50 social innovations that could save the world (2023)

From artificial car sounds that encourage plant growth to carbon-negative Fortune 500 companies, here are the most exciting social responsibility trends right now.

The headlines look pretty bleak. From income inequality to employee dissatisfaction to climate change, we face many issues as a society. But fortunately, some companies are already bringing solutions to the market.

This list highlights the organizations and institutions that are using creative business-enabled tools to address our biggest societal issues.

It showcases the latest and greatest innovations broken down into 4 social impact categories: Community, Equality, Self-Empowerment, and Environment. Read more about the trends themselves in the next section and learn more below.

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Innovations for equality

  • Promotion of equality of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and disability
  • Promote equal employment opportunity, a fair compensation system, and a healthy work ethic
  • Provide equal accessibility to offers.

Iceland and Finland

Equal paternity and maternity leave to address the gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is often blamed on career breaks women take to start families. But expanding paid paternity leave could dramatically reduce this by allowing women to stay in the workforce while their partners care for their young children. By law, men and women in Iceland and Finland enjoy the same family vacation. And some organizations are stepping up to offer generous paid parental leave, like Facebook, Netflix, Spotify and Etsy.

Regulations to ensure women are on board

To promote equal pay and raise the glass ceiling, the state of California will require all public companies to have at least one woman (and more depending on the number) on their board of directors by 2023.

Digital platforms that allow citizens to interact with political representatives

How do local politicians treat citizens? Citizens' assemblies are often attended by the same few people, and direct contact with citizens can be costly and time consuming. Realizing that legislators were struggling to connect with their community, a digital citizen engagement platform for governments called CitizensLab was developed. Based in Brussels, Belgium, CitizenLab offers "cities and governments a digital engagement platform to consult their citizens on local issues and involve them in decision-making."

Access to finance Rwanda

Microinsurance for people living in poverty

In some of the world's poorest countries, many cannot afford traditional insurance premiums. So they are left without a safety net if they want to start a business etc. One solution is microinsurance: smaller premiums tailored to the specific needs of people living in poverty. We traveled to Rwanda to support four of the largest local insurers in developing their first microinsurance products for this target group.

Invest in Women in Technology

Melinda Gates' Pivotal Ventures invested $50 million in an initiative calledGender equality in technological cities (GET), whose goal is to attract more women into technology. They do this by working with organizations to encourage more computer science graduates and by making tech centers more friendly to women.

Investment Strategies for Women

Unlike men, women's earnings are often reinvested in the family and not in the stock market. However, this may mean that women are economically worse off because the return on such investments does not come in the form of cash. Also, 86% of investment advisers are men, so they probably don't understand the unique financial priorities of women. Using design thinking principles, digital investment platform Ellevest addresses this issue by offering women-friendly financial strategies tailored to women's income and longer life.

Artificial lighting to promote food growth in extreme climates

The use of artificial light to promote the growth of foods is nothing new, but it is increasing rapidly. This technology, which uses light of specific wavelengths to help plants grow without the sun, could give people in extreme climates access to fruits and vegetables.

Wearable devices that can detect malnutrition

The PaperWeight Bracelet is a tool that can non-invasively detect malnutrition. This not only helps healthcare professionals, caregivers and volunteers to diagnose the problem, but also allows for more communication so that patients can see the evidence for themselves. This will be useful for both older people and people in developing countries.

Virtual reality headset for women's eyes.

Virtual reality is aimed at men. Because? Virtual reality sickness. Yes it is one thing and it affects women more than men. The researchers aren't sure why, but one reason could be that most headphones are designed for men. Virtual reality glasses must be adjusted to the distance between the pupils of the user's eyes, which is usually smaller in women. The standard configuration of the headphones offered today is usually greater than the pupillary distance of a woman's eyes. Solving this problem may boost adoption among female user groups and allow women to conveniently use this technology for gaming and a variety of training purposes, who knows? This is a great opportunity for women-focused design.

community innovations

  • Encourage self-development and employee contribution.
  • Support the mental and physical health of your employees
  • Create collaborative partnerships

3D printed houses and neighborhoods

Last year, construction began on the world's first 3D-printed neighborhood in Mexico. Houses built in the Tabasco area were designed to withstand earthquakes, replacing houses that poorer residents built with metal, wood, and whatever else they could afford.

Personalized tutoring through AI

Squirrel AI Learning is an adaptive learning platform in China. The purpose of the platform is to provide personalized AI lessons to high school students and below. The price structure is reasonable and allows the poorest students access to personalized support.

Knowledge platform to improve teaching skills

Teacherly aims to help teachers around the world to improve their teaching skills and share knowledge. Facilitates the sharing of best practices, learning outcomes, and professional development materials. It also allows you to plan lessons together and get support, feedback, and advice.

state food forests

Last year, the Atlanta City Council purchased the largest edible forest in the United States. Spread across 7 acres, it includes more than 100 fruit and walnut trees that local residents can harvest for food and grow themselves in a variety of window boxes. Initiatives like these can help bring affordable fruits and vegetables to people living below the poverty line. The city aims to ensure that by 2021, 86% of its residents live within a half mile of a source of fresh food.

Seaweed protein for nutrition in the poorest regions

Last year, fish farmer Sophie's Kitchen won the Liveability Challenge, a competition seeking ideas to improve the lives of people in Southeast Asia, by developing a protein made from microalgae. Available at $2 per kilogram and requiring only 0.02 hectares of land for production, it can be used to improve nutrition through dietary supplements, cooking oil, and more.

desert control

Liquid Nano Clay can grow in deserts

Norwegian company Desert Control has developed a mixture that can be sprayed on sand in deserts to allow it to retain water and grow. To do this, they spray a mixture of water and clay, called liquid nanoclay, just half a meter deep into the sand. This technology could facilitate food production in poorer climates and combat desertification.

clean water from the sun

An article published in the journal Chem reveals that researchers have discovered a material that can kill disease-causing bacteria in water. Using sunlight and a photocatalyst, it acts like a magnet to purify the water and ensure no bacteria or contaminants remain.

strengthen innovations

  • Encourage self-development and employee contribution.
  • Support the mental and physical health of your employees
  • Create collaborative partnerships

Anonymous feedback platforms that allow employees to express their opinion

Waggl is a feedback platform that allows managers, administrators, and employees to share their feelings in real time. It engages people and encourages actionable dialogue on issues that matter in the workplace.

AI workplace knowledge sharing

Uman AI is a collaboration platform for teams that thrive on knowledge. Gather corporate knowledge and help people proactively learn new skills.

Apps to help employees feel engaged, heard and supported

Limeade is an interactive platform for employees that aims to improve the employee experience. To support them in their daily lives and increase their purpose and well-being, it delivers training, engagement tools, communication solutions, access to mentoring and much more on an employee's mobile phone. The platform can promote open dialogue in large organizations.

4 day work week

Microsoft Japan made headlines when it introduced a 4-day work week and the change paid off too. Productivity increased by 40%.

Socially Responsible Robo-Aide

Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) consists of avoiding companies that sell addictive or abuse substances (such as alcohol, tobacco, etc.) and those that have a negative impact on society in favor of companies committed to low carbon emissions, clean tech, gender diversity etc. Robo-SRI platforms like Wealthsimple allow consumers to put their money where they talk when it comes to their social footprint.

Transparent banking and ethical loans

Triodos is a bank that only lends money to organizations that can demonstrate that they have a positive impact on society and the environment. They also want to be more transparent and open about their fees so that the banking industry can be more honest.

environmental innovations

  • Responsible use of natural resources, including clean energy
  • Regenerative business model: zero waste and circularity of resources
  • Provide a safe and clean work environment.

ecological concrete

Civil engineering students from the University of the Philippines created a concrete alternative using glass, fly ash, a common rock found on campus, and other recycled materials. The tests confirmed that the concrete alternative was comparatively strong and durable, although it outperformed traditional concrete (made from cement, gravel and water) on an environmental scale.

Use of solar energy in heavy industry

Heliogen is a solar energy company that uses AI to focus and capture more sunlight than is traditionally possible. This allows them to generate “ultra-high temperature (up to 1500°C) carbon-free heat” for use in heavy industry (cement, steel, etc.), responsible for more than a fifth of all global greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect.

fake sunflowers

Solar panels that follow the sun

Researchers at the University of California have developed biomimetics at its bestartificial sunflowers.Known as SUNbots, these fake sunflowers, less than 1 millimeter in diameter, are made of materials that react to heat to bend sunlight and collect more energy. This technology can make solar energy more efficient.

Nozzles reduce water waste by 98%

Empresa Alterada has developed a new type of dispenser that reduces water consumption by up to 98%. He connects the fast-spinning spout to a faucet and turns the produced water into a thick mist that increases the surface area of ​​the water without affecting pressure, they say.


Fortune 500 with CO2 negative

Like IKEA, Microsoft is striving to become a carbon negative company. By 2030, Microsoft intends to offset all carbon emissions generated during its existence.

urban agriculture

UK supermarket Marks & Spencer has partnered with vertical farming unit provider Infarm to grow herbs in-store. Urban agriculture opens up a range of opportunities for the environment, from reducing emissions by eliminating transportation from farms to cities, to removing CO2 from the air.

Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture, which involves establishing sustainable farming, fishing and grazing practices, is becoming more common. Regrarians is a company that educates farmers and develops farm plans to empower them to adopt regenerative farming practices.

wild track

Ai for non-invasive monitoring of endangered species

wild trackuses AI to analyze animal tracks. By examining tracks, this technique can determine species (eg, an individual rhinoceros), age class, and sex based on measurements of anatomical landmarks ("landmarks"). This is fantastic news as it allows you to monitor endangered species in a non-invasive way.

AI to predict and track wildfires

Firemap is a tool that uses data-driven predictive models to identify high-risk areas for wildfires and track existing ones. This allows quick access to information on the fires that have occurred and to consult the current situation and the weather forecast based on satellite positioning, as well as information on the vegetation and landscape.

AI to minimize the impact of forest fires

20tree.AI uses a variety of details to identify high-risk wildfire risk areas to help governments prevent them and take steps to minimize environmental impacts when they do occur.

Artificial sounds of electric cars growing trees.

Electric cars are quite quiet, which means that pedestrians cannot hear them coming. To reduce the risk, the US and EU will soon require that electric cars make noise at low speeds. But what sound are these cars supposed to make? Well, an independent Toyota manufacturer and dealer in Uruguay called Ayax has an ingenious solution. Ajax has developed an artificial sound for electric cars that plays at the correct bandwidth and frequency to help plants grow. The first tests show that it works.


Highways that charge electric vehicles

Sweden has built a highway that charges electric cars while driving. The streets have a built-in power rail, and electric vehicles can charge their batteries by lowering a movable arm attached to the underside of the car. The streets are safe to walk on as the creek is below the surface.

Algae panels for CO2 reduction in cities

London startup Abbornea's BioSolar Leaf panels grow edible algae to produce food ingredients while reducing carbon emissions. This technology can be used as a means to minimize CO2 in cities since the panels take up little space. Algae growing on a single solar panel absorb as much CO2 as 100 trees a day.

Online community fights for repairable products

IFIXIT is trying to help us break the throwaway trend by pushing our "Right-to-Fix" products. This should not only benefit the environment, but also our wallets. They do this by sharing repair guides and online resources to help people repair or modify anything from computers to phones to vehicles to appliances. More recently, they listed around 54,000 manuals.

Aircraft redesigned for zero-emission air travel

the Dutch airline KLM andDelft University of Technology(TU Delft) are developing a new aircraft that uses up to 20% less fuel than the Airbus A350. His proposed lightweight design, dubbed "Flying-V," will make passenger seats and engines part of the wings. “Our ultimate goal is emission-free flight,” explains Henri Werij, Dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft.

electric planes

Harbor Air managed to build a 6 seater electronic plane and fly it for 15 minutes. While this development still doesn't make much sense, it is a step in the right direction to reduce aviation emissions.

Rent clothes instead of packing

W Hotels has partnered with clothing rental company Rent The Runway to offer a "closet concierge" service, so guests can have their rental clothes delivered directly to their room. This can allow travelers to pack less baggage, which can reduce weight on flights and save fuel.

An action plan for the global transition to renewable energy by 2050

Stanford researchers have developed a detailed roadmap for tackling the global climate crisis. His plan, which many say is actually conservative, outlines how 143 countries can switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050 with an investment of $73 trillion.

Bubbles to separate the garbage from the rivers.

The Great Barrier Reef bubble is a process that can divert 80% of plastic waste to river banks before it has a chance to reach the ocean. As? with air The system pumps air through a device placed diagonally on the river bed. The resulting bubbles push the trash to the riverbank for collection. This process is less harmful to wildlife than physical barriers.

Economic turbines for power generation.

Turbulent makes small, inexpensive turbines that can be installed in rivers and streams (with minimal elevation changes) to generate electricity. This technology can be used to provide homes and small towns with a continuous, independent power supply.

Convert excess heat from appliances into electricity

Clever people at the University of Hong Kong have found a way to reuse the heat generated by computers, stoves and air conditioners. They have developed an inexpensive, adjustable energy recycling cell that can convert this excess heat into electricity for repeated use.

Mc Donalds X Ford

Auto parts made with coffee waste

Ford and McDonalds are collaborating to bioengineer auto parts from coffee grounds. Not only will you recycle food waste, but the parts use less oil and are lighter than traditional auto parts.

reforestation with drones

British company Dendra Systems has found a way to plant trees 150 times faster using drones. The drones fire biodegradable capsules into the ground with speed and accuracy. Dendra Systems hopes to plant 500 billion trees.

Biodegradable bags made from non-edible materials

Malaysian company Green Hope has found a way to make biodegradable bags from cassava trees. Although there are many biodegradable materials lately, this innovation is exciting because the bags, which are made from the starch obtained from the roots of cassava trees (grown in Indonesia), are not made from edible materials. Therefore, production will not break food chains.

AI helps people sort waste

JD.com helps the people of Shanghai, China meet their waste management needs. People can upload a photo of their trash to the JD.com app, and the artificial intelligence program will tell it if the trash is recyclable, wet, dry, or hazardous.

circle t shirts

UK-based Teemill is a circular clothing company that makes t-shirts out of second-hand clothing and recycles your old t-shirts when your prime is over. Oh, and the entire process runs on renewable energy.

Rules against the destruction of unsold goods

Last year, France banned the destruction of unsold consumer goods, a wasteful practice that resulted in the destruction of up to $900 million worth of products every year. By 2023, brands must donate, reuse or recycle everything they make.

Dye clothes with foam to reduce water waste

Wrangler dyes its denim with foam that uses much less water than the traditional process.

Cockroach farms against food waste

Food waste is a major problem around the world. But in China cockroaches are classified. Look, they're not all bad! At a cockroach farm in Jinan, China, one billion cockroaches chew 45 tons of the substance every day. They are also used as a source of fodder for livestock.

50 social innovations that could save the world (2)

Is your innovation strategy socially acceptable?

Give it a try with our social impact wheel.

Download pdf


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