Every company has a mission statement — a concise summary of its goals. But few companies, unfortunately, have a fundamentally altruistic mission at the heart of their operation.
Some entrepreneurs, however, have built their businesses around an altruistic cause. They’ve benefited strongly because of it, both in terms of expanding their business and in terms of making a positive impact on the world.
I want to look at a company with a central humanitarian mission — Water Watch Company — and discuss the lessons entrepreneurs can learn from it.
Water Watch Company
Water Watch Company was founded by Markeda Shorter and Jaime Vargas as part of a vision to alleviate the clean water crisis faced by developing countries. After witnessing the struggles of children, families, and entire communities in Colombia, Shorter and Vargas realized the extent to which clean water access was limited.
After a year of research and development, the team created a collection of products, including watches and accessories, that were stylish and affordable. For every watch sold, Water Watch Company pledged to provide clean water to an individual in the developing world for her entire life. For every accessory sold, 10 percent of the proceeds would provide clean water, hygiene, and sanitation education to people around the world.
Since 2018, Water Watch Company has donated more than 120 million gallons of clean water to people in need.
What You Can Learn
What lessons can you learn from Water Watch Company and other businesses with an altruistic mission?
1. The world is a big, diverse place.
In the developed world, it’s easy to take what we have for granted. Almost all of us have unlimited access to clean water, knowledge about the importance of hygiene, and a reliable sanitation system. But these constructs aren’t available everywhere in the world. Billions struggle with limited access to clean water and education, as well as issues like war, poverty, and famine. If you’re looking for a noble cause, there are many options to choose from.
2. Sustainability matters.
Ethics and sustainability are pressing issues for today’s consumers. Millennials and younger buyers want to know what kind of company they’re buying from. They want to be assured that the products they’re buying were sourced ethically and developed, produced, and shipped in a sustainable way. Improving your business’s sustainability, both on a per-product basis and in terms of your overall operations, can increase your brand visibility. It can also improve your brand reputation and ultimately improve your company’s bottom line.
3. Profitability and ethics aren’t mutually exclusive.
Many have come to believe that profitability and ethics are mutually exclusive concepts; you can only choose one path forward. If you want your business to be profitable and expanding, you can’t waste time on altruism or ethical causes. If you want to focus on making a difference in the world, you’ll have to sacrifice your profitability or economic success to do it. But success stories like Water Watch Company’s show this vision is shortsighted.
4. Your business can make a real difference.
Your business can make a positive change in the world. You don’t have to completely overhaul your business model to do it, nor do you have to focus on one cause; every bit helps. You can choose to donate a portion of your sales to a good cause. Perhaps you could donate products to beneficial community organizations. You could even use your business as a platform to elevate the visibility of causes you admire.
5. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
Finally, learn that inspiration for your business can come from anywhere at any time. Seeing the limited access to clean water in Colombia inspired the planning and launch of Water Watch Company. Seeing another pressing need could inspire the development of your business or inspire you to change how you’re currently operating for the better.
Your business doesn’t have to have an altruistic mission at its core, but it should abide by its own set of values. If you decide to positively impact the world, it can have enormous benefits for your organization. Learn from the altruistic entrepreneurs who came before you, and find a way to make your own positive impact on the world.