2024 Startups 100 | Social Impact shortlist and award winner

Meet the five leading startups that are putting their money where their heart is to make a positive social change in 2024.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:

The tides of business are changing. More than ever before, we’re seeing businesses being driven by mission statements and corporate beliefs than by profit goals.

Not that pursuing social impact is all about philanthropy. Becoming a purpose-led company also opens up avenues for brand growth and development, as more people seek out companies to buy from or work for that align with their values.

That’s where our Social Impact award comes in. The trophy celebrates the top businesses in this year’s Startups 100 using innovative ideas to tackle the pressing challenges of modern society – doing good by their communities, and their stakeholders.

Alongside expert guest judge, Karen Lynch, we’ve shortlisted five startups showcasing a clear commitment to positivity through their business model. Read on to find out more about these do-gooders, as well as who took the Social Impact crown for 2024.

Karen Lynch guest judge
Introducing Startups 100 guest judge, Karen Lynch MBE

Karen’s personal mission is to inspire others that there is ‘a better and kinder way to do business’. Under her leadership as CEO of Belu Water, she helped transform the lives of over 334,000 people through the company’s partnership with WaterAid. She is currently the founder of Expert Impact Speakers, CEO of Expert Impact Mentoring, and Vice Chair of Social Enterprise UK.

WINNER – Serious Tissues

2024 Startups 100 | Winner of the Social Impact award

In recognition of the startup which is putting purpose ahead of profit, with evidence of a commitment to making the world a better place with its business model.

Learn more about Serious Tissues

Tired of toilet roll's boring reputation? Serious Tissues is shaking things up with paper that's not just eco-friendly but also socially conscious. Alongside selling 100% recycled, UK-made, plastic-free, and carbon neutral, the brand’s impressive social impact credentials stem from its tree planting policy, where a tree is planted for every roll sold.

So far, Serious Tissues has planted over 1.7 million trees, helping to regenerate forests and combat climate change. And that's not all – their tree-planting program has also created over 180,000 days of employment in some of the world's poorest communities across Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America.

But Serious Tissues isn't just making a difference for the planet and the communities it works with; it's also making a splash in the business world. Having already earned a spot on Ocado's coveted shelves, the brand recently partnered with Bunzi for nationwide distribution and a guaranteed annual revenue, signalling that (unlike its plastic-free product) it will be around for a long time.

What did Karen Lynch have to say?

“This is a heart-warming story of some smart thinking and fast moving in COVID times,” Lynch praises. “Serious Tissues is a business model that has not messed around with diving in to disrupt an already competitive market with the best credentials on all fronts – price, quality, and impact.”

SHORTLISTED – HACE

HACE offers a child labour index powered by AI, empowering investors to dilligently monitor supply chains for meaningful change. Founder Eleanor Harry started the company after working for a decade across supply chains including cotton, fishing and ready-made garments. She quickly realised that companies have little visibility into their global supply chains, creating blind spots for risk of child labour.

In answer, Harry came up with HACE. The specialised ESG rating scores companies and portfolios across three performance indicators, giving organisations and investors a way to monitor their supply chains for child labour in real-time.

Harry estimates that to achieve the UN’s SDG 8.7 (ending all child labour by 2025), three children in child labour must be remediated per second. To reach that goal, HACE wants to become the global leader in child labour data and information by 2025 and, with it, early proof that AI could help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.

What did Karen Lynch have to say?

“HACE is a brilliant example of putting our most current technology at the front and centre of solving deeply embedded and hard to see and solve social issues,” congratulates Lynch. “This is a business that our big retailers and brand manufactures absolutely should be investing in to unravel efficiently the complex issue of child labour.”

SHORTLISTED – Fair Shot

Fair Shot, led by the inspiring Bianca Tavella, is brewing a revolution in the hospitality industry. Via its flagship coffee shop in Mayfair (and with plans to open three more) Fair Shot has helped over 36 individuals with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) develop the skills to land their first full-time jobs. These graduates now shine bright in the kitchens and service areas of brands like Apple, Goldman Sachs, and Soho House.

Fair Shot's commitment to sustainable employment doesn't stop there. It works closely with its employment partners, ensuring that both are fully supported throughout the onboarding process. This empathetic approach has resulted in a staggering 80% of Fair Shot's partners actively seeking to hire neurodivergent individuals.

Having officially become a social enterprise in December 2023, Fair Shot is determined to spread its message of inclusion far and wide, to create a world where everyone gets the fair shot they deserve.

What did Karen Lynch have to say?

Fair Shot has dived straight into the challenging hospitality sector with purpose right at its heart, and early statistics show it’s working for both customers and their neurodiverse them,” highlights Lynch.

“I love the site in Covent Garden and truly hope we see a network of hundreds of Fair Shot outlets across the country soon.”

SHORTLISTED – Fink Street Food

Fink Street Food is on a mission to smash mental health stigma and improve young people’s mental health – one bite at a time. Inspired by their own experiences with friends and family members battling depression, co-founders James Reid and Lewis Greenwood set out to make mental health support more accessible to young people.

Using revenue from ‘The Fink Tank’, the startup’s pioneering social enterprise food truck, Reid and Greenwood have come up with a clever business model that takes the profits generated by corporate and social catering events to fund mental health counselling sessions for those in need.

As a member of Social Enterprise UK, Fink Street commits over 50% of profits to this goal. The firm has also established a pivotal partnership with No 5 Young People, a Reading-based children’s mental health charity which provides free counselling, support, and therapy services to young people in need.

What did Karen Lynch have to say?

“Fink Street must be applauded for the sheer amount of hard work that goes into trading and impacting simultaneously in the sector,” praises Lynch.

SHORTLISTED – Leiho

Leiho's mission is simple: to spread warmth and positivity, not just on your feet but in the world around you. Co-founders Joey Li and Thuta Khin met while studying for masters degrees at City, University of London, where they learned that clean socks were the most requested items for clothing at homeless shelters.

Founded from a belief that everyone should have access to basic needs of comfort, safety, hygiene and health, they launched Leiho, a social enterprise which sells smiley bamboo socks to support 40 homeless organisations. Every month, the brand partners with a charity that's making a difference in underserved communities, and uses 5% of its monthly revenue to support the chosen cause.

So far, the company has donated 12,873 essential items, funded community programs, and hosted six cooking classes with SPEAR to help upskill people living in sheltered accommodation.

What did Karen Lynch have to say?

“Congratulations to these young founders for putting their best foot forward and making change through socks,” applauds Lynch. “Clearly they are focused on having a positive impact in every aspect of their business model.”

How important is it for new businesses to have a positive social impact?

Gone are the days when business success meant bottomless pots of funding. As our shortlist showcases, the new leaders are those with a conscience; entrepreneurs who are actively pursuing growth opportunities that have a positive social impact.

“I firmly believe that business has a responsibility to do far more than find an idea or a need and make money,” stresses Lynch. “Business needs to embrace, own and solve the problems of the world too.”

As Lynch highlights, in this newer, kinder market, it is the businesses that are not considering social impact that are at a disadvantage. If you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still, and ripe to be overtaken – which is why legacy brands face the biggest threat.

“For those already established? Watch out for these startups as they are coming to get you,” Lynch warns. “The world needs and wants more responsible, more impactful business models as their future.”

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).
Back to Top