Innovative business models driving impact at scale

In this section, we’ll focus on a key stakeholder of businesses : the employees.  How do companies innovate to have more positive impact on their employees?  

The strong connection between the well-being and happiness at work of employees, and their performance is already recognised by most leaders. 

Here are a few inspiring examples of companies innovating to impact more positively their employees while creating performant workplaces.

1) Share wealth with employees

Giving employees an actual ownership interest in the business has become a popular way to keep them engaged, benefiting both the employee and the business. 

Perhaps the model that truly benefits the employees the most is the model of worker cooperatives – organizations owned and managed by their workers. Some organizations are bringing innovation to this business model.  Evergreen Cooperative has created a new model that helps create green businesses and train local residents to become co-owners of these businesses. 

Some companies are also going one step further by making their suppliers benefit from the growth of the company and take decisions, such as Choba Choba. 


Evergreen Cooperatives

A non profit which creates jobs in low-wealth communities then recruits and trains local residents to fill them.

Business model innovation :
Evergreen Cooperations is finding ways to make the city cleaner and more wealthy, in ways that will create jobs for the city’s poorest residents. The residents earn an onwership stake as they create thriving businesses. 

Impact : Create jobs and empower low-wealth communities. The goal of the company is « equitable wealth creation at scale.

Scale and business value (ROI):  They created 3 cooperatives in Cleveland, generating profits for their worker-owners:
– Evergreen Energy Solutions which has been the regional leader in LED lighting systems, solar power and other energy-efficient solutions
since 2009.
– Green City Growers which supplies sustainably grown lettuce, greens and herbs to grocers, restaurants and food service establishments throughout northeast Ohio.
– Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, which cleans healthcare, hospitality and hotel linens.
They have also a for profit business service to inspire and advice others create successful green cooperatives on a similar model in other locations.

Choba Choba

Sale of premium Swiss chocolate.

Business model innovation :
Thee cocoa farmers are shareholders of the company. They participate in the decision making and the benefits of the company.  Also, 5% of the sales are allocated to the Revolution Fund and transferred to the communities in direct payouts and in the form of shares.

Impact : Fair remuneration of the farmers who benefit from the profits, empowerment and pride

Scale : 36 families impacted in Peru (2020) 

2) Ensure the financial wellness of your employees

How to contribute to the well-being of your employees? A great culture, a beautiful office, gym facilities, a ping-pong table and a massage room in the workplace are cool stuff to have, but the largest impact is to make sure your employees are paid enough so that they don’t go through financial stress to pay their bills or health expenses, which can affect their performance. 



Global payment company

Business model innovation :
There were four key elements to the Employee Financial Wellness Initiative that Paypal announced at the end of 2019: 1) They reduced the cost of healthcare; 2) they reviewed and raised wages where appropriate; 3) they made everyone a shareholder and long-term beneficiary of the collective success as a company; and 4) they wrapped everything with a long-term financial education and planning program.

At the core of the program was a calculation called Net Disposable Income, or NDI. NDI is the amount of money that a person has left over after paying taxes and necessary living expenses, such as taxes, food, housing and transportation. They decided to target an NDI of 20%.

Impact : 

  • A decrease in the number of employees who report they are running out of funds between pay periods
  • An increase in healthcare benefit enrollment and employees upgrading their plans
  • A higher rate of 401(k) and employee stock purchase plan enrollment

Scale : They applied it to the 23,000 employees of the company

Business value (ROI): « I believe it’s worth every dollar and every resource and that it’s been essential to making our workforce more resilient in the face of COVID-19. »

3) Bring transparency in everything, including salaries

Transparency in the workplace is still rare and yet, its benefits are tremendous. It creates trust and shows that the company is not trying to hide anything unethical. It also reduces the gender wage gap. By being open about sensitive information like company finances or salaries, people stop assuming the worst, and are more engaged. 




A social media management platform, originally based in the Silicon Valley, with a distributed team. 

Business model innovation : Buffer practices extreme transparency in the workplace, it’s probably the company which has been the furthest in this policy. 

Impact & Business value (ROI):  The direct business benefits are clear: More candidates will apply to job openings. Increasing the job application count also means increasing the probability of landing a high-quality candidate. Being transparent is also viewed positively by job candidates and thus, such candidates will be more willing to apply to the job opening. It also attracts candidates who believe in the same values. 

Scale :  x

4) Bring joy to work

Ensuring that employees are happy to come to work every day is definitely a win-win for both employees and employer. 


Menlo Innovations

A software design and development firm. 

Business model innovation :
Exasperated with the bad management practices he had experienced in tech companies, the CEO of Menlo, Richard Sheridan, has set the  explicit goal of “ending the human suffering involved in software development. Through various practices such as recruiting based on cultural fit, pairing people to work together, giving visibility on tasks and resources, eliminating fear and intentionally bring joy to work, he has created a workplace that « people love ». He is sharing his practices and learnings in his books « Joy Inc. » and « Chief Joy Officer ».

Impact : Bringing joy to the workplace, Menlo has received numerous recognition as one of the ten happiest places to work on the planet.

Scale : Successful company for 20 years. 

5) Be inclusive 

Some companies are more committed to having recruitment processes that increase give equal opportunities to everyone and to hire minorities or even young potential from low-income backgrounds, such as Salesforce or Starbucks. 



The famous global chain of coffeehouses.

Business model innovation :  Starbucks is leading this really interesting initiative called Hire Opportunity Coalition (HOC),  formerly the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative launched in 2015 to help build the capacity of American companies to hire, retain and upskill Opportunity Youth.  They have assembled a group of employers who have an interest in hiring what they call “Opportunity Youth”. 

Impact : Hire young people that come from low-income backgrounds and maybe did not graduate from high school and don’t have a job. 

Scale : Starbucks committed in 2015 to hiring 10,000 Opportunity Youth by 2018 and achieved this commitment in 2017. It expanded their goal to hire 100,000 Opportunity Youth by 2020. Though Covid19 has deeply affected their plan, in January 2019, they were more than halfway to their goal with over 75,000 hires.


Global Cloud-based Customer Relationship Management Services provider

Business model innovation :
Salesforce publishes annual and quarterly equality updates. In 2019, they introduced a goal of reaching 50% of their US workforce made up of underrepresented groups (Women, Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities…) by 2023. In 2020, following the Black Lives Matter movement, Salesforce added two additional goals to increase even more the US representation of underrepresented minorities in employees and in the leadership positions.  To reach their goal, they have created a diversity recruiting team dedicated to sourcing talent from URM (Black, Indigenous and Latinx) communities, instituted a pilot URM referral program and launched inclusive hiring training for over 1,000 recruiters and interviewers — with plans to scale to all employees — to ensure a fair, consistent and equitable process for all.

Impact : Give more opportunities to minority groups. 

Scale : Salesforce has 49,000 employees, and 47.4% up from 43.9% in 2019 of its U.S. workforce is from underrepresented groups. 

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