Some people not only have the entrepreneurial vision to create a successful business, but they imagine a better future, too. These brands and leaders showcase a range of efforts from environmental sustainability to social equity and community support, highlighting the diverse ways companies can contribute positively to society and the planet.

Businesses and entrepreneurs leading change

Lucy & Yak — Lucy Greenwood and Chris Renwick

Lucy Greenwood and Chris Renwick are the co-founders of Lucy & Yak, an ethical clothing brand known for its sustainable and planet-friendly approach. Lucy and Chris established the brand in 2017, focusing on creating colourful, comfortable clothing. 

Their journey began by selling reworked vintage clothes on Depop (if you’re interested in Depop’s story, meet Zoe Bayliss Wong) and evolved into a successful venture that prioritises sustainability, transparency, and community engagement. Lucy and Chris’s commitment to ethical practices, including using organic materials like 100% organic cotton and implementing circularity initiatives, has been central to their brand's ethos and growth.

Lucy Greenwood of Lucy & Yak

Social Bite — Josh Littlejohn

Founded by Josh Littlejohn MBE and Alice Thompson in 2012, Social Bite aims to employ one in four people with a background of homelessness or extreme barriers to employment. From humble roots in Edinburgh with one cafe, it now employs over 75 people today, many of whom have a background of homelessness. It gives out over 200,000 food items each year to homeless and vulnerable people through a network of cafes across the UK.

Josh's dedication to addressing homelessness and his innovative approach to social entrepreneurship has been instrumental in establishing and growing Social Bite. In 2023, he released his debut book, "Paying it Forward: How to be a Social Entrepreneur, " which debuted at number 7 on the Sunday Times Best Sellers chart.

Propercorn — Cassandra Stavrou

Propercorn, a successful snack brand known for its gourmet popcorn, is a certified B-corp business, balancing profit with purpose. Founder Cassandra Stavrou initiated the company in 2011, aiming to provide a healthy snack option to combat mid-afternoon slumps. Propercorn quickly became the UK's best-selling gourmet popcorn brand, selling four million bags monthly.

"We have been determined to keep the values, culture and personality of the brand the same."

The brand's success led to its growth and expansion into 15 countries while maintaining a strong company ethos and culture. Speaking to Metro, Cassandra said, “Structurally, there was this natural growth of the business, but we have been determined to keep the values, culture and personality of the brand the same.”

Cassandra Stavrou, PROPER Snacks

Toast Ale — Rob Wilson

A brewery that makes beer from surplus bread to reduce waste? Nothing tastes better! Toast Brewery's mission is to reduce food waste by brewing great-tasting beers using surplus bread, raising awareness about food waste, and donating all profits to charities that address the systemic causes of food waste. It's a great example of a company tackling food waste creatively.

"...If you want to change the world, you “have to throw a better party than those destroying it." 

Tristram Stuart and Louisa Ziane founded Toast Ale in the UK. The company later appointed a founding team that included Rob Wilson, the CEO. Rob is a serial social entrepreneur who believes that if you want to change the world, you “have to throw a better party than those destroying it”. 

Before Toast, Rob led Ashoka in the UK, supporting a global network of social entrepreneurs. He founded READ International, which has provided over 1.5 million books to Tanzanian children and created 100 school libraries. He also co-founded Generation Change, a partnership of leading UK youth social action organisations.

Lush —  Mark Constantine

Glittery, foamy, and funky bath products that are kind to the environment? It must be Lush! Lush is a renowned ethical beauty brand founded in 1995 by Mark Constantine and five others. It advocates against animal testing and fights over-packaging by creating solid products to reduce waste.

Mark is known for his strong beliefs that shape the company's ethos. His dedication to sustainability and innovation has earned him recognition, including an OBE for services to the industry. Under Mark’s leadership, Lush focuses on fresh, innovative cosmetic products and environmental responsibility. Mark says of Lush, “Nothing is ever finished, either positively or negatively.”

Mark Constantine OBE, Lush

Mr & Mrs Smith — Tamara Lohan

Mr & Mrs Smith is a travel club and booking service for boutique and luxury hotels. But did you know these luxury escapes are B-Corp certified? This means they aim to create the best possible future for travellers, accommodation providers, employees and the environment. They seek out and shine a spotlight on those making pioneering efforts in environmentally conscious hospitality and working with inspirational conservation partners.

Tamara Lohan, CEO of Mr & Mrs Smith, is at the helm. She co-founded the company with her husband, James, in 2003 and is known for her entrepreneurship, digital innovation, and leadership expertise. Apart from her role at Mr & Mrs Smith, Tamara is involved in mentoring and investing in start-ups and is a non-executive director of the adventure travel company Much Better Adventures. In 2014, Tamara was awarded an MBE for services to the British travel industry.

"The only constant these days isn’t merely change, but the rate at which change is accelerating."

She says the three most important qualities for a good leader are “Adaptability, courage and empathy. The only constant these days isn’t merely change, but the rate at which change is accelerating – the past year is testament to that. I’ve always embraced the notion of being agile, not only in order to stay relevant, but to successfully lead a growing business."

Tamara Lohan MBE, Mr & Mrs Smith

Mary's Living & Giving — Mary Portas

Mary Portas is a renowned retail expert known for her innovative approach to charity shops through her "Mary's Living & Giving" concept. She collaborated with Save the Children to establish these boutique charity shops, aiming to create a unique and upscale experience for shoppers while supporting a charitable cause. 

With Mary’s expert guidance, the concept was dreamed up after her TV series "Mary Queen of Charity Shops." The iconic charity shops have expanded to almost 20 locations across London, offering a fresh and philanthropic approach to retail compared to traditional charity shops. Today, Mary leads Portas, a creative company transforming businesses into brands, places, and spaces people want in their lives.

Mary Portas OBE

Gandys — Rob and Paul Forkan

Gandys makes men's and women's clothing, bags, backpacks and accessories inspired by travel and outdoors. But it’s not all sunshine —  the Forkan brothers lost their parents in the devastating 2004 Tsunami while living a life of adventure. Despite this, Rob and Paul built positivity from tragedy — they started a thriving business for like-minded adventurers and decided to use every sale to help underprivileged children.

They aim to educate 1 million disadvantaged children by supporting projects worldwide. Gandys Movement has raised more than £600,000 to date, funding seven significant projects in six countries. According to them, this is just the beginning.

Rob and Paul Gandys, Gandys

Timpson —  James Timpson

You may know Timpson, a UK chain, for its shoe repairs, key cutting, and other handy services, but did you know that it’s a company that prioritises employee happiness and customer service above all else? James Timpson, CEO of the family-owned Timpson Group, manages over 2,000 UK high-street retail locations, including Timpsons, Snappy Snaps, Max Spielman, and The Watch Lab. In addition to this busy role, he chairs the Prison Reform Trust.

James’ leadership has seen Timpson thrive against the high street's decline. But how? His book, "The Happy Index," reveals his company's approach to employee empowerment. As part of this strategy, the company offers employee benefits, including free dry-cleaning for job interviewees, birthday leave, and autonomy in-store management. James advocates for "upside-down management" and a more compassionate business world, and his insights on building a future where companies genuinely care for their teams have earned him respect.

James Timpson, Timpson

Bloom & Wild — Aron Gelbard

Since 2013, Bloom & Wild has been sending flowers through the post. Their mission is to make sending and receiving flowers the joy that it should be and, in doing so, to build the world's leading and most loved flower company.

Aron Gelbard, co-founder of Bloom & Wild, started the business with £30,000 and a dream. In just under ten years, turnover has grown from £400,000 (in 2014) to £145mn in the 2021-22 financial year. Despite the success, Bloom and Wild is B-Corp certified and says care is embedded into every part of its business: from worker wellbeing to flower farms. Ultimately, it’s on a mission to become Net Zero by 2045. They already have 100% recyclable or compostable packaging — blooming marvellous!

Aron Gelbard, Bloom & Wild

These businesses all contribute positively to society and the planet, and the entrepreneurs behind them are the perfect people to speak to and inspire your team. They show that innovation doesn’t have to come at the expense of sustainability and that ordinary people have the power to change the world every day.

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