Entrepreneurship and innovation have driven the U.S. economy for generations. Numerous case studies support this claim including the invention of modern medicine, the World Wide Web, and today’s communication technologies.
Innovation is inherently beneficial to society. Regardless of the product or service conceived, inventions result in new jobs, a higher standard of living and improved communities.
This January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada reaffirmed the important role innovation and entrepreneurship play in our society. However, in 2016, a handful of entrepreneurs decided to go a step further by using CES as a platform to market their biggest idea yet, in addition to their individual inventions: the idea that innovation can be a mechanism to better the world. Gary Shapiro, the President and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) echoed this trend: “At CES 2016 everyone saw that tech is about more than single products and services, it is about improving our world and providing for our future. It was awe-inspiring to see traditional and non-traditional ‘tech’ industries meet to brainstorm, partner and collaborate on ways to do business and address global issues.”
Out of the 3,800+ exhibitors at CES 2016, we selected our top three newsmakers who are out to prove that profits and purpose aren’t mutually exclusive but rather inextricably linked.
L’Oréal’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives have historically focused on promoting female empowerment. At CES 2016, the company added to their portfolio with a stretchable skin sensor called My UV Patch designed to monitor sun exposure. My UV Patch will help the user determine when it is time to put on more sunscreen, preventing skin cancer as a result.
How does it work? Users place My UV Patch onto any area of their skin that they would like to monitor. The patch contains photosensitive dyes that change color when exposed to UV rays. The user can then upload a photo of their patch to the My UV Patch mobile app for both iOS and Android. The app will then tell the user how much ultraviolet radiation their skin has been exposed to.
My UV Patch was developed in L’Oréal’s technology incubator for its dermatological skincare brand, La Roche-Posay, in collaboration with the stretchable electronics company MC10 Inc. The impact of L’Oréal’s latest invention remains to be seen. But its potential is unlimited. If successful, the product could deeply affect the lives of those most at-risk for cancer.
Among the nine CES Innovation Awards Whirlpool received this past January in Las Vegas perhaps the most impressive was the acknowledgment its’ Smart Top Load Washer received in the “Tech for a Better World” category.
Whirlpool’s Smart Top Load Washer and its’ Connect to Care program allows families to make an automated donation to Habitat for Humanity with every wash cycle. The program attempts to connect the consumer with a cause on a daily and weekly basis, as opposed to once a year during a nonprofit’s Annual Appeal. Connect to Care capitalizes on the “one-for-one” trend in philanthropy made popular by companies such as TOMS. Interested in learning more about this socially-minded innovation? Check out the Whirlpool’s demonstration at CES 2016.
At CES 2016, Brian Krzanich, Intel’s CEO, announced that every single product the company ships, starting in the second quarter of 2016, will be conflict-free. All of Intel’s products will include a symbol, visible to consumers, that indicates the product is void of conflict minerals. What does this mean? While there is still progress to be made in other areas of their supply chain, Intel’s most recent achievement will likely push other manufacturers, such as Apple, to further invest in responsible manufacturing.
The company has been committed to avoiding conflict minerals – gold, titanium, tin, and tungsten – over the last five years. Intel’s announcement at CES 2016 demonstrates an important lesson: the road to profits AND purpose requires patience, perseverance, and commitment.
Steve Case, previous Co-Founder of AOL and current Chairman of the Case Foundation and Revolution, stated the following at CES this past January: “Passion is about a problem you’re solving that will make the world a better place.” The recent product innovations from L’Oréal, Whirlpool and Intel are only the beginning as entrepreneurs increasingly embed purpose, society and responsibility into their newest “big idea.”