Sustainability has become a buzz-word in business over the last few years, but start-ups who are truly building it into their business models from the word go are finding it can help attract savvy investors. Blue and Green Tomorrow gets the low-down on one innovative business that is doing just that.
Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the wider impact of how they operate and, alongside making financial returns, they are also looking to take an approach to business that makes a positive impact socially and environmentally. The emergence of organisations such as BCorporation, whose UK arm launched in Sept 2015, show that forward-thinking businesses are choosing this Triple Bottom Line approach to business, whereby financial, social and environmental sustainability are all given equal importance.
Interestingly, as well as established businesses developing this side of what they do, some start-ups are building this in from the very beginning and are reaping rewards in terms of attracting investors.
The Wave is a Bristol-based project looking to build an inland surfing lake, powered by the latest wave-making technology. The lake is at the heart of the project, but it’s about a lot more than surfing alone. Founder, Nick Housfield, explains.
“Our vision is to create an amazing natural landscape, with spaces where people can surf, have fun, socialise, get back in touch with nature, learn and explore. We want to attract people of all ages, background and abilities to come along, reap the benefits of surfing and being in nature – and ultimately support them to develop and reach their full potential in a number of ways.”
From the very beginning Nick, a successful osteopath and keen amateur surfer, knew he wanted to take a sustainable approach to doing business. He pulled together a great team of experts in their fields, including Chris Hines MBE, to help shape the business model. Chris’ role at The Wave is to ensure sustainability on all levels really is part of the company’s DNA and that it ‘walks the talk’ as far as social and environmental impact is concerned.
“Getting Chris in from the beginning of the project was key to how it has developed. He is a highly respected communicator and driver of positive change and he introduced us to the concept of the Triple Bottom Line of Sustainability, which has governed everything we have done.”
Chris was founder and Director of environmental campaigning group, Surfers Against Sewage, for 10 years. With a strong focus on ‘solution to problems’, he helped deliver £5 billion spend on UK coastline and has a track record of challenging the status quo and bringing about changes to the way things have ‘always been done’. He feels this equally applies to how modern companies do business.
Chris expands on this, ““There is a real opportunity for commercial companies to adopt a new model of doing business that reduces environmental impacts and maximises social and environmental benefits, at the same time as helping them to be more successful financially and attract investors. If a company is truly sustainable then it will be able to build a brand that is attractive to the public and investors, it will help them attract and retain good staff, and it will help encourage good external relationships – all of which helps make an investment in the company safer in the long term.”
This rounded approach to business has helped The Wave to attract a strong following of supporters (the project has over 200,000 social media followers), was a key driver for its successful Crowdfunder campaign which smashed its £150,000 target to raise £224,000, and helped them to secure their cornerstone investors – Christopher and Jenna Gordon.
Christopher (38) and Jenna (35) Gordon became interested in The Wave after seeing its hugely successful Crowdfunder rewards-based campaign in Nov 2014. They invested 20k via this and subsequently approached the team to understand the opportunities for further investment. They subsequently invested substantial time and money in the project and now sit on the Board.
They were impressed by the robust business plan and clear indications that the project would make a good financial return, but what really struck them were the social and environmental impact aims of this pioneering project. They believe that not only is The Wave brand, vision and concept commercially viable and inevitably financially rewarding, it also offers the opportunity to facilitate positive change on a scalable and global level.
Christopher is an Angel Investor, a fully qualified paramedic and one of the judges for UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge 2016. He comments, “Having money to invest is a very powerful position to be in. That power can be used in a number of ways. We choose to invest in entrepreneurs that think ‘out of the box’, who challenge standardised ways of operating and thinking, who are mindful of the impact they have (or don’t have) on their surroundings, who think long-term growth and impact rather than short-term gain. We want to invest in a future that inspires us and in businesses that inspire us.”
For Jenna, who has a background in child protection and has worked for a number charities, the vision of creating a place that could help everyone reach their full potential was hugely appealing. She adds:
“The Wave’s vision of providing opportunities for children and families to learn about and experience holistic healthy living, of enabling ground-breaking research to be carried out and of reducing the impact of disadvantage and segregation within communities, was compelling. To be able to help build an environment of respect,
innovation, learning, growth and inspiration – which is also financially viable and rewarding – was an opportunity we simply could not refuse.”
The Wave team has a number of specific plans for positive social and environmental impact, from outreach to inner-city kids and apprenticeships for disengaged young people, to hands-on education in marine conservation, use of renewables, and the creation of the Making Waves Foundation to support local charities and community initiatives. However in many ways it’s the core aim of creating a space for everyone, regardless of age, background or ability, to have fun and interact with each other that is it’s strongest attraction to the public and investors alike.
The project has obtained full planning approval for its site in Bristol and is now raising construction capital in order to commence work. The Wave has also applied for B-Corporation’s ‘B-Corp Pending Status’ for start-ups, which recognises its plans to be a truly sustainable business. For more information visit