Even for the most sophisticated CSR leader, some issues are just too big to solve alone. Companies are leveraging co-creation, partnerships and stakeholders to attack some of the most pressing social and environmental issues, but the newest approach takes problem-solving out of big business and into the world of bootstrapping, elevator pitches and seed rounds.
The latest and greatest from CSR trailblazer Patagonia shows that recruiting the help of entrepreneurial businesses may be just what needs to happen to create substantial change. Patagonia recently launched "$20 Million & Change," a program that will invest in startup companies focused on positive impact in five key areas: clothing, food, water, energy and waste. According to Rose Marcario, chief executive of Patagonia's newly announced holding company, Patagonia Works, the program grew out of the organization's desire to apply its financial success toward serving causes that are in alignment with Patagonia's values. $20 Million & Change is unique not only in the staggering amount of money it will provide selected startups – they'll receive between $500,000 to $5 million – but in the comprehensive support given to those innovators in order to surmount some of the biggest hurdles for nascent businesses. The selected startups will get assistance in sourcing, manufacturing and may even have the opportunity to sell products under the Patagonia label.
Patagonia is again revolutionizing the way we think about companies and their broader societal role. By putting the power of both its capital and brand behind these smaller, socially-driven businesses, Patagonia recognizes that one company alone cannot change the world. Collaboration is key, especially when it comes to complex, systemic issues such as supply chain and natural resource use. With research revealing that three-out-of-every-four startups fail, $20 Million & Change could be a game-changing boost for fledgling businesses – and possibly the emergence of long-awaited social and environmental solutions.