Weekend Briefing No. 85

Weekend Briefing No. 85 | Sustainable Development Goals, Kickstarter, VW, Impact on Instagram, Saltwater Batteries

Welcome to the weekend.  This week, the US went nuts over Pope Francis’ visit to Washington DC, where he addressed a joint session of Congress and New York. There, he opened up the UN General Assembly and gave his support for the Sustainable Development Goals (more on that below). VW was busted for creating software in their cars that lowered emissions when going through inspections. A stampede during the hajj in Mecca resulted in 717 deaths and more than 800 were injured. Colombia’s president agreed on a peace deal with FARC.


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), were announced this week at the session of the UN General Assembly. The final 17 goals, as agreed by all 193 member states of the UN, cover a 15-year timeframe to 2030 and include 169 targets. Unlike the MDGs, the private sector has been very involved in their creation. Goal 8 includes targets to achieve full employment for all, while decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation. Learn about what the SDGs mean for business in The Guardian.

Kickstarter on purpose. This week, Kickstarter – the crowdfunding platform – converted to a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation. The move signifies the strongest legal commitment to protect users data, support artists, contribute philanthropically to the community and create a positive impact on the environment in the operation of their business. I do a lot of work with benefit corporations, and this is one of the boldest commitments I’ve seen from a company. Learn more about the conversion and see what both Chris Sacca and I have to say about it in the New York Times.

SPONSORED BRIEFING // Building a business with a purpose. The announcement of the SDGs at the UN this week illustrates how essential it is for business to be a force for good. An emerging class of companies – from Kickstarter to Etsy – are structuring their businesses to create social and environmental impact. Leesa – the direct-to-consumer web-based mattress company – has been leading the way in its industry since inception through its expansive philanthropic programs. Read more about how the Leesa founders built a business with a purpose.

As a special offer for Weekend Briefing readers, Leesa is offering $75 off the purchase of a mattress.

VW sputters. The ripple effects of the Volkswagen scandal go well beyond the 11 million cars affected, the CEO’s resignation and a hit in stock price. There are a few big, interconnected lessons to learn. (1) Being clean and green has real, bottom-line value. (2) Protecting the environment builds trust, and trust is precious capital. (3) Trust comes from transparency, and transparency is the norm today. Learn more at Harvard Business Review.

Impact on Instagram. My friends at Krochet Kids – an artisan knit cap brand that employs and empowers women in Uganda and Peru – are some of the best in the industry at creating compelling impact reports. They relentlessly measure and track their social impact and clearly invest a great deal of energy into communicating the impact. This year, they went to the next level and posted their impact report on Instagram. I went through it and it’s a really compelling mix of videos, photos and stats. You’ve got to check it out at @kkintl.2014.annual.report on Instagram.

Saltwater batteries. Because solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy, they need to be backed up for when they’re not there, because, say, it’s night time. So, energy storage is essential to the transition clean energy. This new saltwater battery technology sounds promising. The batteries are made from non-toxic materials like saltwater, carbon and manganese oxide. Although they don’t have the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, they last longer and don’t need the same “thermal management.” Learn more in Fast Company.


Ventured. Venerated Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins just launched a podcast called Ventured. The first episode is about what it is like to run a social mission-driven startup in today’s funding environment. Both sides agree that although it may be more difficult to find the right financing tools for these types of companies, the fight is ultimately worth it for the founders, investors, and society at large. Listen here.


Streaming music is officially a bigger business than physical music sales in the U.S. for the first time, according to new data released today by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Inside Facebook’s Swedish data center – a visual tour. Facebook users around the world are generating huge amounts of data at a rate that doubles every 18 months. Guardian photojournalist David Levene went to the Arctic Circle to take a tour of the pioneering facility.


The Weekend Briefing is a selection of this week’s top stories on innovation and society, curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway Law. I consider it a privilege to be a part of your weekend routine. Thanks.