While the startup scene seems to be flourishing on a global scale, it’s those companies that focus on making a real social change that is attracting the most attention from investors. The U.S investment company Blackrock even stated: “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” A motive for genuine social impact, then, seems to be key to company longevity. The idea behind these startups is to improve society through technology. Southeast Asia is experiencing a boom in the small business sector, and startups with ethical intentions are beginning to really make a difference. From Malaysia to The Philippines, we highlight some of the most inspiring companies.

Social enterprise startups in Southeast Asia are not dead

Evoware, Indonesia

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Seaweed packaging from Evoware. Image courtesy Facebook

With the aim of promoting innovative and sustainable value to urban society, Evoware saw an opportunity to use seaweed to replace plastic. Based in Indonesia, the world’s second-biggest plastic-waste contributor to the ocean, this creation is particularly impactful for the region on both an environmental and social scale. As well as ensuring their products are eco-friendly and biodegradable, the choice of seaweed for packaging benefits seaweed farmers and local communities. Their seaweed-based solutions are used for food wraps, coffee cup sleeves, dry seasoning sachets, and soap packaging, among other things. With 70% of all plastic waste in the ocean coming from food and beverage packaging, this startup has the potential to drive monumental change.

The Tree Dots, Singapore

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Image courtesy Facebook

Aiming to revolutionise the traditional food supply chain, The Tree Dots redistributes unsold, yet still consumable food supplies–reducing food waste at its early stages. Through the realisation that our current supply chains are affecting environmental, human, and animal needs, this company is improving the current state of the food industry by matching inventories with buyers who can utilise the otherwise wasted products.

Ruma, Indonesia

Built on the premise that low-income communities in Indonesia often have limited access to products and services that could improve their lives, Ruma is building a collective economy to help appease this issue. The goods currently available to most Indonesians are usually of a low quality and at a higher price than similar products sold in department stores. By employing local entrepreneurs and raising awareness through information, this company unites the power of millions of low-income individuals to boost their quality of life through access to high-quality and affordable technology, household goods, and clothing.

Saora Industries, Malaysia

Focusing on financially and environmentally sustainable solutions, Saora industries provides safe and clean drinking water to marginalised communities. Founded by Ganesh Muren, this company includes the revolutionary creations of the ‘Waterlily’ and ‘Chlorinator’ filtration systems. The humanitarian entrepreneur often makes personal trips to hard-to-reach, disadvantaged areas of Malaysia to ensure the local communities have access to clean drinking water and, ideally, clean and safe electricity from solar panels.

Salt, The Philippines

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Image courtesy of Facebook

A ‘Sustainable Alternative Lighting’ company, Salt considers themselves as a ‘social movement’ and more than just an innovative product–a sustainable and cost-effective, ecologically designed lantern activated by salt water. The technology is based on metal-air battery technology and requires the basic solution of salt and water to make the lamp emit light. Salt has also been involved in social movements including the sponsorship of tribes and local communities, providing those without access to a main power supply with lamps to aid their safety and general quality of living.

Yonah, Singapore

Seeking to expand access to healthcare in remote areas, Yonah empowers communities by providing autonomous technologies to under-developed regions. Inspired by Mission Aviation Fellowship’s (MAF) work in disaster relief and areas with healthcare access problems, founders Tian Chang and Zhi Min set out on a mission to learn more about the logistical issues faced by hospitals. In response to difficulties with deliveries of vaccinations and other medical supplies, Yonah developed a cargo-drone infrastructure that will be able to travel relatively long-distances and safely provide essential supplies to far-reaching areas.

Enablecode, Vietnam

With a goal to transform the Vietnamese perception of people with disabilities, Enablecode is a software company that employs computing experts who are not as physically able as the majority of society. Established in 2014, this startup blossomed from a team of freelancers who have been working together on a variety of web projects in Ho Chi Minh City since 2010. Their goal is to use technology to deliver services and run a strong business as a means to raise awareness of those living in a disabled condition.

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Koompi, Cambodia

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Image courtesy of Facebook

Striving to empower Cambodian youth through affordable and high-quality technology, Koompi creates practical and entry-level laptops for those who wouldn’t usually have the means to buy these modern-enablers. They created their own operating system with the desire to assist professional and educational environments across the ASEAN region. Through an accessible user experience, Koompi aims to not only sell laptops but to reach out to a new generation of engineers, problem solvers, and discoverers.

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