In popular mythology, all CEOs are mean, indifferent and focused exclusively on the bottom line. However, it turns out that there are some activist CEOs who use their positions and influence to make the world a better place. (See also: How Social Impact Investing Works.)
We have selected 10 CEOs who are trying to make a difference. They are using their status as business leaders and philanthropists to create movements and projects that help people across the world. All facts and figures are current as of April 10, 2017.
1. Jim Ziolkowski
Jim Ziolkowski formed buildOn to do nothing less than eliminate poverty by disrupting the habits and beliefs that perpetuate it. He educates the poor on how to get out of poverty, helps them learn to read, and inspires them to raise their sights so they can see a brighter future. Ziolkowski has come a long way from his job in finance to focus exclusively on his efforts to help the world’s poorest people.
2. Neil Blumenthal
Blumenthal has taken a simple idea and impacted the world. He formed Warby Parker, a company that creates eyewear that is superior in quality and appearance, and sells it for cheaper than anyone else can. However, that’s not the end of the story. The company works with VisionSpring, a non-profit that trains low-income women on how to sell eyeglasses in developing countries. On top of that, Neil sees to it that for every pair of eyeglasses sold by his company, a pair is given to a needy person.
3. David Miliband
Miliband is carrying on part of Albert Einstein’s work. Einstein helped found the International Rescue Committee, an organization that helps people who have been through disasters and humanitarian crises. The goal is not only survival, but a new life that is prosperous. Refugees are part of the organization’s target groups. Miliband also fights out-of-control emissions practices.
4. Jacqueline Novogratz
Novogratz has been working in philanthropy through The Philanthropy Workshop at the Rockefeller Foundation. She also worked on The Next Generation Leadership Program. She is currently CEO of Acumen, an organization that fights poverty through entrepreneurship. As if that weren’t enough, she is part of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council for Sustainable Development.
5. Rachael Chong
As CEO of Catchafire, Chong puts professionals and non-profits together to work on social impact efforts. Catchafire is the largest volunteer marketplace in the world. Rachael Chong was the recipient of the NYC Venture Fellowship. She also was awarded the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award.
6. Kohl Crecelius
Krochet Kids, the brainchild of Kohl Crecelius, helps people in Uganda and Peru work to create products that are then sold around the world. This creates jobs that are sustainable for people in countries where opportunities are scarce.
7. Michael Elliot
Elliot is the CEO of an organization called ONE. This group has more than three million people who work to fight poverty and disease. A former editor at Time magazine and a columnist for Fortune magazine, Michael devotes his time to combating extreme poverty, hunger, ignorance and helplessness.
8. Jessica Matthews
Matthews serves as the CEO of Uncharted Play, which she co-founded. Her goal is to transform lives through play. She has been named as one of the “40 Under 40 Next Generation Women in Power.” Matthews was also Scientist of the Year, as designated by the Harvard Foundation. She is now dedicated to play as a transformative experience.
9. Vicki Escarra
Escarra is CEO of Opportunity International, an organization that empowers women to get out of poverty. The organization helps these women work, improve their families and communities, and sustain a prosperous lifestyle. Escarra previously worked with Feeding America to relieve hunger.
10. Martin Edlund
Edlund is a founder and CEO of Malaria No More. He is fighting to end malaria through multiple campaigns and efforts, and is focused on convincing leaders that malaria can be stamped out. He has overseen the distribution of nets, and spearheaded education campaigns with country leaders in Senegal, Cameroon, and Chad.
The Bottom Line
The old image of CEOs is rapidly fading as innovators and entrepreneurs are creating opportunities to help people worldwide. This list of 10 is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of CEOs are working across the globe to create positive social impact. (See also: The Difference Between Social and Impact Investing.)