Investors Play an Important Role in Businesses' Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals

How Our B Corp Investment Firm Is Making Progress

Written by By Mike Dutton

Businesses—and the investors who fund and support them—have an important role to play in addressing global-scale issues, such as climate change and wealth disparity. We at Builders Fund have chosen to use the B Impact Assessment as a tool to measure impact within our portfolio, as well as to find ways to improve that impact across our business. More recently, we’ve also aligned our impact measurement and progress with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, to help us define a roadmap for how our investment firm and the companies we invest in can best address these global-scale issues through how we operate.

The SDGs offer a roadmap to a sustainable future for people and the planet. The goals were developed and adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015 to address the most pressing environmental and social issues we face today. These 17 goals represent urgent calls to action that are steeped in the principles of global partnership and equity. They have also become increasingly accepted as a universal measure of impact alignment for nations, companies, and organizations. 

The SDGs serve as guiding principles for Builders Fund as we seek to make an impact through our investments and to develop indicators to evaluate the impact of our portfolio companies. Through our investment focus areas, Builders Fund is supporting the achievement of 13 SDGs, organized below by our four main investment areas:

Investors can have an enormous impact in moving founders, companies and the world toward achievements on the SDGs by providing capital to firms that are operating in a sustainable way and working with management teams to incorporate SDGs into their operating plans. Our firm’s vision is to make meaningful investments into responsibly run businesses that improve the world; and, via our success, help to shift the landscape of the financial services sector toward one which is more sustainable, systems-aware, and responsible to the full spectrum of all stakeholders. We also believe that firms that operate in this manner develop a long-term competitive advantage as customers are drawn to them and employees are inspired by their vision.  We need metrics to measure our efforts, and the SDGs are another tool we are excited to use to think about, direct and measure our impact.

Sustainable Development Goals We Are Making the Most Progress On

As shown in the graphic below, we are making the greatest progress through our portfolio companies on SDGs 3 (Good Health and Well-Being); 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and 13 (Climate Action).

But what types of work are our portfolio companies doing to make progress? By combining initiatives that address multiple goals, several projects undertaken by these innovative businesses move the needle. For example, when a company works through the B Impact Assessment and makes positive changes within its supply chain, it often is addressing multiple goals, such as SDGs 8 and 12, at the same time. Holistic, business-wide goals and practices are the foundation for all of our and our portfolio companies’ work.

Here are a few ways several of the Builders Fund portfolio companies are making progress that stand out as innovative and structurally replicable in other organizations:

Urban Remedy, an omni-channel producer of healthy and organic food,has created more than 260 LMI jobs in the opportunity zone of Richmond, California. This year, they also helped launch a pilot program with Peres Elementary School in Richmond, and Conscious Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing food equity and access in schools through the provision of local, organic, seasonal, and non-GMO lunches. The program is exploring the feasibility of providing healthy lunches to students on a regular basis at scale and serving healthy meals to the 550 students at the school.

Mixt, a chain of farm-to-table fast casual restaurants,works to foster a strong connection between community, employees, and healthy eating in each of its stores. Through holistic practices that focus on the whole person, Mixt is supporting customers and employees alike in achieving a healthy lifestyle. In 2018, Mixt served more than 1.8 million healthy meals to customers nationwide in addition to providing over 100,000 free shift meals to every employee each time they worked. In Mixt’s Oakland, California, location, customers connected through a shared experience of nourishing themselves and caring about what they put into their bodies. The Mixt model encourages customers and staff to be themselves and provides an opportunity for them to get to know their bodies through healthy eating. One Oakland customer described what Mixt provides to the community, “Fresh, healthy, minimize plastic, and yet you get a wide range of choices. Uptown’s restaurant scene needs a place for people to meet where they don’t have to regret what they ate the next day in order to see their friends.” 

Traditional Medicinals, the largest organic tea brand in the U.S., and its foundation staff work closely with communities in their 40-country supply chain on a host of issues related to sustainable development, education, health and agriculture. This year, for example, they worked with 600 individuals in farming communities in Paraguay to develop a project where participants sustainably source and harvest honey. After just one harvest, these households experienced a 3% increase in their annual household incomes. Traditional Medicinals also supports the Revive! Project, which works with villages in the Jodhpur District of Rajasthan, India, that produce the herb senna. The Revive! Project partnered with a Sonoma County-based NGO, Womenserve, to implement many initiatives, including: community organization & development, medical support, water & food security, education for children, economic development, and women’s empowerment. (See lead photo for an image of a Revive! Project-funded classroom and the attending students.)

MPOWERD, a brand of smart solar lighting products, partnered this year with the Papua New Guinea Tribal Foundation on Light Up PNG, a project that works with women entrepreneurs who have experienced marginalization, ostracization, or physical harm in their communities. In addition to providing safe housing and basic needs to women in acute need, the program offers entrepreneurial training and support for women to start their own microenterprise selling solar lights in their communities. To date, the program has benefited hundreds of women and their families, and increased access to renewable energy in and around their communities.

Lead photo by WomenServe, an implementing party for the Revive! Project supported by Traditional Medicinals. The photo shows girls attending lessons in a school built by the project.

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