There is a change happening in the social climate of the world. Companies are increasingly held accountable for the impact they have on society. Those not willing to embrace such changes risk falling behind. It is increasingly understood that financial performance in addition to taking care of stakeholders is key to longevity. After all, few have the influence and resources as some companies to make a positive impact on society. Southeast Asia, in particular, is experiencing a boom in companies that make improving society a priority. In this issue, Top 10 of Asia takes a look at the top 10 companies (in random order) making a large positive impact on society.
Myanmar-based social business Impact Terra is leveraging the sharp increase in smartphone and Internet penetration among rural populations to improve farming. Through its Golden Paddy platform and Android application, it provides digital services to farmers and connects agricultural and financial service providers. Since being founded by Erwin Sikma in 2016, the Golden Paddy platform has grown to 50,000 registered users that receive crop and location specific production advice and opportunities for selling their crop and receiving a business loan real-time via the app. Its online and offline communities reach up to 3 million farmers per month. The social business is partnered with remote sensing, financial inclusion partners and agriculture knowledge partners and sells services to agro-input companies, traders and buyers and micro-finance institutes. It recently raised USD 3 million to further develop its technologies and digital services. Farmers receive services for free, empowering them to improve production on the field, lower their costs and increase their income.
MyCash Online provides easy access to online financial services to 40 million unbanked migrant workers in Asia. Founded by Mehedi Hasan, MyCash has developed a reliable, secure and easy to use super app, where unbanked migrants can purchase products and services securely online just using their mobile phone. In the same platform, they also transfer money home instantly without visiting banks or remittance shops. They can either use their services using a simple android phone or they can visit one of their 1000+ Mobile Salesperson (MSP) locations in Malaysia & Singapore. MyCash also recently expanded to Australia and plans to start operations in the Middle East.
Sapa O Chau
Founded by Shu Tan, Sapa O’Chau Travel Social Enterprise is a grassroots organisation, owned and run by ethnic minorities of the mountainous region of Sapa, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam. It empowers the local ethnic minority communities in a holistic manner. It is able to sustain its social mission with profits from its businesses. Sapa O’Chau operates a small 3-star hotel, trekking business and a café. Its founder and director, Shu Tan, has won prestigious awards and been recently featured in major news outlets and documentaries. Sapa O’Chau has empowered 287 youths since 2010. 86% continued their education or have found employment. It serves more than 90 communities, hosted more than 430 volunteers, and has more than 90 partnerships locally and internationally.
Co-founded by Nicholas Lim, Tyler Jong and Lau Jiacai, TreeDots is Asia’s first wholesale distributor of surplus and imperfect food supplies in Southeast Asia. Its mission is to tackle the colossal issue of food loss (edible food that is discarded) by leveraging on technology to better match supply and demand, and streamline transactions. It is the industry’s food meister to help its suppliers recover cost from perfectly edible, imperfect and unsold inventory, and to assist food service providers in sourcing for affordable food supplies, while fulfilling its mission to save our dear planet.
Bambike, registered as Bamb Ecological Technology, Inc., is a socio-ecological enterprise founded in 2010 by Bryan Benitez McClelland. It is driving innovation in the bamboo, transportation and ecotourism industries. Its mission is to catalyze sustainable livelihood development: creating the greenest products and services on the planet, while generating jobs for some of the people that need them the most. Bambikes are crafted by hand by its bamboo bike builders (aka Bambuilders) who come from Gawad Kalinga, a Philippine based community development organization for the poor, working to bring an end to poverty. Using these Bambikes, Bambike Ecotours hosts experiences around historic neighborhoods and exciting destinations. Bambike Ecotours is a 5-star rated activity on TripAdvisor, ranking as the #1 Outdoor Activity in Manila City. Its work has been recognized by multiple award-giving bodies.
East Bali Cashews
East Bali Cashews is a social enterprise and snack company that has revolutionized how cashew nuts are brought to market – setting the benchmark for ethical standards in cashew nut processing; a global industry that often puts profit, not people first. Launched in a makeshift warehouse by Founder and CEO Aaron Fishman in 2012, with one truck and one driver to source cashews from acres of wild cashew nut forest, this enterprise now employs 700 full-time staff. It has built the region’s first pre-school and it processes 1,200 tons of cashew nuts every year. You’ll find East Bali Cashews products in all major Indonesian retail chains and convenience stores, as well as 23 export countries worldwide. This supports a network of over 2,000 direct-supply small-holder farmers. Catching the attention of corporate America, East Bali Cashews was awarded the U.S. Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence in 2015. Future plans include further investments into local produce and farmers.
Edible Garden City
Co-founded by Bjorn Low, Edible Garden City helps cities become more self-sufficient by growing food in under-utilised spaces like rooftops, beneath viaducts, and everywhere in between. It has built more than 200 edible gardens to date, across restaurants, hotels, schools and homes. Its urban farming model, Citizen Farm, produces fresh, tasty and nutritious fresh herbs, flowers, and vegetables. It teaches and supports its fellow farmers, whether they are experienced, or aspiring, and hire from marginalised communities and employ its gardens for horticulture-based therapy. It is also committed to finding a sustainable solution to managing food waste and achieving greater food resilience in Singapore.
Co-founded by Kim Lim, Swee Lin and Suzanne Ling, PichaEats is an award-winning social enterprise aiming to rebuild lives of refugees with a food business. It specialises in catering delicacies from the homeland of its chefs – from Iraqi snacks, Palestinian hummus to Afghani dumplings and Syrian sweets – with everything made with authenticity and love for events, functions, meetings and parties. PichaEats also run experiences where travellers can experience the making of certain dishes from different countries in the homes of the chefs, dine in, listen to stories and immerse themselves into a different culture. The experiences are all hosted by the chefs. Since its establishment in 2016 in Malaysia, it has partnered with 20 families from 7 different countries and sold 150,000 meals to customers. PichaEats has won numerous awards across the globe.
Founded by Greg Krasnov, SolarHome is a pioneer in Pay-As-You-Go solar off-grid households in Southeast Asia. It installs integrated solar energy and appliance units in customers’ homes, and offers radically affordable “rent-to-own” plans of energy service subscription. This dramatically lowers the barriers to adoption of solar technology by the bottom-of-pyramid clients. SolarHome is delivering a significant social impact in its addressable market of 27 million households across Southeast Asia living outside of the electric grid. Headquartered in Singapore, SolarHome presently operates in Myanmar. SolarHome was seeded and developed by FORUM, the largest fintech venture builder in Emerging Asia.
Socialgiver is an award-winning lifestyle & travel platform that helps consumers, businesses and social projects work together to create positive social impact;
in a win-win-win giving economy. Socialgiver has impacted over 75,000 lives through 40 social projects. Customers shop on Socialgiver website or app for great deals from leading hotels, restaurants, and activities across Thailand. Socialgiver makes your shopping experience even more special by donating 100% of profits from your purchases to help create impact and sustainability for important causes. It helps businesses integrate the customer experience with the giving experience in the most effective and creative way, by turning your service into shared value and improving your triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profit). Today, over 300 leading brands are giving back with Socialgiver. Socialgiver offers a brand-new way for people to support local projects. Socialgiver is breaking barriers between consumer spending and donations to fuel impact. It helps projects raise funds, increase the level of transparency and increase their effectiveness through collaboration.