Alternative Business Models: Where People and Planet Matter (Part 2)
Circular Economy

Alternative Business Models: Where People and Planet Matter (Part 2)


A social enterprise enabling sustainable livelihoods for men, women and children throughout India’s informal value chains.

LABOURNET enables sustainable livihood.

Despite high levels of economic growth during the past two decades, the informal economy in India still accounts for more than 80% of non-agricultural employment. In the informal sector, more than three-quarters of laborers and daily wageworkers have not completed formal schooling and often operate without stable contracts, benefits or job security. Absent altogether from company payrolls, they remain especially vulnerable in the face of unexpected life circumstances.

After gaining experience at the International Labour Organisation, LabourNet’s founder, Gayathri Vasudevan, set out to close gaps that kept people away from more stable and meaningful work. Beginning with an initial model of leveraging technology for linking the informal sector to jobs, LabourNet pivoted into becoming a training platform to make laborers more marketable and hirable for organizations.

Presently, LabourNet is uniquely poised to create social impact while delivering business value to all of the stakeholders throughout its ecosystems — for individuals (skill certification and entrepreneurship), for corporates (upskilling and access to new labor forces), for governments (partnerships on policy implementation and training centers), and for educational institutions (testing and implementing programs). Ultimately, LabourNet’s scaled, multi-pronged approach is likely to encourage large reforms that will help empower a wider portion of India’s working population to find dignity, security and prosperity.


An open-source platform reducing Japan’s plastic consumption by enabling a decentralized network of free public water access.

A network for free water access

Japan is the world’s second-highest user of plastic packaging, consuming enough plastic bottles each year to wrap the globe a hundred times over. However, the founders of Mymizu are trying to change that. Frustrated by the ubiquity of Japan’s 3 million vending machines — and almost non-existent infrastructure for any sustainable alternatives — Robin Lewis started  Mymizu with a singular belief: if people have access to free water filling stations on the move, they won’t use as many disposable plastic bottles.

As an open-source platform, the app allows individuals and businesses to flag water-refilling stations in public spaces — like water fountains or friendly businesses — and crowdsource a map of drinking water points throughout the country. For users, it represents easy access to free water, but for partner businesses, it embodies an opportunity to increase foot traffic, enhance their branding and play their part in making their local areas more sustainable and livable.

Mymizu numbers

“Companies have the opportunity and duty to lead this change and it’s not just a risk, it’s a massive opportunity,” Lewis recently said while being interviewed by the Japan Times. “Look at Patagonia, for example, they are one of the most sustainable companies out there, at least in the Japanese scene, and they are doing incredibly well. Companies that are taking the leap are doing phenomenally in many cases.”

What other innovations have you encountered that make life better for people and the planet? What spaces exist that are in need of sustainable and social innovation? Let us know in the comment section!


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