Energy and the environment are much on the minds of social business entrepreneurs among UNC system students. The system’s North Carolina Social Business Conference on Thursday included a business-plan competition for student teams with entries from all 17 campuses. Several initiatives focused on energy and the enironment, including food distribution. Poverty and microfinance were also addressed by multiple groups.
A total of 31 teams entered.
The winning teams were from N.C. State University, first place; Fayetteville State University, second; and UNC-Chapel Hill, third. Among the nine finalists was one of the N.C. A&T teams.
The winners’ social business ideas are:
From N.C. State, a microfinance initiative: “‘Pennies for Progress’ (P4P) is a not-for-profit making it easy for any business to make a positive social impact in their local community and abroad. … Through P4P, businesses add on a one-cent donation from the customers to the total of every transaction at their store. This penny supports micro-finance (MFIs) partners abroad, and once the initial loan is repaid, supports local community projects (i.e. food drives, community gardens, hospitals, etc.). Every transaction makes an impact at home and abroad. By enabling the everyday consumer to make an impact on the world, P4P enables consumerism to drive social progress.”
Fayetteville State students would address the many negative impacts of hog waste lagoons on nearby (and disproportionately poor) communities by creating BioWaste Energy, “a company that will help accelerate the implementation of biowaste pollution mitigation systems. The focus will be on systems that improve the quality of life of the typically high poverty community residents impacted by biowastes. BioWaste Energy will accomplish this objective by connecting farmers with the resources necessary to transform wastes to income generating assets. Specifically the company will:
- “Assist farmers in securing funds from grant sources, carbon offset investors, and financial intermediaries
- “Provide farmers with information on proven manufacturers of methane capture components
- “Help manage and maintain systems on an ongoing basis
- “Provide regional leadership in covering waste lagoons and virtually eliminating lagoon-related pollution impacts.”
Students at UNC-CH are addressing problems caused by the widespread lack of sanitary systems in developing countries: “Sanitation Creations has developed the solution … through the Dungaroo. The patent-pending Dungaroo is an environmentally-friendly portable toilet that is waterless, odorless and cost efficient. It uses specially-lined bags that kill pathogens, which are sealed and flushed into the base of the Dungaroo after use. A collection process for the filled bags is being developed for use by regional bio-digestion and gasification sites to generate methane. … Sanitation Creations aims to be a triple bottom lined company, focusing on people, profit, and planet, which we carry out through our commitment to make the system close-looped by using the filled bags as energy or fertilizer, and our pledge to get the Dungaroo into developing countries in desperate need of a sanitation solution.”
The N.C. A&T entry among the finalists is a company called North Carolina Triad Connects: “NCTC will teach financial literacy to low-income individuals and families, with a goal to move these citizens towards financial stability. This social benefit is accomplished through sequential and recursive efforts that teach and re-teach how to BUDGET, how to SPEND and how to SAVE. The SAVE initiative requires citizens to put “skin in the game” towards purchase of homes, education and other Recursive-teaching will reinforce the budget, spend save cycle once a major purchase, such as a home has been made.”
“Social business” is a term created by economist Muhammad Yusuf, the creator of microfinance and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. In Professor Yunus’s definition, “a social business is a cause-driven business. In a social business, the investors/owners can gradually recoup the money invested, but cannot take any dividend beyond that point. Purpose of the investment is purely to achieve one or more social objectives through the operation of the company, no personal gain is desired by the investors. The company must cover all costs and make profit, at the same time achieve the social objective … in a business way.”