Imagine What Comes Next

We asked investors, executives, financial professionals, entrepreneurs, thinkers, makers, and doers what they expect — or hope for — from the next decade of impact leadership and social enterprise.

This is what they told us.

Organizations need to align on impact

Talk is cheap. Companies that care about corporate purpose and social impact should do more to align their business practices with their values and also should not be afraid to go further and advocate for systemic change. That’s the only way to make impact at scale. —Dan Schwerin, Co-Founder, Evergreen Strategy Group

I hope and expect to see more companies, entrepreneurs, and investors that consider broader social impact and engagement as part of their mission and product development, rather than an afterthought or problem of their own creation. —Sage Ramadge, impact advisor and consultant

It’d like to see impact at the core: the primary value proposition and value contribution of every enterprise. —Randy J. Hunt, design executive

Consumers, workers, and government will drive the change

The socially conscious consumer will push companies to deepen their commitment to impact. —Will Bumpus, Founder and Managing Partner, Phoenix Rising

TOMS Shoes and Sweetgreen pioneered themes — one-for-one buying and transparent and local supply chains, among others — that helped usher in a seismic shift in consumer behavior. Today we are a decade and half past the founding of TOMS Shoes, and yet in terms of the economic emergence of “impact”, it feels like a century.

The notion that providing more than just a business transaction would be core for a company — not only in its mission statement, but in its actual product and service offering — is rapidly becoming mainstream.

Consumer confidence will rise on expectations of brand honesty and impact. Any business with an end customer will need to solve for both — through their supply chain and CSR efforts — to survive. —Mike Lewis, Founder, When to Jump

One trend I expect to see continue, which isn’t necessarily what I “want” but believe will be inevitable, is company leaders investing in developing their brand reputation on the impact spectrum, and being perceived by customers, employees, investors, and the media as “good.” Because distrust in institutions, social challenges, inequality and labor exploitation, climate change, etc. are becoming more apparent and galvanizing, the craft of branding will move up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. —Scott Norton, Co-Founder, Sir Kensington’s

For many in Big Tech, the principle of moving fast and breaking things has had negative consequences that undermine their value-add. It has become such an entrenched philosophy that changing course may require external regulation and penalties before they actually accept their culpability and responsibility. —Sage Ramadge, impact advisor and consultant

Accountability must be measurable and standardized

Similar to how nutritional facts on food cartons became standardized over the past half-century, I predict that nearly any product — from a tomato to a T-shirt to a piece of luggage — will contain facts and data based on where it’s from, how it was made, and who made it — not for marketing or PR purposes, but because consumers will demand it. Obscuring or avoiding this information will jeopardize a company’s ability to grow. —Mike Lewis, Founder, When to Jump

I hope to see companies approaching impact from an internal scorecard. It’s less sexy, and it’s often hard to justify or quantify benefits to customers or investors. It can also be complicated and technical.

But impact isn’t measured in the form of perception; it’s measured in dollars in the pockets of people who wouldn’t otherwise have it; dignity and opportunity for the disadvantaged; and reduction in chemicals and carbon in the environment at scale. —Scott Norton, Co-Founder, Sir Kensington’s

The level and frequency of greenwashing will increase, so it will be harder to cut through the noise and determine what is real versus what is spin. I want to see more of these “real” initiatives and ventures paired with ways to evaluate how “real” they are — perhaps through a globally leveraged scoring methodology that becomes a widely adopted tool to measure impact. —Jaspreet Singh, Chief Strategy & Insights Officer, Bounteous

There’s an exponential opportunity

Self-interest and broader interest will converge toward complete overlap. “Social impact” will become less synonymous with doing good and more synonymous with doing well. This isn’t to say entrepreneurs and investors seeking impact will lose positive social benefits in exchange for more financially oriented outcomes; rather, they will be one and the same.

Winners will be firms that are constantly evaluating the sectors, companies, and entrepreneurs at the full convergence of self-interest and broader interest. These are the firms that will have a clear business case for investing in social impact–related fields and businesses because they deliver outsized returns and tangible benefits to society and the environment. —Mike Lewis, Founder, When to Jump

My hope is that investors spend more time outlining what matters most to them beyond returns. —Will Bumpus, Founder and Managing Partner, Phoenix Rising

I hope that we can more broadly embrace investment models that encourage entrepreneurs to look beyond a five- to 10-year horizon. To build sustainable businesses and cultures requires a longer, multigenerational view (although I recognize the importance of striking a balance with near-term needs). Furthermore, the obligation to do right by stakeholders needs to be expanded beyond just investors, employees, and customers to include some measures of impact on global climate and social justice. —Dan Bomze, entrepreneur/advisor/investor

Systems will change as awareness grows

As a society and as business practitioners, we face an uphill battle here because it’s easier and more effective to “perform” impact rather than truly create it, and it’s a challenge to ideas like “focus on your customer” — social and environmental impact are never the No. 1 selling factors — and shareholder primacy, upon which the capital markets are built.

So, my hope is that we actually move away as a society from moral salvation through materialism, and actually reduce what we determine we need, how fast we need it, and how cheap it needs to be. —Scott Norton, Co-Founder, Sir Kensington’s

While I always aligned with the idea that initiatives and ventures focused on better environment, better health, better society, etc. are where “exponential opportunity” can be created, I think that now the impact of these initiatives/ventures will be more strongly understood by a wider swath of the population. Society’s level of awareness of and, more importantly, desire to get involved or in some way be a part of impact-driven initiatives will be greatly enhanced. —Jaspreet Singh, Chief Strategy & Insights Officer, Bounteous

I hope we’ll see a movement toward smaller/deeper communities and human-powered instead of algorithmic, as well as business models that don’t require screwing over huge numbers of people who may or may not know it right away. People are comfortable paying more for organic produce/meats because they are better for their health and the world in general. I think there is an internet equivalent of that we have yet to uncover. —Cameron Koczon, Founder, Fictive Kin

My wish: a more conscious, boldly optimistic, and inclusive capitalism. —Patricia Wexler, Managing Director, Starlight Ventures

The next decade will be driven not only by companies but by protocols as well. Protocols represent new ways of organizing human interaction, with rules that can’t be arbitrarily changed but instead rely on the collective to reach consensus. —Steve McKeon, Partner, Collab+Currency

Impact investing will evolve to include businesses that target the dangers behind technology, social networking, and constant connectedness. —Darren Litt, Co-Founder, MarketerHire

Creating value for others in an intentional, sustainable way can indeed push the world forward. —Sebastien Park, Senior Business Designer, IDEO

Where we aim—and the size of the target—matters

I heard a quote recently: “The best way to make a billion dollars is to help a billion people.” It would be great to see a world where the threshold of “help” gets higher than where it is today. There’s so much upside for companies that can accomplish things that some of our far-left politicians touted in this last election cycle. Hopefully we’ll talk about impact not in terms of millions, but billions, and the sexiest companies will be the ones that help the most people in the least-sexy industries. —Jeff Appelbaum, CEO, Salted

My main concern is how we solve the dislocation of resources — both capital and time — between the projects we’re effectively funding (from weapons to another video-sharing app, from corrupt politicians to Botox or ice cream) and what humanity really needs. A few examples: preventing pandemics, decoupling mass manufacturing from depleting the planet’s resources, obesity killing a similar number of people than hunger, the healthcare industry aligned around creating chronic illness instead of preventing disease, voting hundreds of times a day by “liking” stuff online vs. voting every 4 years for the real stuff (broken democracies), decoupling protein production from animal farming, solving climate change, preventing asteroids hitting our planet or destroying ourselves through nuclear disasters… and so on. As I think that the best investment opportunities should come from solving these fundamental challenges, and I believe in human’s progress, I wish for a better alignment of private and public capital. And at the very least, I expect this asset class to grow significantly. —Matias Mosse, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Starlight Ventures

We have to innovate and invest in less reactive technology, and have an eye toward products and services that might have a preventive aspect and a longer road to financial return. —Sunil Doshi, VP of Product, Reviewed

[Organizations should seek] access to populations that allow impact to scale (versus selling to a small segment). —Kary Campbell

I’d love a bifurcation of focus between cutting-edge, science-first and old-school, blue-collar industries. Both represent big opportunities for society. —Brent Beshore, CEO and founder, Permanent Equity

We are at an inflection point

We are in a generational shift from brand value being rooted in aspiration of luxury, individuality, and exclusivity, to aspiration of moral authority, inclusion, and wellness. —Scott Norton, Co-Founder, Sir Kensington’s

We’re seeing leaders emerge in the absence of leadership across the board — whether a governor, lawmaker, founder, community organizer, mother, volunteer — all being asked to rise to this challenge and to put themselves out there, in hopes of not only individually making an impact, but serving as a beacon for those that have felt [frustrated] for a long time but may have lacked the language, courage, and voice to articulate. —Sebastien Park, Sr. Business Designer, IDEO

The distinction between ‘social’ enterprises and ordinary companies will diminish. Social dimension of all businesses will be more visible and regarded as a common factor for everybody, including consumers, investors, and employees. Social and environmental impact will not be something only a particular segment of companies pursue. —Hyunjoo Je, CEO, Yellowdog

Graveyard

A generation who grew up with unprecedented access to information will be the leaders at both the corporate and political levels. They will, relative to past generations, have less tolerance for trying to fool people. The push to incorporate the well-being of all stakeholders will be higher than ever before. People will know that everyone is watching. —Morgan Housel, Collaborative Fund

I wish every company started or invested in had impact baked into its core business model. —Bryan Chang, Collaborative Fund

In order for companies to accelerate the prioritization of social impact, two things need to happen. First, there needs to be a monetary subsidy or tariff system implemented by the government to resolve any historical business tradeoffs. Second, we need a clearly defined system for evaluating a company’s “social impact” to ensure those subsidies or tariffs are doled out in an objective and fair way. —Tejinder Gill, Collaborative Fund

I hope for more transparency: developing, tracking, and reporting reliable/reasonable KPIs that match and measure consumption against regeneration efforts (including supply chain impact) to shed better light on companies that are actually helping to neutralize the impact of our wake. This would include tables or data sets in financial statements that support the KPI calculations, eventually working toward a “green score” of sorts. —Jeff Ullrich, Collaborative Fund

Some of the greatest areas of financial return are likely to be initiatives that 10 years ago would have been described as charitable programs, and today would be seen more as social-impact endeavors or investments with a double bottom return. —Josh Lubov, Collaborative Fund

Impact won’t exist as a concept or word to describe certain programs; it will simply be viewed as any other business or investment opportunity is today. —Josh Lubov, Collaborative Fund

Post-COVID-19, and in anticipation of an accelerating climate crisis, I expect that it will become much more standard for companies to invest in public health, environment, etc., as it’s uncertain that actions taken by the federal government will be enough to protect the country. —Lily Bernicker, Collaborative Fund

COVID-19 has forced each of us to rethink society and realize just how fragile it is. It is a stark reminder that government is not a catch-all, nonprofits have limitations, and for-profit businesses are not always aligned with the desired outcomes. Therefore, my hope is that we will see more collaboration between these various constituents toward an end of addressing future challenges. —Craig Shapiro, Collaborative Fund

The next 10 years will be shaped by a huge generational shift, as baby boomers age out of the workforce and millennials and Gen Z become the dominant force in all sectors of society. This shift will move the goalposts on expectations of the private sector. Companies that don’t move quickly toward equity, sustainability, and a broader commitment to ensuring a positive impact on the world will cease to exist. —Guy Vidra, Collaborative Fund

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