I recently began working with an Angel who shares a passion for the environment, and who operates both a non profit foundation and some for profit businesses. I am also taking a free Coursera course: https://www.coursera.org/learn/grand-challenges which explores many technologies and ways for companies to be both profitable and help the world achieve sustainability goals. I think you might find it directly addresses your interests.
Here are some of my observations from my own experiences in business and charitable organizations.
It is very easy to take a passion and to many start initiatives that generate expenses and maybe informational results, without generating revenue. However, without revenue that exceeds the expenses, the business will never become self-sustaining (“evergreen”), and will always be in jeopardy of running out of money without regular cash infusions. Unless they have a single patron, they will need to have a staff dedicated to a constant fund raising effort. Whether or not they have a 501(c)3 status or not such organizations are effectively charities the constantly consume cash.
In contrast, profitable companies are self-sustaining and generate (“throw off”) cash. In a traditional “C” corporation this profits goes to the share holders, who in turn often fund many charitable organizations as philanthropy. In the new “For Benefit” (B) corporations, instead of distribution of profits to the shareholders some or all of those profits may be directed to other beneficial causes. However, even C Corporations often do charitable giving.
Unlike patron’s whose cash is constantly declining, growing profitable corporations keep generating increasing amounts of cash allowing them to underwrite even more initiatives. But C corporations can only continue to grow if people actually buy their products, so they need to be close to the target consumers of those goods. There is waste generated when companies overestimate markets demand and produce more than demand. But for a company to be sustainable, this can’t happen often.
In contrast, charitable efforts often generate large amounts of waste. Enthusiastic (but sometimes ill informed) well meaning donors often contribute what they think local people want or need, often without checking with the local populations or the groups that serve them. The result can be too much of the wrong supplies, in the wrong places, and not enough of the needed supplies. For instance, after a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti, lots of food might arrive a ports with no way to distribute it, leaving it to rot on the docks, while there may be a shortage of tents that could be dropped by helicopter or small plane into inaccessible areas with need.
C Corporations can rally passionate people in two ways: first of all these companies may produce products that are in demand by other environmentally concerned customers and whose products directly benefit sustainability. These products could include solar panels, windmills, efficient irrigation systems, co-generation plants that produce energy from waste and produce valuable by-products, etc. They can also include mobile apps that piggyback on cellular phones and networks to provide distributed sensors for agriculture, park preservation, etc. or 3D printing technologies that obviate the need for shipping and warehouses of stale inventory by manufacturing only what is needed, only when it is needed, and at the location it is needed. Passionate employees can directly connect their passion to the products.
Secondly, a company may produce products that are not directly related to sustainability, but the company may make charitable giving part of their business strategy. For instance, Warby Parker makes eye glasses; that’s not something you might think of as a sustainable or developmental product - but with 15% of the world’s population needing eye glasses but lacking the financial ability to acquire them, there’s a need, and Warby Parker contributes a free pair to the needy for every pair they sell. Their employees and their consumers can be passionate about that kind of action.
More and more for profit companies are doing this same kind of thing.