ESG Voices - Be Active And Do Good

Published on:
by Richard Turner, Chief Editor at KnowESG
Image of Laurent Petit of Active Giving
Laurent Petit, Co-Founder of Active Giving

One of the attractive points of adopting an environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework to help your company transition to sustainable practices is the sheer diversity of activities ESG can entail. This can be especially helpful when businesses want to ‘get involved’ and make immediate headway, instead of waiting for initiatives to take effect.

There are solutions for this. 

Immediate action can take many forms, the simplest being for companies to align with local social or environmental projects, support them either financially or via the outsourcing of available skills, and grow the relationship. By bringing commercial and local interests closer together, a stronger reputation can be built.

However, companies can also support their employees at the individual level to enact immediate, personalised change. One innovative firm exploring this area is Active Giving, a Berlin-based tech outfit that converts personal health and wellness into environmental benefit. 

In short, be active and do good.

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A Life Of Ideas

A diverse, fascinating life can lead to very creative ideas. Laurent Petit, Co-Founder at Active Giving, grew up in Belgium and France, studied communications and PR, and would have been on the ‘European institutions track’. Instead, he travelled globally, went to Paris and worked in shoe design, switched to the art business, then in 2014 founded Music On Walls, an innovative platform that lets visual artists express their connection to and influence by music.  

Moving to Berlin in 2017 for its cultural opportunities, and deeply interested in sports, Laurent discovered a community of runners. Through interactions with the Berlin Marathon, he organised his own guided street art tours of the city, via running of course. Seeing the crossover potential between people who love sports and sociocultural benefit, he organised running events to support a specific cause. 

Great, but surely finding a way to take a dose of the quantified self, our propensity to track our fitness through wearable technology or apps, could be married to a greater sense of collective action and purpose that could, measurably, benefit the environment? 

Let people ‘do the work’, but also reap the rewards? 

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Active Habits = Benefit?

By tapping into our existing behaviours, into the daily data we generate through exercise, you can also discover ways to benefit someone or something else. This is a two-way, win-win, act of doing good.

In June 2020, yes, headlong into the strange world of the pandemic, the first project, the Active Giving app, was launched. What does it do? It tracks your fitness activities and converts them into good deeds for society. For free. 

You choose your cause. You start by being active. You log that activity. Hey presto! Your cause is supported. 

Yes, there’s a missing step here, and it’s where forward thinking companies can jump in and derive ESG kudos. A business agrees, as part of its social and environmental responsibility, to financially support a given cause. Active Giving users can align their profile with specific businesses or brands, so we could say that, for example, today’s 10km run is now ‘sponsored’ by Patagonia. 

So, log your run, then Patagonia or Nike, for example, supports your shared cause. It’s a marketing tool for good that transitions a business into a more eco-conscious model and aligns brands with a measure of eco-integrity that, in turn, doesn't go unnoticed by the user-consumer. It gives brands the opportunity to showcase their commitment in a measurable way, outside of their regular marketing or advertising initiatives, that is both highly personalised, intimately so, and fuels potential brand loyalty. 

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Collective Action

To scale impact, the creation of ‘community challenges’ lets you build your own team, for example from your workmates, for a sport of activity. A company can incentivize employee health, and interaction, and even motivate community engagement, all while positively impacting collective aims. 

As such, Active Giving is an ideal component of effective company wellness programmes, and used constructively could be attractive for new hires who seek alignment with personal social or environmental values. Scaling further, as a tool for climate action, Laurent wants to one day see direct collaboration with major athletic names to empower sports fans to develop climate-focussed communities and new pathways for mutual health and climate-positive support. 

Post-pandemic traction is building, now with over 70,000 registered app users, primarily in Germany, but also in France, the greater EU, and now the US. One of the company’s major KPIs is to focus on tree planting, and that user activity (literally) has financed 1.2M new trees in the soil through existing non-profit tree specialists such as Trees For The Future, Eden Reforestation Projects, WeForest, and Global Forest Generation, all initiatives which seek to empower farmer ownership in terms of planting of afforestation strategies, to regenerate degraded land and develop economic benefit. 

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Personal Agency

Of course, there needs to be a certain personal rigour involved, logging a completed activity when you’ve actually done it goes without saying, but these are likely socially-enforced habits that come especially from group participation. It’s the ‘wiki’ model of auto-corrective thought, that we will feel compelled to steer good intentions in the right direction, for ourselves and others.

Yes, you can use Strava on that next mammoth bike ride, but why not activate the data you generate through your efforts and plant trees? Active Giving is a stride in the right direction, and as Laurent notes, “This is the idea of pushing the sport community, which is way behind in terms of sustainability, to actually activate and bring people together”. 

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Endless Opportunities

This is the beginning, yet Active Giving provides a fascinating model of how businesses can help avoid potential inaction on social and environmental participation by opting to give employees the choice to choose for themselves. 

The company is open to opportunity in terms of how it can leverage the user interaction through its platform, too. The future could involve specific initiatives that focus on conservation, for example by organising the purchase of a tract of rainforest and monitoring biodiversity retention, or by supporting local community interests to manage it while protecting it from economic encroachment. Ocean conservation, mountain preserves… opportunities are waiting for reliable models of business investment, and this would be ‘no strings attached’ in terms of business involvement. 

The point is this is a business model that encapsulates the regeneration of our planet. It monetises community or environmental benefit out of health, which in turn reduces the economic burden on national health systems. ESG is all about finding ways to transition to economic sustainability, but we urgently need deeply forward thinking like this to start considering things regeneratively, and by doing so how we can give back to ourselves. 

Get in touch with Active Giving here for any questions, or simply look for the app in your preferred app store, download, and make active, positive changes today!


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