Regenerating tired land, reducing carbon emissions, creating jobs , and improving food security and public health are just a few of the vast benefits of urban farming. In cities where a lack of access to healthy food can create health disparities in the form of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, it becomes a moral imperative to reconnect communities to nutritious food. In 2009, Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora began their careers in urban farming in Oakland, CA by growing mushrooms in spent coffee grounds; they now sell educational garden kits. Their company, Back to the Roots, generated $5.7 million by 2015 and 173% growth for the previous three years all while serving one mission: reconnecting kids and families to where their food comes from.
Profits v. Responsibility
This is just one example of many in the movement of entrepreneurs driven by the idea that profits and social responsibility are not mutually exclusive. In an April 4, 2013 article in Harvard Business Review, Raj Sisodia said that 18 out of 28 companies that he considered “most conscious” –by devoting their businesses to investing in employees and communities, offering great customer service, and taking care of the environment– “outperformed the S&P 500 index by a factor of 10.5 over the years 1996-2011.” That’s literally ten times better.
It turns out that creating meaning with your business model has many lasting benefits. Employees tend to work harder when they are part of a value-based culture, according to The Trust Index Employee Survey. A mission that affects your community means more community engagement, which creates more direct contact with your customers. Shared values and purpose coupled with success leads to meaningful and long-term relationships with stakeholders. And consumers are flocking to businesses that can demonstrate social responsibility. According to the 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study 91% of global citizens surveyed believe companies must go beyond the minimum standards required by law to operate responsibly.” That’s a lot of shoppers who want to put their money behind a good product and a good cause.
Giving rebirth to an old idea, conscious capitalists reject the short-sighted and binary thinking that comes from a solely profit driven model. They believe business can and should exist for a higher purpose of serving needs in their community. In 2004, Daniel Lubetsky, founder and CEO of KIND, set out to sell healthy snacks and “make the world a little kinder”. In 2015, he was named Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship. This movement is not going anywhere. Whether you are a couple of college kids growing mushrooms out of spent coffee grounds in your college kitchen or a CEO of a multinational corporation determined to spread kindness, your business and your ideas can serve a larger purpose. And as your profits grow, your employees and your community will thank you.