Moving Worlds with Mark Horoszowski - Ep 18

This episode of the Social Enterprise Alliance Podcast aired on Tuesday, March 28th, 2023. This episode can be found on Apple Podcast and Spotify.

Mark: I don't think there's any CEO ever that would say, Yeah, the business world, like 10 years from now is gonna be different than it is right now. Our supply chain has to be more diversified and more sustainable, we have to appeal to the employee desires for a purpose, we have to manage our waste streams in our negative externalities. I don't think any CEOS in the long-term disagree with that, the problem is actually... What I need do by the next quarter, and the easiest way for them to build that case is to talk about how it can benefit their sales, so how can it grow their revenues? And I think they look at that and they say, Okay, if I approach this sector and say, canvas sector actually helped me grow my sales, which is rather self-serving, which is maybe weird for more of us impact-oriented folks to be able to talk about, but they can say, Okay, I could uncover new market opportunities either by helping grow the bottom of the pyramid or by appealing to certain customers that are willing to pay for higher priced products and services, if they know that it's also benefiting the greater kite.

Lauren: Hi, and welcome to the Social Enterprise Alliance podcast. Today we're sharing an awesome conversation we had with Mark Horoszowski, the CEO at MovingWorlds. MovingWorlds is a social enterprise that convenes partners from all sectors to build a more equitable, just and sustainable economy by empowering social enterprises and the people working with and within them. Its global platform connects social enterprises with corporates peers, learning content, and a global community of pro bono professionals to deliver market-based solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals while simultaneously providing a scalable solution for corporations to achieve their ESG targets by educating and empowering employees. Well, Mark, it's great to have you on the podcast. Welcome and thanks for joining gus.

Mark: Yeah, thank you so much, Lauren, excited to be here.

Lauren: We're looking forward to our conversation today. I guess to get started, why don't you start by telling us a little more about the work that you do with MovingWorlds and the TRANSFORM Social Hub?

Mark: Yeah, so at moving worlds, our mission is really to help accelerate the progress towards a more just sustainable and equitable economy, and we believe that in order to get there, we really need to invest in maybe actual humans and the individuals that are making the moves to get us there, right, and say, Okay, so who's doing that? These are professionals that work in the economy, these are professionals at corporations, these are executives, these are managers, and these are individual contributors, and at the same time, we believe that entities, social enterprises specifically are really setting a model for the future of how the economy can work. And so our goal is to really support these social enterprises in scaling up in growing their operations, in building new connections, and to get them connected to professionals around the world that are thinking about what they do on a day-to-day basis and saying, “how can I do my work and make a bigger impact?” So what we do with the TRANSFORM Support Hub, which is also in partnership with Unilever SAP initiative called Transform or welcome to other new partners on key to economic forums, global lines for source entrepreneurship is to create a single global acceleration platform for social enterprises, anywhere they are looking to scale up by building the skills of their team, by expanding their customer bases and by improving the way they create impact.

Lauren: That's really awesome work, that sounds like just absolutely phenomenal and really invaluable work for social enterprises. I'm curious about you and your background, how did you get involved with MovingWorlds, and what were you up to before that?

Mark: Yeah, winding roads for all of us, I'm sure. You know what, when I answer this question, I really actually start with kind of my non-professional experience, which is largely based around like who I am as a person, so to both of my parents were immigrants over to the United States, they met the United States, they're both from Eastern Europe, my dad from Poland, my mom from Slovenia, and they found their way over to Seattle, and that's where I was born, and from an early age, we really had a create community where we were, and so we kind of did that in the Polish community in communities of other immigrants, and so I was really early on the value of community, the value of having this kind of local place that by virtue of having it makes life better for everybody living in it. And then from there, I was very, very involved in a community-based initiative, so I got very involved in community service, got very involved in the American Cancer Society at both my parents or are cancer survivors, and so that was really a strong motivation to get involved and when I started at university, the American Cancer that he was launching fundraising activities, and we helped grow a really, really successful college fundraiser that it to online fundraising, and we were so at one point where this leading online fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

So fast forward, I get a degree in accounting, I get a Master's in Accounting, I go work in accounting, and I always felt like the reason that I got that job was because I'd actually had all this community-based experience. I knew how to manage programs, I knew how to organize myself and do things. And I got that by volunteering, by being beyond just kind of the normal day-to-day, and I remember I was invited to speak at a conference for the American camp society as a training for others. And I couldn't go because it was a busy season. And I felt like that was a broken contract, I got hired because of this great experience, but then now that I was working there, even though it was on the weekend, granted its busy season, and I understand that the economics of these organizations, but I was totally told that I couldn't go, and that really kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and so I ended up actually leaving and joining a smaller healthcare marketing agency, I thought that would be closer to the work that we did. We grew its digital marketing practice, and I actually got to lead that, which was an incredible opportunity for me, and then we hit the Great Recession and we actually made it through it. I still don't know how we did it, but we made it through, and coming out of it, the owner was like, Okay, I want you to try and sell as quickly as you can, and I was like, Oh, I actually have a different plan... Right. Here's how you think we could start the non-profit industry and everything. He's like, cool, that's cute, but no, I wanna retire. And I say again, broken contract, right. So that's really sparked my interest and are there different entities that are still using the power of business, 'cause I saw the power of that, and so ultimately I was like, Well, I'm gonna go learn about this stuff and go back in time, almost 15 years, the language around social business around social enterprise wasn't... Wasn't as well known, there weren't programs for it, so I said, I'm gonna go travel around the world, I'm gonna volunteer my skills with social enterprises, and from there, I'm gonna figure out what I can do to contribute to this movement, and that's ultimately where I met Derek who's my co-founder, and it was actually his idea, he said social enterprises are always looking for capital, but typically they need other types of non-financial support first. Do you think there's an opportunity where people like you... Are there more things happening, and he said... Let's see if we can figure it out. So here we are.

Lauren: Yeah, that's awesome. That's a fantastic story, and I really love, I love all of the personal background that you shared that brought you to this, and also I just... I'm excited 'cause I'm also Slovenian, so I was excited to hear you say that... Yeah, yeah, my maiden name, or my middle name now is Dekleva. My great grandparents immigrated and they landed in Utah and then kinda went everywhere, but... Yeah, so I don't meet many Slovenians - when they immigrated, it was still Yugoslavia, but... Yeah.

Mark: Yep. My mother left under the Yugoslavia banner as well, but she is... She's a proud Slovenia. Yeah, there's a couple of us here.

Lauren: That's so cool, that's so cool.

David: Well, I mean, talk about community, right? It’s kinda the roots of all of it. Yeah, I do love how that you brought up the social… broken social contracts of two times within that story, and I do feel like that is a huge part of what we're trying to navigate even as we think through what a new economy looks like... I know for me, I'm really wrestled with that. Just the idea that you touched on, that our economy is kind of built on: buy high, sell low, transform everything, let's get stock prices up and then sell as fast as possible, and then sometimes destroys the companies in the process, and it's really fascinating to me just as I look into the history of our economy, there really aren't that many companies that can make it last 50 or more years, right. And the ones that do maybe are like multi-generational family businesses, whereas true, even large corporations, they just don't have a track record of being here for the long haul. And I think that one of the things that... One of the things that I've noticed about just the principles behind what social enterprise is, for example, I'm wrestling with, how do I transform to an employee-owned structure instead, 'cause it's not about me. Like, I wanna retire. That's a good and healthy thing. But the work that we do is not about David. The work that we do is about all of us collectively, so I really like how that was like, wait a minute, here's a contract that this is what I believe in, it broke, how do we change and navigate that... Kind of with that in mind, what is the benefit that social enterprises have as we start to work with corporations and partner together, 'cause we're kind of playing by these two different sets of rules. Is there even an opportunity for social enterprises to influence corporations and what can we learn from corporations through that relationship?

Mark: Yeah, yeah, great questions. You know, I think... Bring it back, maybe this is the auditor and me, you kinda bring it back to business fundamentals: how does the business make money, what are its costs, where does it spend money, and then what does it do with the left of our money that it has it and then what is the role of social enterprise in all of these? And maybe to answer this question, actually stay through the lens of the corporation… Right, so we're actually really lucky to work with some very great corporations that have made huge investments in supporting the social enterprise movement, and those that do out of their innovation arms, like Unilever, out of their corporate social responsibility arms, like SAP… when they're making these investments, they are looking at it and saying, in order for us to kind of justify expenditures and supporting this movement, we have to understand how it's also gonna benefit our business, and there's a lot of different ways that it can... There's some great research that shows five different ways that corporations really do invest, or do you benefit by really engaging with the social sector more, getting their employees engaged, thinking about supply chains, thinking about employee retention, thinking about cost savings by building up new partnerships, thinking about how they benefit and can improve their relationships with governments as well. But on that make money part, I think what corporations actually would all probably agree with is that if we fast forward far enough into the future, I don't think there's any CEO ever that would say, “Yeah, the business world, like 10 years from now is gonna be different than it is right now.” Our supply chain has to be more diversified and more sustainable. We have to appeal to the employee desires for a purpose. We have to manage our waste streams or negative externalities. I don't think any CEOS in the long-term disagree with that, the problem is actually... What I need to do by the next quarter? And the easiest way for them to build that case is to talk about how it can benefit their sales, right. So how can it grow their revenues? And I think they look at that and they say, “Okay, if I approach this sector and say, Can this sector actually helped me grow my sales?” which is rather self-serving, which is make weird for more of us impact-oriented folks to be able to talk about... But they can say, Okay, I could uncover new market opportunities either by helping grow the bottom of the pyramid or by appealing to certain customers that are willing to pay for higher price products and services, and even contribute higher margins, if they know that it's also benefiting the greater good. There's a market kind of growth opportunity. There’s also new products and services. There might be better products or services that can be created for both current customers, existing customers as well as future. And then just on a slightly long-term horizon, too, companies know that I need to be innovating for this future state of business. I have to be doing things even if I don't see revenues for a while, so from a revenue growth perspective, I think that that story… And there's so many anecdotes that really show that to be true.

And then let's talk about cost savings. Companies also have to manage costs, so they need to manage risk, liabilities, etcetera. They also need to manage supply chain disruption, they need to improve the way they distribute products, and again, social enterprises have really incredible innovations here that can help corporations do that. And so I think when business executives stop looking at engagement with social enterprises as philanthropy and actually look at it as being central to their strategy to become an enduring business that customers love… I think if they approach partnership with the social enterprise sector in that model, then it starts to create a lot more opportunities for innovation and partnership. And I think in really deep in the conversation, and as soon as they see the social enterprises exist, who manage their externalities, who treat their employees, fairly, who generate revenues while also achieving the sustainable development goals, they start to more and more proof points, and actually that type of business model is possible, and I think that really gives a lot of us hope. Yeah.

Lauren: That's awesome, that's awesome. It definitely reminds me of just there are parallels in the conversations that we have with some of our members who are focused on consumer selling, like consumer-facing products, and it's... When you're talking about a consumer market as well, it's not enough to just have the impact, you also have to have a really fantastic product. And so these kinds of conversations are so important for social enterprises to appeal to a broader market. Your competitive edge is your impact, that's why you should choose their products over other products, but if you don't have a fantastic product to begin with, you're not even on the table as a consideration. So that's kind of a very wide reaching concept. I'm just curious too, what do these kinds of partnerships with corporations and social enterprises, what does that typically look like? If there even is a formula, I'm sure it can look like many different things.

Mark: Yeah, sure. So let me maybe approaches from a few different ways. So just imagine I'm looking at my coffee cup, which I'm a Seattle-ite, very sadly, my coffee machine actually broke this morning, this very, very intense morning over here without coffee. So if we actually look at a cup of coffee and say, Okay, what happens as we think about a cup of coffee, right? So let's say you go to the store, you buy… go to the local coffee shop, you buy a cup. 90% of that transaction, the money that you pay is actually gonna end up rippling through that entire value chain, right. So it's gonna then go to the coffee roaster, it's gonna then go to the importer, it’s from there, gonna go to whoever packaged it up, and then from there, it'll go to the farmers. Every one of those operating markets has their own challenges, right? So farmers might be dealing with, Okay, can we actually still more sustainably grow our coffee so that we have long-term futures here. And here there's some social enterprises that are helping to do that, either through farmer education or through helping corporations trace bean to cup methods. So take one social enterprise called Vega coffee, they actually started as a direct-to-consumer, they said, We educate farmers to roast their coffees directly and then we drop ship that to you and we send it directly to your door. So we skip all these steps, we put a lot more money in farmers, we actually lower the total net carbon that's used in the entire chain… so net positive. So the daily harvest, who sells these kind of pre-packaged like milk shakes that you go, they're like, Oh, our consumers want organic farmer roasted coffee, that's a good marketing benefit. So now Vega coffee actually supplies not only direct to consumers, but also to these core businesses as a key ingredient. I think that's one way. There's another way, let's then move up from farmers to let's say packages and distributors, so some are people are like packaging this and maybe they have to deal with plastic waste, right? So, okay, what do they do with their plastic waste, and the reason that they need to care is because Unilever or Pepsi or any of these other brands that are saying “We're gonna reduce our virgin plastic consumption” are saying, “Hey, you need to figure out what to do with this plastic, and you're actually gonna report on some of these things to us, and so we need you to help kinda figure out what to do.

Well, there's some amazing social enterprises that are figuring out how to manage plastic waste. Take Arc Light which takes plastic and turns into reusable materials. Those reusable materials are now actually a core ingredient in some Cemex products to reduce the carbon load of both manufacturing enough concrete and distributing that concrete. So we start to see how these bigger corporations are saying, Okay, some of the core things, both central to my product or ancillary, like the packaging, need to be improved, in fact... there's social enterprises that I figured that out. Okay, then let's go to the next area. Let's talk about distribution, right? How can distribute should be done in a way that's more transparent? So if we're distributing through a partner, the money is actually going back all the way to the farmer, well... guess who really wants to know that? Tony's chocolate wants to know that all of the cocoa that's going into their chocolate bars are actually verified well... Who's figured out how to do that? Well, there are multiple social enterprises that have figured this out. One is called Meridia, which is actually a data as a service company, essentially, who helps corporations verify that the ingredients that go into their supply chain are actually owned by the farmers that they're claiming that they are sourcing from, right? So along every one of these steps, we start to see how there's innovations that are needed to actually help the company achieve their goals of delivering to you a consumer, a sustainable and socially equitable a cup of coffee.

David: Well, and this is right up my alley because I own a coffee roasting business in Cincinnati, so this is all the language that I use. Yeah, this is the world that I live and everything that you just said... Yeah, and honestly, it's like that's what I love about Social Enterprise Alliance is... One of the objectives of the alliance is to truly embrace that last word, alliance. And so to learn from other food producers or manufacturers or other coffee roasters even, it's an interesting thing to be in competition as a social enterprise because... And in many ways, we're on the same team. Like my hope is that global coffee traded completely different. And honestly, I think coffee has one of the best opportunities is currently the third largest traded commodity in the world based on dollar spent. So as an industry, as we figure this kind of thing out and as we share information back and forth with each other, and especially through a partner like Social Enterprise Alliance, and we all align… Now all of a sudden, we do have an opportunity to show the world of brand new example of what global trade could be… of what anti-slavery, modern-day slavery in the coffee supply chain looks like. Well, now can we learn, take those principles to apply it to other industries, and I think we do have an opportunity to transform the way we think about global trade. Which to me also goes all the way back to... This is how we can help corporate America. Everybody wants this. The next generation of consumers are demanding more responsibility from the corporate sector, and honestly… there was a recent Harris pole that Google Cloud used or went through the Google Cloud, that most CEOS are saying that the world want sustainability, that they want to make sustainability priority. But globally, 58% admit to green washing… that what they say and what they do aren't necessarily all aligned. And I think it's like combating… we’re not necessarily trying to be manipulative as much as the supply chain and the transparency required. Like, we’re doing our best effort... We do still have a long way to go. So it's just interesting how... to me that I think more and more the two worlds are kind of coming together and we can really learn a lot from each other, and I think your example was really great.

Mark: Yeah, thanks for sharing that. One thing that sparks for me is, I think that at the corporate level, we tend to think about it as, Okay, this corporation is green washing it, and I think if we break it down and think about the individuals within the organization… I don't think there's any marketer anywhere that says, “So I wanna go greenwash.” But they're under these intense goals, so I hit these targets, they see the consumer interest. We've worked with some of these people before. I worked in the industry before, there's a lot of marketers believe that they're actually the future state of the organization. So by them saying something, right, they're then actually pushing the company to go achieve those things. Now, the consequence in the meantime is perceived green washing, and that has to be addressed, don't get me wrong. And also, the human that's making some of those decisions and the committee of the humans that are making those decisions, I think oftentimes, they're also not just fully aware. I think that’s… what you ask me about moving world does at the beginning. I talked about these two audiences… we talked about the social enterprises and the humans within them, and I talk about corporations and the professionals within them that we really seek to educate. Because that's actually some of the huge value that we see from some of our corporate partners who were saying, “hey, we're sponsoring our employees to learn about this stuff, to actually volunteer their skills and time with social enterprises to pull them in to value chains,” and then what happens to those professionals afterwards? These light bulbs go off. They say, "Oh wow, I actually have an outdated view of corporate philanthropy and that can evolve and there is this brighter model.”

I think that's the work that you all do, about helping this message get out. I think that education is really still at the very early stages, and I think we have a huge opportunity to show that individuals everywhere, regardless of their role, can actually start to partner with so far enterprises in even small ways. And then that really starts to pull them in and I think we start to... One of our team calls like a Trojan horse approach, right? That this is actually how you show people… if individuals believe that their own work can still deliver and they can hit goals by partnering with social enterprises, then I think it goes by logic that the corporation can too.  

David: Well and just real quick, the treasure horse comment… Like you said earlier, I think sales is the language that we need to speak. Well, it's true! If you wanna see your business succeed in the next generation, then this is what you need to do to pivot, in order to attract the consumer. Not to mention things like employee wellness, the more that we do that, the more that we see employees as whole beings, the more retention that will have...Well, that's cheaper for the company. It does effect the bottom line when we really do apply social impact principles within every aspect of our business.

Mark: Yep. Resonates.

Lauren: Yeah, that's awesome. I wonder too… so you've kinda shared how moving world helps to prepare corporations for these kinds of partnerships with social enterprises, how can social enterprises be preparing for these corporate partnerships? What’s important for them to know?

Mark: Yeah, I'll share a story here. There’s a social enterprise that we learned of that had a great kind of first pitch meeting with a corporate partner. And what's normal with the corporate partner… you've got three or four different buyers that you have to all convince that you're the best solution for... So they have a great meeting and they’re like, “Hey, we think we wanna work with you,” and the social enterprise is like “Great!” And they just send them an invoice in their bank details. And you're like, “Hey, I appreciate the enthusiasm,” right? But what does the corporation actually need to go through first? They're gonna go through an either formal procure process or informal meeting… it’s still a procurement process, even if they don't totally have it labeled this procurement. So what happens? There's some type of usually, some kind of services agreement… some are called framework agreements, some are in comprehensive service agreements or others… but it's this comprehensive service agreement. And then from there, a statement of work is created. The Statement of Work then creates a purchase order, the purchase order is entered and then the social enterprise can invoice... What else has to happen, right? Things have to be invoiced on time, data has to be reported on time, certain things have to be delivered within certain quality bars. There’s so many things that social enterprises need to do is they kind of start to create connections with corporations and honestly speaking, they’re time intensive. You have to go through legal reviews. If you're doing anything with data, you have to go through GDPR compliance, if you're working with the international corporation. Some of these data and privacy reviews can take months. Moving worlds… We've been through those. So I think social enterprises need actually support in navigating some of these operational, in some cases, improvements and compliance efforts in order to tap into this market. Right, but here, I wanna step back for quick second… over 12 trillion dollars every year, like one, two trillion… trillion with a T… is transacted through business-to business transactions every single year, right. Business transactions that incorporate small businesses. This is a huge part of the global economy. So becoming corporate ready is actually an introduction into a 12 trillion market opportunity, is the way that we think about... So if you're trying to grow your social enterprise, growing through commercial partnerships - and that can be with small enterprises, medium enterprises or large enterprises - is probably the biggest opportunity for most social enterprises. Now, so that should just justify that sort of going through there, but there is an element of readiness. And so that's really where our Transform Support Hub supports social enterprises. It has cost-saving guides to guide social enterprises through these kind of eleven different things that they need to do in order to be scale ready. In addition to cost saving guides, that reduces the need for consultants, and also shorten a lot of team time to deliver some things… they also have access to other peers, so they can get pure guidance and coaching as they move through these things, and then they can access this international network of professionals from over 70 countries, who actually volunteer their skills to help social enterprises go through some of that compliance, build their accounting systems, refine their marketing messaging, improve their technology, achieve their data security standards… whatever is needed. And so, I think that kind of granular guidance we see as being very, very helpful because it is a long road. And you're like, “Oh I have to go do all these things, but what I do first?” And so maybe that's what I'd Cap it with, is sometimes social enterprises also just need recognition that, "Hey, this road is also a little bit challenging, but here's the first, most important thing that you can do.

Lauren: Yeah, that's fantastic. And that's so helpful too, because our membership really is comprised of all stages of social enterprises - whether they've been around for 30 years and are very in the scaling phase of things or they're just getting started. And so I think that's just really helpful insight.

David: Yeah, and I was getting ready to ask like, Okay, well, where do we begin? You kinda answered the question. Although I will say it does sound like to really step into that is to tap into the resources that you've built at Moving Worlds, so we should maybe end with that. How would I access that? What does it look like to join the support hub? Let us know how we can tap into the platform that you guys have built.

Mark: Yeah, yeah, easy thing is to go to moving worlds at or transform, and from there, find the information about social enterprises. We do have an application link to the platform. We’re transparent about what those criteria are. We definitely err on the side of inclusion, and we're very clear as to kind of work and what you need in order to have access. Our goal is to be as inclusive as possible here. Once on, there is an assessment, so we recommend that you kind of take this SCALE-UP assessment, kinda guides you on what resources to benefit the most. And then from there, ask our team. If you're looking for... We call it expert in, this is where the professionals volunteer their expertise, so expecting, if you're looking for guidance on any of these steps, just… It's a pretty simple form from your dashboard, once you're on the platform. You can post it. In addition, we do live community events on a monthly basis where we invite you to meet industry leaders. You can engage with other peers. If you're working on one of your learning guides, or trying to complete one of your templates and you just need some support, we have standing sessions with our team to help do that. And one thing that's really been growing in popularity for us is just our community newsletters. So if you have any wins… if you have anything that you want a feature, we'd love to put you on social. We love to get you out there and cut your newsletters, so if you have anything you wanna celebrate, you just let us know, and we include that in our external communications.

Lauren: Fantastic.

David: Well, Mark, it's certainly been a pleasure, and what you guys have built is, I think, is a wealth of wisdom that is just a tremendous resource for so many people. And I love the fact that you guys are working in the corporate side too. At the end of the day, we're all people, and it's a lot easier for me to think that we're all inherently good and we're really trying to make the world a better place, even if you work in corporate America. So I love that position that you've taken as well. So thank you so much for joining the podcast today and...Yeah, and SEA members who are listening, make sure you tap into this resource. It’s really helpful.

Mark: Thanks, so much. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Lauren: Thanks Mark.