10 Success Stories from 10 Years of Social Business

10 Success Stories from 10 Years of Social Business

December 21, 2022

On a very concrete level, our social business portfolio has served over 17 million people with essential products and services like healthcare, education, clean energy, water, and has created higher incomes for 1.5M people in poverty in India, East Africa and Latin America. We have helped dozens of global corporations apply the social business principles to their core business and include social and environmental goals in their daily work. Ultimately, we have  helped make topics like social business, social entrepreneurship, impact investing and ESG commonplace at both dinner tables and meeting rooms around the globe (when they definitely weren’t a decade ago!)

In short, we have proven that social business is not just a crazy idea, but that it actually works in practice.

Although no facts & figures can ever capture the real impact that our social businesses have created, we collected 10 success stories from our portfolio to give you a glimpse of the power that these organisations have in creating positive change. Selecting just 10 examples of YSB’s impact over the past decade felt nearly impossible with so many remarkable social businesses, partners and collaborators to draw from. There are so many more stories to tell, so watch this space!

Our 10 picks from over 10 years of work are varied and try to capture a full panorama of our social business portfolio. From clean water systems in schools to life-changing vocational training to cakes that helped a mother provide her children with an education, our portfolio companies provide tangible and practical solutions that support people with meaningful solutions that enhance lives, foster sustainability, educate new generations and so much more! The tenacity, creativity and hard work of the people behind the 10 companies below, and all those in our portfolio, is inspiring and energising! Don’t forget to click the links for a deeper dive:

1) Impact Water was founded to solve the problem of clean drinking water in Uganda where 9 out of 40M people don’t have access. The company sells simple water cleaning systems to schools. Today, they have expanded into Nigeria and Kenya, and are reaching 14 million people with their solutions! This is impact at scale!  

As clean water is still a massive challenge in many parts of the word, YSB has expanded its WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) efforts beyond Impact Water with a  partnership with Reckitt Benckiser to create the  "Fight for Access Accelerator" to support more businesses working in this area.

2) Nutrivida -This is the story of a fantastic corporate social intrapreneur named Gisela Sanchez from Costa Rica who grew up experiencing malnutrition as a child and wanted to create a tangible way to combat this problem. Using the core competences of the corporation FIFCO, where she was working, she had the means to tackle the problem of malnutrition. They developed a product range of soups, powdered drinks and porridge enriched with micronutrients and vitamins to sell at a very low price to malnourished people, especially children. Nutrivida, which started as a joint venture of FIFCO and YSB is now reaching over 2.3M people today.  

3) Tugende - This is another fantastic example of a young entrepreneur who decided he wanted to tackle youth unemployment in Uganda - a massive issue in a country where the median age is 15. He decided to help motorcycle drivers in Uganda make a proper living. So-called "Boda" (a kind of motorbike) drivers are usually young unemployed men who work for Boda landlords that own the bikes and rent them out. The rent is high, so they can barely make ends meet. Tugende decided to lease the bikes to the drivers - at the same rate as renting - but after 18 months the Boda belongs to the driver. Today they have 29,000 drivers leasing from them and these drivers have built up assets worth 60 million USD. This social business is so large, they exited our portfolio last year, repaying their loan in full.

4) Vishuddh - Cofresco is a family-owned manufacturer for plastic-based household goods but knew this was not sustainable in today’s world.  They challenged themselves to become a fully circular company by 2025. One of their managers was looking for a tangible way to put that commitment into action and to make a real impact and came to create a joint venture with YSB. This new venture, called Vishuddh Recycle, works with waste pickers in India to pick plastic from the streets, make pellets out of it, and use these  pellets for the production of bin liners. A beautiful example combining both social and environmental impacts. 

5) Acila was founded by a female entrepreneur in Uganda who herself did not have an easy start in life educating her sons as a single mother. Her determination and grit is an example to us all. Acila Enterprises acts as an agricultural aggregator and purchases soybean, sorghum and maize from smallholder farmers, selling them to off-takers. Thus, the social business connects over 9000 farmers to the market and enables a steady income for families who previously earned less than 1000 USD per year. Additionally, Acila provides support with improved farm seeds, equipment and training on farming techniques to increase the overall quality of products

6) SAP is a company we have been working with since the start of YSB. From investing in social businesses together since 2011, to their social Intrapreneurship Program, to their social procurement commitment of sourcing 5% of their addressable spend from social businesses by 2025, SAP is one of the corporations leveraging social business as a tool to transform their company. It is estimated that these efforts have touched 1 billion lives globally! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing impact corporations can have via social business partnerships!

7) Provi - In Brazil, 13 million people are unemployed. Of these, 4.1 million are young adults (18 to 24 years old).  Currently in Brazil, only those with credit history can take a loan; yet young people cannot create a history of payments if their student loan is not approved by the system. Provi aims to break this cycle. It provides tailor-made credit at low-to-zero interest rates, enabling young people to undertake transformational courses. Provi partners with top educational players, focusing on short courses in skills that are highly applied in the market and lead to higher employability and increase in salary. Provi is a state-of-the-art ed-tech company which grew by over 1000% in the last year.

8)  EatCloud - In Colombia, 34% of the population faces moderate to severe food insecurity. Yet 33% of all food produced is thrown away before sale due to expiry date proximity. EatCloud is an IT platform connecting edible food from retail, restaurants, and industry, which would otherwise be thrown away, to communities with low incomes. The surplus food offer is uploaded onto the platform, and an AI technology matches it to people most in need, who can then book the food and pick it up. The social business recovers food from more than 1,750 locations and re-distributes it to over 200 towns and cities.

9) RangSutra - Across India, the textile and handicrafts sector is the main source of income for more than 100 million people, however this does not mean this income provides an adequate livelihood. RangSutra acts as a bridge between rural artisans and global consumers to create sustainable livelihoods and revive India’s rich craft heritage. They work with artisan cooperatives from rural villages to source textiles that are then turned into finished garments and sold to wholesale buyers and retailers, like IKEA. RangSutra provides their artisans with skills training, design input, working capital and quality control. RangSutra is working with over 2,500 artisans providing equal pay, fair wages, a safe working environment and skills training. Overall, they are impacting 20,000 lives. 

10) Burn - Thanks to this company, Kenya is now the most efficient producer of improved cook stoves across the continent (even more competitive than China, making manufacturing in Africa mainstream!) How do they do this? Burn locally manufactures cook-stoves that use half as much charcoal or firewood and reduce carbon emissions by 62%. By accessing cleaner and more efficient cook-stoves and fuels, families can dramatically reduce exposure to harmful cooking smoke and improve their health, reduce fuel costs, and cut down on forest degradation. To date, Burn has reached over 2.1 million people who have used the stoves to lower carbon emissions and save more than $130 million through reduced fuel consumption, saving 2.4 million tons of trees so far. Burn currently employs 230+ people, over half of whom are women.

Interested to see more of the social businesses in our portfolio? Click here.

These social businesses are all beautiful examples of what business should look like: business that does good to people and the planet. Through our 10-year experience in this space, we now know what the formula to success is to reach a world of 3 zeros: 0 poverty, 0 unemployment, 0 net carbon emissions. Let’s work together to scale social business up over the next decade!

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