07 Sep 2020

2020: accelerating the case for tech for good

By Paul Miller

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, our optimism about the potential of tech for good has remained. Indeed, there are five trends we’ve watched slowly develop over the past decade that have accelerated rapidly in 2020. Change tends to happen very slowly, then very quickly.

Consumer demand
The first upward trend is customer demand for products and services that have a positive impact. The recent B Lab System Upgrade report showed that a majority of the UK population now favour ‘brands that are doing good in the world’. Covid-19 has given a platform to businesses serving for needs not wants, shone a light on supply chains and raised awareness even further.

Investment attitudes
Secondly there’s the shift in investment attitudes. The realisation that – backing ‘business as usual’ creates greater risk for the future, has finally sunk in. Take the recent DCIF report we highlight below where 80% of pension fund members said they would like the way their pension is invested to do some good as well as provide them with a financial return.

Purposeful work
Then there’s the rise in people who are seeking meaningful work. Whether it’s choosing what business to start or which organisation to work for, the mission of that company is increasingly a vital part of the decision. Here at BGV, submissions for our most recent call for applications were up by 74% compared to the same period last year.

Public procurement
And public procurement is changing too – most notably in healthcare. As BGV portfolio company Hospify’s CEO James Flint put it in an article in the FT recently, “We’ve been talking about this for two decades and no one has been able to make a decision about anything. Now suddenly, instantly, it’s happening — and it will never go back.”

Tech adoption
Finally, tech for good is able to advance quickly because levels of technology adoption are much higher. While there are still many people in the UK and internationally without access to the internet, the majority of the human population does (59% globally, 95% in Northern Europe). This week it even became possible to use digital signatures for the 150 year-old Land Registry.

We shouldn’t be naive, with rapid change comes risk as people with questionable motivations move in to take advantage. But these five trends are certainly reinforcing our optimism, even in challenging times.

This piece was first published in the August issue of our monthly investor newsletter – ‘The Practical Optimist.’ Sign-up here to receive the latest thinking on tech for good and curated resources from the world of impact straight to your inbox.