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Bringing Intelligent Impact into Impact-Driven Work

Look around you. Everywhere you turn, you see global problems that seem more intractable than ever. And all despite decades of effort on the part of well-meaning benefactors, non-profit organizations, and philanthropic groups. What are the barriers impeding the tireless work of the concerned thousands from achieving meaningful progress? Is it time to reimagine the way we leverage partnerships to address existential issues like sustainability, education, equality, healthcare, and hunger?

Okay, let’s look around again. This time, we’ll focus on the typical model for funding and deploying assistance to affect social change. When a philanthropist or corporation seeks to contribute toward an issue, funds are donated to a nonprofit organization. The nonprofit then utilizes these resources how, where, and when they feel appropriate. This approach is certainly laudable. But what if you prefer meaningful social change via collaboration, innovation, accountability, transparency, and more immediate results? The traditional model is apt to disappoint you.

What if there were a more forward-thinking way to drive change? Imagine an approach that decentralized the traditional benefactor/nonprofit pipeline, and opened up alliances with corporate America – with its global reach and vast resources – for innovative, custom-tailored give-back strategies.

The need for new vision, strategies, and partnerships fueling impact-driven work was the genesis of RipplEffect, the strategy and marketing agency built specifically for the stewardship economy.

Founders Stephanie Moon and Lauren Biegler gained the first-hand experience with the limitations of the conventional impact-driven infrastructure. As Lauren says, sheepishly, “In our previous careers in the nonprofit space, we became part of the problem. It was our agenda, our goals, our little world. So we decided to step away and really problem solve, to explore ways to make the world a better place by partnering with big companies – lots of em! All of ‘em! – to use business as a catalyst for change.”

Stephanie describes this new ethos as “Intelligent Impact.”

“We believe give-back should match a specific, exisitgn need. So we collaborate with companies to find soultions together. We’re well-expereience in the nuances and complexities of impact-driven work, and use this intel to determine precisely the impact should be targeted with our partners.

To deliver Intelligent Impact with corporate partners, Lauren and Stephanie hand-picked a team of specialists possessing a rare mix of industry experience and passion for change. “Radical Pragmatists,” you might say.

Marketing and brand strategy, Web and digital technology, film and video, graphic design, interactive experiences, social media, copywriting – the RipplEffect team combines award-winning creative executions with breakthrough strategies to deploy initiatives that enable quantifiable impact. Forging innovative partnerships with successful, well-established brand names is foundational to RipplEffect’s approach. “We’re not out to destroy the world and build a new one,” says Creative Director David Cocciante. “We want to utilize the systems already in place, in a smarter, fairer, more sustainable way.”

PepsiCo is one of many corporate entities onboard with RipplEffect’s new direction in driving impact. As part of the largest single grant given by the Foundation in PepsiCo’s corporate history, RipplEffect helped engage and educate conscious consumers, internal stakeholders, and the general public on the “crop gap” — the unequal access women face in agriculture-dependent economies. Highlights include a five-part global campaign featuring award-winning short-form videos created by female videographers local to each region.

Intelligent Impact offers a proven methodology for driving meaningful change in addressing the most challenging issues of our time. As author and marketer Ryan Holiday suggests,

“Stop looking for angels, and start looking for angles.”

The founders of RipplEffect have built their business on it.


How Corporate Stewardship Leads the Charge

There are so many ways to get involved in social impact programs, but myriad options can lead to analysis paralysis. Here’s how to set impact goals with measurable outcomes.

There’s a growing need for new sustainable technologies that can support the U.S. and China’s goals to cut back carbon emissions by 2025. These “Cleantech” initiatives work to reduce negative environmental impact through improvements in energy efficiency and sustainable use of resources. And the Cleantech industry is booming thanks to the help of these green venture capital (“green VC”) firms. In 2018, investments in clean energy exceeded $300 billion, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report released in January.

In April 2019, TechCrunch noted an increase in green business deals alongside growing concerns about the climate. The article observed that some of the largest businesses in food and agriculture are investing in startups developing protein replacements as well as innovative farming technologies. More big utility companies, meanwhile, are backing smarter grid technologies, and big auto manufacturers are investing in new energy storage and battery technologies. Other investors are funding new construction tactics for energy efficient homes and cities, and even getting behind specially-engineered technologies that could remove carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere.

From agriculture and bioproducts to energy efficiency, smart grid and energy storage, solar energy, transportation, water and waste management, wind and geothermal, and other renewables, sustainability-driven initiatives like these are exactly what today’s key stakeholders and shareholders are looking for in a return on their investments.

There are so many smart green VC firms across the U.S. and in Europe that back sustainable startups with a positive environmental impact.

Here are five of them.

Kleiner Perkins (Menlo Park, Calif.)

The global green startup conference ECOSUMMIT calls Kleiner Perkins one of the top VCs in the world. Founded in 1972, their current green portfolio includes Opower (IPO), Silver Spring Networks (IPO), Relayr, Enlighted, Orcan Energy, and Elcore. Kleiner Perkins’ mission statement is to serve humanity through people, technology, and capital, and work with founders and CEOs who share those values.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures (U.S and E.U.)

This billion dollar firm funded by Bill Gates and other prominent high net-worth investors backs early stage startups with new technologies that support a transition to a 100 percent renewable energy system. To meet its goal of a carbon-neutral future, BEV addresses carbon emissions in five key areas: electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings.

BP Ventures (U.S. and E.U.)

BP Ventures was founded more than a decade ago to invest in new energy technologies. It recognizes that in a world that continues to demand more energy, there must be initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. Its transition to a low carbon company has resulted in over $500 million in more than 40 technology companies and green VC funds, such as Peloton, Beyond Limits and Voltaware.

Obvious Ventures (San Francisco, Calif.)

Obvious Ventures’ #worldpositive impact program invests in energy, mobility, and food markets. Their portfolio includes Change.orgMediumBeyond MeatProterra, and Mosaic.

Chrysalix (U.S. and Canada)

Led by CEO Wal van Lierop, a leader and visionary in commercial energy conservation for more than thirty years, this cleantech VC works with clients like Primus Power, Enbala, Liquid Light, and Glasspoint.

If you’re interested in growing your business with an environmental impact mission or sustainability initiative we’d love to hear from you! Click here to learn more.

Breaking Down Buzzwords: Your “Carbon Footprint”

Since attaining Homo sapiens (aka “wise man”) status some 130,000–200,000 years ago, humans didn’t even start producing air pollution until the last two thousand years.

The First Industrial Revolution (late-1700s to mid-1800s) gave rise to coal-fired power, emissions from oil and gas production began in the late 1800s, and then the Second Industrial Revolution utilized technology to produce goods on a mass scale through the early 1900s. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that humankind succeeded in emitting more pollution into the Earth’s atmosphere than ever before.

Today in the U.S., sulphur dioxide and the burning of coal is a leading cause of toxic mercury emissions in the atmosphere. In just over a century, from 1900-2016, global carbon dioxide emissions increased from 2 billion tons to a staggering 36 billion. As greenhouse gases continue to warm the Earth’s oceans, deplete the atmosphere, and cause severe droughts and catastrophic weather, today’s climate crisis is a global wakeup call to begin cutting back on carbon emissions now before it’s too late.

Air travel alone accounts for 2.5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. The holidays—as wonderful as they may be—can also often prove wasteful, from how your holiday feast was sourced to where your gifts were made. Consider how far these goods had to travel before they got to the dining room table or Christmas tree—or how how far you had to travel to get there. Every choice you make, every product you purchase, every time you drive your car or take another mode of transportation, you’re contributing to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

But rather than despair, why not take action?

There are many small shifts you can make to reduce your carbon footprint—the amount of CO2 emissions you’re personally responsible for—this holiday season and beyond. Can you make a resolution for 2020 to start wasting less and saving more?

Here are a few tips to start reducing your carbon footprint right now.

Shop Small

The future of commerce is small. Supporting small businesses reduces transportation costs and often cuts out the middleman, stimulating the local economy as a bonus. Small businesses employ over 77 million Americans, and many small enterprises have certified green statuses like B Corp, USDA Organic, or Fair Trade. The coffee roasting company Equal Exchange, for instance, works to improve the food system by making business practices more equitable for hardworking farmers.

Buy Local (and “Ugly”)

As old agricultural practices are dying, the future of farming is local. Buying produce from your local farmers market or enrolling in a CSA reduces packaging and transportation costs and cuts out the distributor, which puts more money back in the pockets of farmers. You can also join the “ugly produce” movement through companies like the Baltimore-based Hungry Harvest, which saves less than perfect-looking food from the landfill. Hungry Harvest reaches metropolitan cities like Raleigh, Detroit, New York City, Miami, among others, and encourages farmers, growers, and grocers to divert their suboptimal produce toward its program, which also distributes to underserved communities to fight hunger.

Eat Less Meat

Livestock production is a main contributor to climate change and drives deforestation. The journal Scientific Reports found that if everyone in the U.S. reduced their consumption of animal products by 25 percent, we’d save 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Or if American reduced their meat consumption by just 10 percent, we would save upwards of  7.8 trillion gallons of water.

Waste Less

The way we produce, consume, and discard food is no longer sustainable. The 2019 UN climate change report warned that the present global food supply chain puts the planet at risk for massive deforestation and biodiversity loss, which will accelerate climate change. Unsustainable food production also creates exorbitant amounts of food waste. Nearly one third of all food produced globally ends up in the landfill. According to the UN report, we are throwing away $1 trillion worth of food each year, which equates to about half of Africa’s GDP. At present, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest carbon emitter after the U.S. and China. How might you make a conscious effort to waste less food, at home, at work, and when you travel?

Compost Organic Waste and Recycle Properly

Composting your food waste saves water and conserves what’s left of our landfill space. Many large cities implement composting programs into their regular sanitation pickups. Other cities have private composting companies, like CompostNow, which serves parts of the Southeast. And as for all that pesky inorganic material like plastic, make sure it hits the recycle bin—but be sure to sort it properly. Despite that 75 percent of the population recycles, only 9 percent of recycled plastic actually gets recycled. You might consider setting aside any questionable plastic waste items and dropping them off at a specialty recycling center.

Better Yet, Go Plastic-Free (Or At Least Cut Back)

Aside from polluting our oceans and endangering sea life, NPR reports that plastic’s carbon footprint is significant. The emissions generated from producing and incinerating plastic could create 56 gigatons of carbon between 2019 and 2050. Swap disposable plastic straws (or skip them altogether) for reusable stainless steel ones. Stop using plastic bags and bring your own reusable ones whenever you can. Choose boxes over bottles, and buy food in bulk when it makes sense. Bring your own to-go containers to a restaurant that you know is notorious for packing food in styrofoam and plastic, and don’t forget your mug the next time you grab a coffee to go.

We admire companies with environmental impact missions. If you’re curious how your business could offset its carbon footprint, let’s start a conversation.


The Difference Between
Looking Good and Doing Good

Opinion Piece by Lauren Biegler, RipplEffect CEO

It’s fall 2017 and I’ve enrolled our fledgling company, RipplEffect, in the Nexus DC Summit for our official debut among industry peers and professionals. I was excited and nervous…mostly nervous…to be in a room of next-generation leaders, brands and social entrepreneurs, who all shared a heartbeat for the impact I wanted to make: using business as a catalyst to create social change. 

When I arrived on the first day of the Summit, I looked around the room, whirring with suits, ties and stilettos (something akin to the entry floor of the United Nations), unsure of how to get myself in the conversational ring. 

Do I just tap someone on the shoulder and hurl my ideas at them? Maybe I just slooth into a group convo, laugh like I know what they are all talking about. Or maybe I just play it cool…grab some smokes and stay outside the whole time. But wait, I don’t smoke…and that’s insane. 

I chose to speak to noone and sheepishly ducked in and out of a few breakout groups, until I arrived at one where a person’s input inspired me to feel ready to voice my opinion: The Convergence of Western Capital and Emerging Markets. The speaker that ignited this spark of action in my vocal cords hailed from a generational family foundation that provides grants for emerging creatives to produce documentaries on current events. 


I approached him, and said, “I work in media with companies like…(rattle off household brand names here)…and want to use the power of media and business to educate on the realities of social progress and the marginalization of people who can’t really share their story because of their limited access to resources.

He deadpan looked me in the face and said….

“Have you ever considered the difference between looking good, and doing good? Unfortunately, you’ve picked the wrong person to talk to today. I believe you’re doing nothing but slapping lipstick on a pig for a paycheck. Have a nice day.” 

My stomach dropped. I could not believe it. What had I missed?

It took a few deep dives into that interaction, to realize that doing good, for the sake of looking good, can be, and most often always is, an exploitative process. The nature of social change (sustainability, labor rights, give-back programs) is that it involves the lives of other people, and to share their lives, is a right that is earned, not given. 

When you share the story of someone who has had trauma, tragedy of grief, it is with their consent, and with the shared desire to better the path for someone else. To honor the reciprocal ecosystem we share and use the story to really help someone we may not know.

What I also reflected on, is that being a household brand name, or someone with access to resources, does not disqualify them from being able to change the way things have been done. To do this, it takes an awareness and commitment to revisit a company’s genesis…to pop-the-hood, and examine the entity that has been built. To ask, is this…company, non-profit, community, etc. running the way we want(ed) it to? Have we put this in auto-pilot? Did we get into this to make money, or to give people something? 

If you’re ready to start there, RipplEffect will humbly examine those pathways towards progress. Contact us.

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