an earlier blog post, we shared how partnering with the corporate sector is a powerful way for social enterprises to build sustainable revenue streams that accelerate their missions and impact — while making entire global supply chains more sustainable and equitable in the process. But what does that look like in practice?

To illustrate the potential of cross-sector partnerships at work, we’ve rounded up 5 more great examples (to follow up some other great examples shared in our first installment) of social enterprises leveraging this opportunity to build back better. [Editor’s note: We also recently published guidance to help social enterprises build partnerships like these, which you can find here.]

Ecolog International and Desolenator

Desolenator is a social enterprise on a mission to build water resilience for people and communities in cost-effective and sustainable ways. Water scarcity affects 40% of the world’s population, at the same time there are major environmental challenges that require innovative solutions. Desolenator’s technology products harness the world’s two most abundant natural resources — sunshine and seawater — to produce high quality drinking water without the need for filters, chemicals, or polluting fossil fuels. In April of this year, Desolenator partnered with Ecolog International, a multinational corporation using technology and supply chain management to provide services for industries like energy, facility management, construction, and environmental solutions. As a result, Desolenator is able to accelerate its mission and impact on a global scale, while enhancing Ecolog’s ability to support the communities, cities and industries it works with to usher in an era of water resilience. 

Evrnu and Adidas

Evrnu is a textile innovation social enterprise that creates a circular ecosystem by upcycling old clothing into new, high quality raw materials for the creation of new clothes. Its NuCycl technology uses a chemical process to break materials down to their polymer form and then build them back up into new yarn. Unlike traditional mechanical recycling, which weakens fabric, this groundbreaking technology actually produces higher quality material than its original form, and offers extraordinary environmental advantages. Last year, the startup partnered with Adidas by Stella McCartney to make a limited edition sweatshirt, the first garment to be made using NuCycl fibers with customized performance features. This partnership embodies the growing movement against the environmentally degrading effects of “fast fashion,” creating opportunities for Adidas to produce products more sustainably, and for NuCycl technology to reach new heights while reducing significant amounts of waste.

Amazon and Northwest center 

Northwest Center is a Seattle-based nonprofit empowering people with disabilities through therapy, education, and employment opportunities. The national unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double the rate of the broader working population, and Northwest Center’s guiding philosophy is that when people of all abilities learn and work together, everyone benefits. The organization partnered with Amazon to create a clear pathway for adults with disabilities into its workforce, a new model that demonstrates to other businesses the potential in this historically overlooked group of people. More than 180 adults with disabilities have joined Amazon’s workforce since 2015, and is a great example of how corporations and local non-profit organizations can collaborate to create even greater impact within their community.

Wilson Yu fills an Amazon Prime order at the warehouse in SoDo. He is one of scores of people who have found work with Amazon through Northwest Center since 2015. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Maya Mountain and Dandelion 

Maya Mountain Cacao is a social enterprise based in southern Belize that ferments and dries raw cacao beans to be sold to chocolate producers further up the value chain. By sourcing the raw beans from hundreds of indigenous smallholder farmers and processing them in a central location, Maya Mountain Cacao can carefully control the quality to maintain a high profit margin, which in turn is reinvested into the community as fair wages for the indigenous farmers. End-producer Dandelion Chocolate partnered with Maya Mountain Cacao to source its raw materials, creating more income for the indigenous farmers while helping Dandelion Chocolate meet its single-origin sustainability commitment to end consumers.

Maya Mountain Cacao beans being sorted in Belize

Daily Harvest and Vega Coffee 

Vega coffee is a social enterprise that is on a mission to reinvent the coffee supply chain to benefit both farmers and end consumers. Vega sources its coffee beans from a number of cooperatives in Nicaragua that collectively represent 4,000 smallholder farmers, 95% of whom are women. Vega’s team is committed to transferring skills and knowledge to allow these farmers to capture a larger portion of the product’s final value by also roasting, cupping, and packaging the beans. As a result, farmers in Vega’s supply chain are able to achieve economic stability for themselves and their families, leading to more sustainable communities with better healthcare and education options. Vega Coffee recently partnered with health food brand Daily Harvest to supply the beans for its coffee-based products, helping Daily Harvest deliver on its commitment to sustainability and quality in its supply chain while empowering even more smallholder coffee farmers to transform their lives and communities.

[Editor’s note: Do you have more great examples of social enterprise and corporate-sector partnerships? If so, send us an email at info@movingworlds.org and we’ll add it to our next piece.]

As you can see from these examples, partnering with the corporate sector to integrate your solutions into global value chains is an effective way to catalyze your own growth and impact while embedding sustainability and equity in the private sector. 

If your social enterprise is looking for support building partnerships like these, our new S-GRID can help you – and your team – build the skills, know-how, and connections to create sustainable revenue streams so you can grow and achieve your mission faster. Thanks to generous sponsorship from SAP, participation in the program is free for 2020. Learn more and apply here.