AIM2Flourish: Business Education Meets Business for Good
AIM2Flourish, an initiative of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at the Weatherhead School of Management – Case Western Reserve University, prepares the next generation of business leaders to become the most powerful force for doing good while doing well. Learn more: http://aim2flourish.com
A new generation of business students is becoming aware of the opportunity to do good and still be profitable in their current and future careers. Overwhelmingly, millennials say that they are looking for careers that provide good work-life balance and give them a sense of purpose over simply making money. AIM2Flourish, a two-year-old initiative, offers a class assignment that connects students one-on-one with business leaders for insight and inspiration. In the process, students discover first-hand how business can be a force for good, contribute to a global database of positive business stories, and feel more prepared for career success.
The AIM2Flourish assignment positively changes students’ mindsets about business’ goal of being the best in the world to being the best for the world, and how they think about their own potential to be positive leaders. As part of the AIM2Flourish curriculum students learn from their professors about the strengths-based Appreciative Inquiry approach developed at the Weatherhead School of Management, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals. Then, students leave the classroom to conduct in-person interviews with business leaders, write stories about positive and profitable business innovations, and publish them on AIM2Flourish.com. Business students worldwide have published 925+ inspiring stories about purpose-driven businesses that do good and do well.
Here are two examples of companies profiled on AIM2Flourish.com, run by millennials who are out to change the world with their drive, passion, and dedication to be a force for good. Both companies were awarded an inaugural Flourish Prize in 2017. These annual prizes recognize the 17 best student-written innovation stories published each year on AIM2Flourish.com – one for each of the 17 Global Goals.
Bureo was established in 2012 to provide a tangible solution for preventing plastic pollution in our oceans and to initiate social change. The innovation addresses UN Global Goal 14: Life Under Water.
Discarded fishing gear has been recognized as the most harmful form of ocean plastic pollution. For fishermen, this material is a burden to manage at its end of life. Bureo has developed a circular economy model that enables discarded nets to be transformed into innovative products and a new material source. In addition, if any of these products meet their end of life, Bureo rewards their customers for returning the products to Bureo. Focusing on one of the largest fisheries in the world, Bureo launched its first fishing net collection and recycling program, known as Net+Positiva, in Chile in 2013.
Through life cycle assessment and a shared-value business model, Bureo partners directly with fisheries to provide a positive end-of-life solution to their discarded gear. The company achieves this with a supply chain that produces a regenerative resource known as NetPlus™ material, the first certified plastic to have a positive impact on people and the planet. Utilizing NetPlus™ material, Bureo has released the first line of skateboards, sunglasses, surfboard fins, and Frisbees made from recycled fishing nets. Bureo is now setting out to scale its solution for discarded fishing nets by collaborating with organizations that are willing to go beyond industry standards by innovating new applications for Bureo’s NetPlus™ material.
“We set out to make an inspiring product by incorporating sustainable design and innovative features and making a [skate] board that everyone would enjoy riding. We want to show people that this material isn’t a burden or waste, but an incredible raw material with high potential for upcycling,” said Ben Kneppers, one of the founders of Bureo. “We want to encourage the next generation to start thinking differently.”
Bureo has collected more than 175,000kg of fishing nets for recycling into new products. Bureo’s short-term goal is to partner with larger organizations to utilize NetPlus™ material in wider positive product applications, supporting the rapid expansion of its recycling program from the current throughput of 100 tons/year to 1,000 tons/year. Following the successful replication of the program outside of Chile, Bureo’s long-term goal is to expand its Net+Positiva program to every continent, developing an integrated supply chain of recyclers, equipment, and solutions that will allow the program to reach every fishery in need.
Kneppers’s advice for those looking to start their own business: “The trick to starting work on your own ‘business for good’ is to find a convergence of your skill sets, passion, and opportunity. The last one might be the most important for the business, but the first two enable you to find your life’s work.”
The Kathmandu Valley, the capital area of Nepal, has faced a chronic water shortage for the past two decades. While the daily water demand is approaching 400 million liters per day, the actual water supply is around 90 million liters per day in the dry season and 140 million liters per day in the wet season. This forces reliance on alternative sources, especially groundwater, which is depleting at more than 4 times the rate of recharge.
Rainwater is a relatively untapped resource. The Kathmandu Valley receives an average of 1.4 meters of rainfall annually mostly between May and September. Previously this rainfall would percolate through the rice fields into the shallow groundwater, providing water through wells and traditional stone taps known as Dhungedharas. Due to urbanization, much of this natural recharge is being blocked and most wells go dry soon after the monsoon season.
While there are many efforts to support rainwater harvesting in the area, most were NGO-led projects that primarily functioned to create awareness. Tyler McMahon, an American, was in Nepal in 2007-2008 on a Fulbright Scholarship and saw a potential gap that business could fill. After he finished his scholarship, he remained in Kathmandu and worked toward opening a company.
In 2010, McMahon met Suman Shakya, and in 2011, along with Hem Narayan Shrestha and two others, they started One Planet Solution Pvt Ltd, with SmartPaani as the brand providing sustainable water management solutions. In 2013 SmartPaani Pvt. Ltd. became a separate entity.
SmartPaani offers rainwater harvesting, water filtration systems, water treatment and recycling, and consulting services and works to meet UN Global Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. SmartPaani’s mission is to provide safe water for all classes of society. They provide water solutions for households, schools, businesses, and other institutions safely and economically.
The company has grown over the last six years with work in more than 16 districts in Nepal. During this time, the company has reached 1,500 customers, including more than 90 schools. The installed systems collect more than 35 million liters of rainfall each year for direct use, recharge more than 100 million liters back into the groundwater, and treat 10,000 liters a day of wastewater.
SmartPaani is currently raising investment capital and has plans to expand its reach and impact in more areas in Nepal and beyond. The company is aiming to reach more than 200 schools in the next two years and several thousand households. New products are in the pipeline, along with new models, to reach additional underserved markets in a sustainable way.
As for his advice to aspiring social entrepreneurs, McMahon says: “Focus on the problem and the value proposition you can create solving that problem. A business, even a social business, has to be financially sustainable and provide value to people. Many times, this is more important than the technology itself.”
Article by Megan (Schulstad) Buchter, who joined the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit in October 2016 to work on the AIM2Flourish initiative. As the AIM2Flourish Operations Manager she supports all AIM2Flourish professors, students, and editors in having a successful experience with the AIM2Flourish curriculum and assignment.
Megan received her MBA in 2015 from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. She also holds a Bachelors of Arts in Economics from Case Western Reserve University. While pursuing her MBA, Megan was one of the inaugural Fowler Family Fellows at the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. Megan’s passion for sustainability and business for good began in undergrad while working on her thesis about microfinance institutions in Bangladesh and has grown to include an interest in businesses supporting the well-being of everyone in their communities.
 Based off a recent survey of 1st Year Weatherhead School of Management Masters of Business Administration students.