Each of the leaders we spoke to at our SIGNAL social impact session have a unique perspective on what it takes to align a company’s mission with purpose-driven work: Head of Sustainability at Rothy’s, Saskia van Gendt; Director of Lyft’s social impact team, Lisa Boyd; and Twilio’s Chief Social Impact Officer, Erin Reilly.
Though these companies are situated in different industries, retail, consumer tech, and enterprise tech, the throughline among them is an intuitive alignment between social impact causes and the goods/services they bring to the market. Below, we’ll lay out how each found that alignment—and the positive impact doing so has had not only on those they serve, but on the broader success of their companies.
Rothy’s: Differentiating with sustainability
For Rothy’s,doing good through business was central from the beginning. They wanted to stand out in the notoriously unsustainable fashion space, so they were founded with a commitment to turn single-use plastic water bottles and ocean-bound marine plastics into beautifully designed footwear and accessories. Leveraging new manufacturing technology, Rothy’s knits each item with exactly the amount of material needed—removing waste from excess fabrics.
According to van Gendt, that mission has helped them grow, succeed, and differentiate in an incredibly crowded market. Rothy’s items are not only sustainably sourced and produced, but are intended to be timeless, durable, and washable, significantly extending their usability far beyond the competition.
“We give customers an opportunity to do good through the buying choices they make,” van Gendt said, which has propelled Rothy’s to not only be a massively successful business—but one that makes an even greater impact as it scales. Since its launch five years ago, Rothy’s has given new life to millions of water bottles with virtually no waste along the way.
Lyft: Driving equity via core transportation services
For Lyft, a rideshare service used by millions each year, the question of bringing purpose into their work meant examining how transportation plays a crucial role in an equitable society.
Rather than opt for a more general path, Lyft decided to use their unique superpower—the ability to provide access to transportation—to make an impact on people’s lives. “My team identifies the acute moments, such as getting to a job interview or getting to a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, where transportation access can be transformational to that individual or that community,” Boyd said.
Through their LyftUp programs, Lisa’s team provides donated or discounted rides to those in need during critical moments. For example, it was estimated that 15M+ people did not vote in the 2016 election due to lack of transportation, so Lyft launched a Voting Access Program to help hundreds of thousands of Americans get to the voting booth in both 2018 and 2020. This program also drove substantial business value through press attention, social media engagement, celebrity support, and more.
Twilio: Aligning social impact with business growth
Twilio’s position in the digital communications space provides a unique opportunity to build impact directly into the company business strategy: Twilio’s communication building blocks for SMS, WhatsApp, Video, Voice and more enable nonprofit organizations to reach the people they serve and deliver the right help at the right time.
Twilio.org is the social impact business unit of Twilio, which offers nonprofits access to a suite of communication services at a discounted rate. With this revenue, Twilio is then able to offer grants, allocate employee volunteer time, and more services to help other social impact organizations access technology to scale their mission. “We have what we call our go-to-market virtuous cycle,” Reilly explained. “The more nonprofits accomplish their mission through Twilio technology, the more we can invest in helping nonprofits scale their impact .”
This cycle ensures that Twilio is integrating social impact into its broader business goals—so rather than asking for resources to drive social impact programs, these programs organically scale as the company’s revenue grows.