Scaling Up Impact

Today's complex sustainability challenges require ambitious, joined-up solutions and a shift from standalone innovations to deliberate collective action at scale.

This requires businesses, foundations and other organisations to take the lead.

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From innovation to impact

Individual innovations, projects or initiatives can only take us so far. In order to create a more sustainable mainstream, organisations must deliberately combine their efforts to take action that fundamentally shifts entire markets.

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Your guide to collective action

To help organisations bridge the gap between innovation and large-scale impact, Forum for the Future and Shell Foundation have co-developed a framework for collective action, based around a set of eight building blocks.

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The building blocks

The framework identifies how scale has happened in the past and pulls out common factors – the eight building blocks. The value of this tool is in combining the approaches to suit your challenge. Take a closer look...

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Generate new solutions

Drive product and service innovation

Find, develop or create new innovations for the current market that better meet consumer needs whilst also addressing sustainable development challenges– have something worth scaling.

In practice: Avis, a global car rental provider, found an innovation in ZipCar, a car sharing enterprise. Their reach and reputation helped scale this new service model for car hire and encouraged users to see the benefit in a shift from car ownership to car sharing.

Generate new solutions

Create standards and ratings

Ensure quality by establishing a ratings scheme or similar to promote continual improvement of standards across the market. Encourage a level playing field and reward high performance through competition.

In practice: Unilever and WWF created the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainably sourced fish, co-developed with the fishing industry, scientists and conservation groups. Numerous case studies highlight beneficial commercial and environmental impact.

Demonstrate scale and viability of the market

Develop business models for replication

Develop a business model that others can adapt or replicate, which matches the consumer need with the social or environmental need and leads to impact as well as market growth.

In practice: Unilever reduced the unit cost of its Lifebuoy programme to enable wider roll-out and reach. Lifebuoy offers affordable, accessible soaps to help communities around the world improve hygiene through handwashing.

Demonstrate scale and viability of the market

Increase access to solutions

Exploit existing infrastructure, or develop new access. Depending on the challenge this might be anything from distribution networks, physical infrastructure or increased availability of data.

In practise: Nike created the MAKERS App, originally powered by the Nike Materials Sustainability Index. The app gives designers consistent information about raw materials to enable informed decision making with environmental impact in mind.

Demonstrate scale and viability of the market

Reshape supply

Analyse your supply chain and identify leverage points for better performance. Build capacity to meet anticipated demand through partnerships with organisations, such as local government, industry bodies or educational institutions.

In practice: Cotton Connect creates more sustainable cotton supply chains by examining business models in the global supply chain and providing information, risk capital and training to suppliers in the developing world.

Demonstrate scale and viability of the market

Create end-user demand

Encourage consumer, customer and competitor demand through promotion or by identifying the behaviour change required and by working with enablers such as brands, marketing and partners.

In practice: Levi Strauss created a pilot product, Water<Less Jeans, and stimulated market demand through a marketing campaign which looked at the full product life cycle, including the responsibility of the consumer. More than 13 million products have been sold to date.

Enable market acceleration

Create catalysing platforms & intermediaries

Convene a wide spread of organisations, including unusual players, in order to mobilise capabilities and resources to address barriers to scale and ensure a flow of new solutions.

In practice: Nike created LAUNCH, a partnership with NASA, USAID and the US State Department, to accelerate innovation in the materials industry. They found that there wasn’t a pipeline of more sustainable materials, so they brought organisations with a shared challenge together to share knowledge and resources.

Enable market acceleration

Advocate an enabling context

A policy can be a key barrier, therefore a change in policy can really enable activity. Work with policymakers and other stakeholders to build influence and address regulatory barriers.

In practice: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves aims for universal adoption of clean stoves and fuels. They raise awareness and support from policymakers, donors and private, public and non-profit stakeholders. This range of activity can be prohibitively expensive for one stakeholder to tackle, best undertaken collaboratively.

Now let's bring that to life

A notable example of impact at scale is the global increase in access to pro-poor financial services since the 1970s. Early innovators in microfinance (provision of small loans and other services to the poor), and subsequently in mobile phone-based banking, paved the way for a wider movement. today there are more than 7000 microfinance institutions.

Conditions, initiatives and enabling technologies collided to enable this shift, which we can map across the building blocks...

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Drive product and service innovation

Early pioneers in microfinance, such as Grameen Bank, provided new and effective approaches to meeting the needs of the 'unbanked'.

Create standards and ratings

As approaches proliferated there was a need to record information and ensure quality. Specialised ratings agencies formed, such as Microfinance Transparency.

Develop business models for replication

Inclusive finance began as an unprofitable model, surviving on subsidies. As subsequent institutions replicated the model, reaching financial sustainability became easier.

Increase access to solutions

M-pesa, mobile banking, capitalised on existing 'infrastructure' – good access to mobile phones – to overcome barriers to accessing finance.

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Reshape supply

At first, supply was reshaped through grants, and later through new financing streams, such as online peer-to-peer lending sites like Kiva.

Create end-user demand

Demand for these financial services still outstrips supply, but increasing awareness, understanding and financial literacy has been critical to success.

Create catalysing platforms and intermediaries

As concepts were proven, the need to share knowledge increased. The Microfinance Information Exchange was set up in collaboration with institutions driving uptake, such as the MasterCard Foundation.

Advocate an enabling context

Key protagonists like The World Bank, certain foundations and organisations, continue to strive for better infrastructure, regulation and standards to support both microfinance and mobile money.

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What will the next big shift be?

1

Join the conversation

Tell us where you're trying to scale your impact, and the challenges you're facing.

2

Diagnose your challenge

Understand the surrounding system and use our building blocks to find areas for action.

3

Be part of a scale lab

Work in dynamic cross-sector coalitions to implement market-shifting solutions.

Join the conversation

From your organisation's perspective, which sustainability challenge is in need of, and ready for, a big push to get to scale? Download our full Scaling Up Impact guide and get in touch.