Over 1.4B people around the world live off the grid, according to IRENA.org. 780 million people around the world lack access to clean water and WFP.org reports that 842 million do not have enough food to eat. In terms of healthcare, 1.3 billion lack access to necessary healthcare systems. The numbers are so staggering that they make it difficult even for those who would like to help as they do not know how or may have even lost belief in the systems that are currently tasked with doing so.
How do we, as a species, incentivize caring about the future of our race and the planet we currently inhabit? We desperately need modern and forward-thinking problem solving in business that takes full advantage of proven economic incentives, technological advances, helps clean up our world and combines success with moral courage to do what is right and just.
We can apply these same formulas to solving major global problems that affect billions of lives. This morally responsible and motivational course of action is what I call need-based capitalism. Products and/or solutions are based around basic human need, not want or desire for non-essential luxuries. The only additional criteria required to add to the already proven-successful, incentive-based structure that in turn will affect positive change and provide solutions to macro problems, is the development of these businesses strictly around solving the problems themselves. This providing of responsible and sustainable solutions, in fact, and synergistically, is also makes for a strong business case. In other words the size of the problem directly correlates to the market size and business opportunity.
Here are tangible steps entrepreneurs can take when choosing a course of action or implementing an idea:
- Be clear about the problem and honest about the solution. Those in need will know right away if your solution works, i.e. providing eyeglasses for those without vision care. The key here is trying out your solution on a small and controlled group of individuals in need of your solution.
- Ensure the solution works, i.e. building wells for those in need of clean water.
- Try to tackle issues where demand outpaces supply as this will bring customers to you. Based on the above market dynamic, your solution will be sought after. This also saves spending inordinate amounts on marketing, i.e. micro lighting solutions provided to those living off the grid.
- Ensure the size of the problem is enough to sustain your business as well as cause a positive social impact that can affect real change, i.e. hunger, shelter etc.
- Profit while affecting change to create a sustainable model. Offer responsible micro-finance systems, install clean water filtration systems, and develop and sell carbon negative plastics.
- Ensure your business model is based on fairness and contains incentives for growth for all in the supply chain so that expansion organically occurs throughout the organization and success is shared by all participants. For example, your cost of goods sold should take into account localization and the suggested retail price in the marketplace you are targeting.
The ability to sell your solution is as important as the idea itself. You must have your own vision and stick by it. If you do not believe in your idea, you cannot sell it to investors, distributors, retailers and most importantly, consumers.
If we don’t change our global approach to business then the problems that have been created by a dated way of thinking will persist and multiply. Dependence on fossil fuels is a perfect example of a thought process that is fraught with an old way of thinking, diminishing returns and dangerous environmental affects.
I urge more entrepreneurs to look outside of focus groups and instead at real world problems to create businesses that assist our global network of brothers and sisters in need. There are a plethora of issues to resolve in the developing world, the end result of which will be a better world for all. So step away from your immediate surroundings. Travel to Congo, Nepal, Haiti, Bangladesh, Malawi, and Myanmar and see what people are missing that you take for granted in your own life. It is only by immersing yourself in others’ environments that will allow you to fully understand the issues. Here is where you will come up with solutions that help people, planet, future and yourself.
Author Bio: John Salzinger is a serial entrepreneur and a seasoned expert in sales, media, business and technology. He Co-founded MPOWERD Inc., a fast growing, globally distributed micro energy solutions B Corp. John devotes himself to overall strategy, product development and maximizing the global distribution of MPOWERD’s innovative lighting solutions as well as developing critical strategic partnerships.
Having begun his professional career in fashion photography, John worked in the global print market before shifting into television as a News Editor and Master Controller for ABC World Television News. Adapting to changing technologies, John became a Multimedia Producer, writing, editing and producing his own voiceovers for Associated Press Digital. Moving beyond news and into finance, John was instrumental in opening the NYC office for Heartland Payment Systems (NYSE: HPY) and subsequently founded Platinum Processing, an ISO of EVO Merchant Services where he hired and managed a staff of Sales Representatives, Value Added Resellers and supported hundreds of clients Nationwide. Before co-founding MPOWERD, John was a consultant at Clever Rooster and a Director of Sales and Content at social, local, mobile, tech start-up, gopogo.
John is an avid surfer, basketball player, beach bum and yogi. He holds closely his beliefs in true equality between all people and balance in life.