On The Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Podcast, we feature business leaders who are changing the expectations of what business can and should do.
It’s business leaders who pursue positive impact—for both people and the planet—that we want to amplify, encourage, and support.
We want to shine a light on entrepreneurs who stay true to their pursuit of progressing the business world from purely extractive and exploitative to truly restorative and regenerative.
And this last year on the podcast, our aims didn’t waver.
From multiple industries and multiple perspectives, we spoke at length with impact business leaders who consider the cost of “business as usual” far too great to ignore.
Here’s our list of the most popular guest episodes from the podcast in 2021: 10 Impact Business Leaders who are changing the course of business for the good of the planet and people everywhere
1. Madeleine Shaw
Madeleine Shaw joined me on the podcast this year to talk about the what, why, and how of social entrepreneurship.
Madeleine herself has been a social entrepreneur for over 25 years. In her 20s, she founded Lunapads (now Aisle), which commercialized natural menstrual care. She also founded a nonprofit organization called G Day that produced “rite of passage events” for young, self-identified girls.
Most recently, she founded a family-friendly co-working space called Nestworks.
All these experiences led Madeleine to write and publish a book, The Greater Good: Social Entrepreneurship for Everyday People Who Want to Change the World, and she joined me on the podcast to both define social entrepreneurship and offer the tactical steps to explore this pathway for those who are interested.
Here are some thoughts from Madeleine on her definition of who a social entrepreneur is and why she’s leaned into this chosen definition:
What is social entrepreneurship? And who is a social entrepreneur?
…My definition is very expansive and democratic. Let’s break it down.
The word entrepreneur is a very long word with lots of vowels. It’s derived from the French verb “to undertake.”
So to me, by definition, an entrepreneur is somebody who undertakes something; an action, an initiative, it can be for-profit, it could be nonprofit. It doesn’t need to be incorporated at all, actually. It could just be a project or something you love.
But the point is you are taking action.
The social part, which precedes the word entrepreneur, importantly, comes first, right?
So social is kind of shorthand for some form of positive social or environmental impact. That can be anything, honestly—whatever matters to the entrepreneur.
But the point is that it’s what motivates and inspires; it’s the central purpose of why the undertaking is being undertaken. It’s why you do what you do. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning.
So, as opposed to traditional notions in a traditional business sense, people are looking to make a profit or capture a certain market segment or do something like that. But it’s not necessarily coming from a place of primary desire or motivation to make the world a better place in some way.”
If you’re interested in diving deeper into social entrepreneurship and getting advice from a career social entrepreneur, check out Madeleine’s episode on How to Become a Social Entrepreneur and pick up a copy of her new book.
This episode can also be found at: socialentrepreneurship.fm/192
2. Giancarlo Marcaccini
Giancarlo Marcaccini is a former professional basketball player, a dedicated yogi, and the CEO of one of my favorite tea brands, Yogi Tea.
Giancarlo’s approach to entrepreneurship is unique. He has the competitive spirit of an athlete but also the mindfulness of a yogi, although this wasn’t always the case. Giancarlo always had the entrepreneurial aptitude. He told me that, even as a college athlete, he was always trying to find a side hustle.
This is why, after his professional basketball career in Europe, Giancarlo pursued entrepreneurship by opening a gelato company with his brothers. It wasn’t until later that Giancarlo discovered yoga and fell in love with it.
It just so happened that his local yoga studio was also involved with the East-West Tea Company, the parent company of Yogi Tea and Choice Organics tea brands.
After Giancarlo offered some business advice and consult to the studio, they invited him to be on the board of East-West Tea. A few years later, Giancarlo was offered the CEO position.
Yogi Tea is nearly 50 years old. They are one of the top tea brands in the U.S. and distribute over 40 organic tea blends to Europe as well. Giancarlo, a fitting leader for this business, joined me on the podcast and offered up excellent advice for purpose-driven entrepreneurs.
Here’s a few bits of Giancarlo’s best advice for young, impact-driven entrepreneurs:
“You’re gonna fail. So, it’s not about trying to avoid failure. It’s about how quickly you bounce back. How long do you want to sit there and feel sorry for yourself? We just keep moving forward.”
On Loving What You Do:
“Make sure you love what you’re going to do. It’s going to be your life. It’s going to be a grind. It’s going to be much more difficult than you think it’s going to be, so just love what you are going to do.”
On Working with Good People:
“The most important ingredient for me is people, even beyond product. I’ve worked with people that I thought had amazing products and people that had mediocre products. Eventually, even with mediocre products, with good people [you] eventually figure out the product side…
…As soon as you can afford it…learn how to hire good people and learn how to create an environment to make people successful.”
Giancarlo shares much more advice in our full episode, so for all the tips for entrepreneurs with a mission, don’t miss it.
You can also catch this episode and the full transcript here: socialentrepreneurship.fm/179
3. Carol Sanford
As Carol Sanford said herself in our podcast recording, “I don’t do, I be.”
And one of the things Carol attempts to be as much as possible is what she calls a “disruptive force.” I think she lives up to that.
Carol has spent much of her career disrupting the way business is conducted. She’s worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs from all over the world to design new and better ways of helping businesses succeed.
Through Carol’s work and teaching, organizations and individuals of all shapes, sizes, and occupations develop what Carol calls a regenerative mindset. This mindset, as Carol depicts in her book, The Regenerative Business, is where “enlightened, disruptive innovation happens.”
Carol sees immense potential for the business community to do exceptional good or cause incredible harm—much of what this hinges on is correctly building the minds of those leading in business.
“I chose the arena of business, not because it is what the regenerative concept is about. It’s about a paradigm, a way of viewing the world and literally shifting.
But, I see business as the platform where you can either do the most damage or the most amazing transformation.
And if you can build the mind of people who are leading in the business arena, and who have a strong pull toward doing that in some meaningful way, then you have a chance of actually working on something that can shift some things.”
Check out my conversation with Carol Sanford on regenerative business.
You can also catch the full episode, transcript, and more here: socialentrepreneurship.fm/146
4. Christopher Marquis
Christopher Marquis is a professor at Cornell University, where his own research and teaching focuses on both sustainable enterprise and doing business in China.
Thanks to some of his students, Chris picked up a keen interest for the Certified B Corporation movement.
After nearly a decade of research chronicling the inception and growth of the B Corp movement, Chris produced his latest book, Better Business: How the B Corp Movement Is Remaking Capitalism.
Chris is a major believer that when both the structure and intent have the correct aim, business has the ability to be a tremendous force for good.
His primary case study: the B Corp movement.
What’s different about the B Corp movement from more traditional forms of corporate impact? In our conversation, Chris identified two things:
#1 – Where’s the Impact?
Regarding more traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, Chris said, “It’s not the core of their business and what they’re trying to accomplish, what the leaders are trying to accomplish. It’s not a social impact so much as selling products and services.”
For companies like those in the Certified B Corporation community, it’s “fundamentally different,” Chris explained. “The social impact is actually at the core of what the company is doing.”
#2 – Accountability & Transparency
As an example, to become a B Corporation, these companies have to go through the B Impact Assessment.
As Chris shared in our conversation, this is a tool that makes businesses measure, manage, and report on various components of social and environmental impact.
CSR in the more traditional sense isn’t always transparent or accountable, at least from an outsider’s perspective. In contrast, the results from a company’s B Impact Assessment are always public.
If you want to learn more about Certified B Corporations, you can read our excellent post, What is a B Corp?, as well as listen to my conversation with Chris about what sustainable capitalism could look like.
You can also find the full episode, transcript, and more here: socialentrepreneurship.fm/154
5. Faith Legendre
Faith Legendre is a circular economy solutions strategist, and she’s been advising companies on the overlap between design, zero waste, and technology for over 15 years.
Faith is inspiring. She is exceptionally creative and something of a futurist, but she also appears to have the heart of an artist with a deep appreciation for culture and self-expression.
Faith celebrates fashion and how it’s an artistic vehicle.
“It’s [people’s] form of expression. And I think we need that because art is a part of life. But we need to do it in a really conscious way, in a really circular way.”
At the same time, she also inspires an urgency to create a more circular economy for a better future for all.
“I want to ensure that…fashion is fully circular so that all generations to come…don’t have soil that has been depleted from growing mass amounts of cotton for textiles; they don’t have dyes that are full of chemicals that are in the water.”
Check out my conversation with Faith about the convergence between fashion and tech.
The full episode, transcript, and more are available here: socialentrepreneurship.fm/190
6. Laura Vicaria
Laura Vicaria is the CSR Manager for MUD Jeans. MUD Jeans is a circular denim Certified B Corporation based in the Netherlands.
Laura and MUD Jeans are defining sustainability as it relates to denim production.
Fittingly, Laura helped to explain concepts like circularity in this context, while also adding to the weight of its importance and impact (or lack thereof).
“Circularity is really the opposite of a linear model. You take, make, use and throw away. It’s the opposite of that.
[Circularity] is trying to make a product so that it can be reused and reincorporated into the business over and over again. It’s really about the effective use of materials and thinking about how you’re making a product.
And then that way, you are lowering the amount of new raw materials that need to be extracted from the earth, which actually, by the way, tends to be the biggest chunk of environmental impact.”
Laura also delivered some advice on how we might approach the challenges we face with climate.
“We all have a role to play in this climate situation that we’re all facing. So, as intimidating as it may feel, and as big of a problem as it may seem, because it is, we all have a role to play. And I think every little bit counts.
So just start and read and listen to different things that make you feel inspired and motivated and empowered. Because there are a lot of things out there that make you feel tiny and overwhelmed and like the world is going to end…stay away from those.
Really focus on the people that inspire you and just start. Just start.”
For more from Laura, you can listen to our full conversation on sustainable denim.
You can also find our full episode, transcript, and more here: socialentrepreneurship.fm/190
7. Corey Kohn
Corey Kohn is the CEO, co-founder, and founding co-op member at Dojo4, which is a member-owned tech agency focused on creating positive change.
This year, we had the pleasure of partnering with Corey and Dojo4 on a series discussing Antidote to Tech, which is an initiative started by Dojo4 as a response to the great level of loneliness and isolation that’s felt throughout their industry.
Corey is an extremely empathetic and deliberate business leader—someone who is on the edge of redefining the purpose and practice of business.
In our conversation together, Corey shared what some of her priorities are in the way that she approaches her work and how Dojo4 as an agency “does business.”
“Kindness, for instance, is the foundation of how we do business.
And we must feel like we’re in a genuinely respectful kind of relationship with our clients, with our co-workers, and even with our competition in order to feel like we’re doing our best work…
…In business, the good times don’t always last, right? And the bad times don’t always last.
I really want to focus on acknowledging that money doesn’t make you happy…if we’re going to do our best work, we have to do that in an environment of kindness.”
Corey also made a statement about what will make Dojo4 a more sustainable and resilient business. For her, she believes a much deeper purpose than just building technology, will be what keeps Dojo4 useful and valuable no matter what changes in their industry.
“If I want to stay in business to continue to employ people in this local community…then I have to be addressing the problems that are not going to just go away with a bubble burst.
And those are the problems; climate change, social inequity, health, all these things that we’re dealing with right now.”
Get the full conversation with Corey about how she and Dojo4 are redefining what it means to work in tech.
You can also find the full conversation, transcript, and more here: socialentrepreneurship.fm/189
8. Aram Terry
Aram Terry set off for a peace corps assignment to Nicaragua in 2002. He never really went back home. Nearly 20 years and three businesses later, Aram has made a life out of tree farming.
First, he went into business with his father, starting tree farms on deforested land. Then he started Mayasa & Co. with his now wife, Abril, where they make beautiful handcrafted furniture out of the wood from the tree farming business.
And now finally, there’s Guayacan, where Aram builds prefabricated homes out of the wood they harvest.
In our conversation, Aram explained to me why wood is the most sustainable building material.
“It really comes down to making reforestation a business so that more people do it, and it becomes prolific…
Because to me, wood is the only option for building materials.
You get pushback from some people saying don’t use wood because you don’t want to cut down trees.
My point of view is: use as much wood as possible because you’re sinking carbon. Wood is 50% carbon.
So as long as the wood is reforested, and planted and grown, the more people are doing that, the more carbon is captured, the more soils are protected, soils are enriched.”
Listen to more of Aram discussing why wood is the most sustainable building material in our full conversation.
You can also get the full episode, transcript, and more here: socialentrepreneurship.fm/172
9. Amy Hall
Amy Hall was one of the earliest leaders of a more ethical and sustainable fashion movement.
She spent 28 years with industry leader EILEEN FISHER, where she launched the company’s social consciousness work, moved the company towards its B Corporation Certification, and continued to evolve the brand’s commitments to sustainable and ethical practices.
Amy now operates her own consultancy, Impactorum, where she advises companies along their journey towards making a positive impact on people and the planet.
In our conversation, Amy and I covered sustainability both in the context of inside the fashion industry and out.
“…The word sustainability continues to evolve in how we use it.
As a society, and as an industry, when most people use the word sustainability or sustainable, related to fashion, they’re talking about the lowest possible environmental impact and the greatest amount of social value added or embedded into the product.
So is that actually sustainability? I don’t think so personally.
Because for me, sustainability implies something that can continue to live in balance with its surroundings.
And if the apparel industry continues to do what it’s doing now, we’re not in balance with our surroundings and with the planet.
So I think the way we use the word sustainability is not actually in line with what I think sustainability means.”
And so Amy shared her perspective as to what’s sustainable.
“…To be truly sustainable, we would only be making what people need.
And discarding those items at the end of their useful life in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the planet.
In other words, in a way that either allows the product to decompose, or even better, to actually nourish the earth and provide seed or nutrition for something new to grow.”
If you want to hear more from Amy about sustainability and the solutions to address fast fashion, check out our full conversation.
You can also find the full episode, transcript, and more here: socialentrepreneurship.fm/177
10. Asheen Phansey & Monica Park
Monica is a veteran of the fashion industry, and Asheen is a veteran of corporate sustainability. They found each other’s experience and skills complimentary to pursuing the extremely important goal of making a circular economy a reality.
As Monica shared with me in our conversation, “The circular economy doesn’t exist yet; we need to build it.”
Monica and Asheen spoke with me at length about rethinking how we approach business, in and out of fashion, and shared both the bright spots and challenges of our journey to circularity.
Asheen pointed out the opportunity that exists in circularity:
“I think there are more customers looking for these brands than there are brands to fulfill those needs at the moment.
And I think that’s a real opportunity for brands both existing and new to say, this is how we’re going to do business going forward, because this is the future.”
Monica explained what she sees as the number one barrier to moving towards circularity. If we look at this from the brightest side of it, we can be grateful that our adversary is actually quite simple…
But I really believe this is true; it’s [about] breaking up the routine of doing it the way we’ve always done it…that cannot be misstated as the number one barrier to bringing in anything new.”
Perhaps evolving from a linear to a circular economy is just a matter of habits.
To hear more on the circular fashion economy movement from Monica and Asheen, check out the full conversation.
You can also find the full episode, transcript, and more here: socialentrepreneurship.fm/180
Business Leaders Setting a New Bar of Success
When we think of the most influential business leaders in history, new names and faces need to come to mind.
We can’t accept that business is business and everything else is everything else. For better or for worse, everything is connected.
We can’t both pursue living sustainably and in balance with the planet while also pursuing never-ending economic growth.
We can’t commit to raising the standard of living for as many people as possible while at the same time letting the culture of exploitative industry continue.
To be in a leadership position in the world of business, it’s no longer okay to pursue the interests of profit at the expense of everything else.
And it’s that position that business leaders like those listed above refuse to accept.
To lead in business, one must be ready and willing to address the greatest challenges that our world is facing; like climate change, inequality, and social justice.
And it’s these business people that I’m so grateful to connect with, support, and dive deep with by hosting the Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Podcast.
As always, thanks so much for listening in, to many more inspiring conversations in 2022.
Co-Founder & CEO, Grow Ensemble
I’m Cory Ames. I’m a writer, podcaster, social entrepreneur, and the Founder of Grow Ensemble.