IN BLOOM: Participants at the SEEED Summit at Brown University in 2013 share best practices and information on trends in social enterprise.
COURTESY PAINTED FOOT PHOTOGRAPHY/CAT LAINE
By Rhonda J. Miller PBN Staff Writer
Packaging 2.0 President Michael Brown was running a social enterprise before he even identified with the term – generally, a nonprofit or for-profit venture with dual goals of being successful in business and generating positive social impact.
“Our revenue grew 30 percent last year and it’s up 60 percent in the first quarter of 2014,” said Brown. “Our major customer is Whole Foods in the Northeast and we recently began shipping to 50 Whole Foods stores in Southern California.”
Packaging 2.0 was founded in 2002 to design, market and deliver packaging made primarily from recycled plastics. The social mission of the Providence-based company includes rounding up plastics and debris in the ocean.
“My mission is about addressing the problem my company creates,” said Brown. “We’re going to deliver high-quality packaging made from recycled plastics and we’re also going to endeavor to clean up ocean debris. It’s the new business model. I’ve passed on plastics projects that I don’t feel are favorable to the environment.”
Packaging 2.0 is one example of Rhode Island’s growing and maturing social-enterprise ecosystem, a network that will be on display at the third annual Social Enterprise Ecosystem Economic Development Summit in Providence April 25-26 at Brown University. The summit is a collaboration that includes the Providence-based Social Enterprise Greenhouse, Brown’s Social Innovation Initiative and its SEEED student group and Worldways Social Marketing. Summit planners expect the event to attract 500 people from social enterprises, academia, business and the investment community.
“I’ve found Packaging 2.0 attracts certain kinds of customers, employees and investors,” said Brown. “I’m in a growing group of companies that are very conscious about balancing capitalism and social benefits.”
A legal step that put Packaging 2.0 more solidly into that socially conscious business group is that in August 2013 the company became Rhode Island’s first Benefit Corporation, or B Corp., a new state designation approved by the General Assembly in 2013.