Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

Top 7 Purpose-Driven Innovations From 2019

Innovation Snapshot

From fake rhino horns to a sustainable vacation rental platform, we hope these purposeful innovations inspire more to come.

As social consciousness expands, many consumers are caring just as much about the impact of brands as they do about the actual product.

A recent global survey of 30,000 consumers found that 62 per cent of customers want companies to stand up for current and relevant issues like sustainability, transparency or fair employment practices. 

Seemingly, purpose has become the fifth “P” of marketing — alongside product, price, place and promotion. Cost, quality and customer experience are still expected when engaging in a service or making a purchase. However, these are expected — no brownie points awarded. New brands wanting to stand out must lead with their brand story rather than by the benefits of their product.

Patagonia is a great example of a company with a purpose-driven mission. As its mission statement reads: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”

For Springwise, it’s about curating innovations that matter. We particularly like disruptive innovations that promote sustainability, better health and education. We also focus on how emerging technologies are used to address societal issues related to the climate, diversity and poverty.

For these reasons, we have decided to curate seven of our favourite purpose-driven innovations spotted during 2019. From fake rhino horns to a sustainable vacation rental platform, we hope they inspire many more purposeful innovations to come.

On a related note, we’re asking readers to help us pick the 10 Springwise innovations that mattered most in 2019. See a list of our favourites and vote on the ones that matter most to you.


Photo source FairChain

Dutch NGO the FairChain Foundation partnered with the United Nations Development Programme to develop a more equitable chocolate bar called The Other Bar. The bar, made with Ecuadorian-grown cocoa, is also an opportunity to help fund growers. 

Inside each wrapper is a code that can be scanned to donate a blockchain token to the farmers who produced the cocoa. The scan will also show buyers exactly how much the farmer was paid for the cocoa in their bar and the exact GPS coordinates of the cacao tree where the cocoa for their bar was harvested. The token can also be used to get money off the next bar purchased.

Chocolate production is a €92 billion global industry. At the same time, farmers only receive around 3 per cent of the value of the cocoa used to make the chocolate and many cocoa farmers also do not earn a living wage.


Photo source Beco

Social enterprise Beco launched an ad campaign that it called: “Steal our Staff.” The campaign urged other companies to poach Beco’s staff. Its aim was to “raise awareness of the Disability Employment Gap and disrupt employers’ outdated attitudes towards people with disabilities.”

Beco makes environmentally-friendly toiletries and has a workforce that is 80 per cent disabled, visually impaired or disadvantaged. The company hopes the campaign will not only allow its employees to find their ideal job but will also create new openings for Beco to hire more disabled employees.

The integrated campaign included press releases and the printing of employee CVs on Beco’s packaging, as well as short TV film ads featuring real employees.


Photo source Patagonia

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia opened a pop-up café in central London, which offered visitors the opportunity to “learn how to make a positive difference”. 

The pop-up, called Action Works Café, curated climate activist training courses, workshops on topics such as carbon literacy, habitat conservation and non-violent protest.

The café also included a collection of books written by thought leaders for public lend and a library of “Action Postcards.” The postcards featured 24 actions that individuals could engage in depending on how much time they had. Activities ranged from signing a petition to filing a Climate Litigation case against the government.


Photo source Unsplash by Nathan Dumlao

London-based Change Please aims to reduce the number of homeless people by training and employing them as baristas. 

Change Please estimates that the average Londoner purchases two cups of coffee per day. By 2020, 100,000 barista jobs will be created in the UK as a result. To meet that demand, the social enterprise trains the homeless as baristas.

The programme is taught by professional baristas. Trainees are then employed to sell Change Please coffee at events and street-side coffee vans. Change Please pays the participants a living wage and offers them support to find housing. 


Photo source Shachihata

A blockchain-powered app called Vault Platform is designed to empower people to speak up about sexual harassment or other misconduct at work. The app gives users a way to record a private, time-stamped report that is stored on the blockchain as evidence. This “digital receipt” cannot be altered or deleted.

Further incidents can be recorded privately and efficiently, creating a credible timeline of events using blockchain’s time-stamping technology. The app is also useful for showing if other victims have accused the same person. The information remains confidential until employees choose to report an incident.

The so-called Vault Platform is not an anonymous reporting system. But it allows employees who feel harassed or bullied or discriminated against to eventually report instances in confidence to higher-ups, with time-stamped evidence and personal memos attached.


Photo source Linh Nguyen on Unsplash

Fairbnb is developing a platform for short-term rentals aimed at helping local communities. The platform plans to work with neighbourhoods to make short-term rentals sustainable. 

Like Airbnb, Fairbnb plans to be a virtual meeting place for hosts and guests to connect. Unlike Airbnb, the cooperative says that it is focused on sustainable tourism rather than profit. 

The service charges a commission to the guest (15 per cent of the rental price) and 50 per cent of it goes to fund local social projects (7.5 per cent of the overall booking cost). Fairbnb is currently piloting the platform in Amsterdam and select cities across Italy.


Photo source Simon Greenwood on Unsplash

Merging materials science and conservation, a team of researchers from the UK’s University of Oxford and Shanghai’s Fudan University created a fake rhino horn that is nearly indistinguishable from a real one. The proof of concept has already survived thermal and infrared analysis, as well as mechanical tests. Using a simple and inexpensive combination of horsetail hairs glued together with regenerated silk, scientists have created an incredibly realistic fake. 

Rhinoceros horn is not really a horn or hard growth like hooves. It is a thick tuft of hair glued together by hardened excretions from the animal’s skin. Horsetail hair has the same tubular shape and a similar size to rhinoceros hair. When it is moulded together with a sticky, tough silk compound, it resembles very closely a natural horn.