The Forward for Good Accelerator sends a clear signal of the company’s willingness to build meaningful collaborations with more nimble change makers, offering Fortune 20 assistance in a mutually beneficial way.
Verizon is rethinking what role technology plays in addressing the world’s most pressing issues. Citizen Verizon is the company’s responsible business plan for economic, environmental and social advancement by engaging three pillars:
“Across all of those pillars, we’re interested in looking at the needs of all communities that might be under-resourced or systemically marginalized,” said Dylan Siegler, a CSR strategist and climate-justice lead at Verizon, told Sustainable Brands™.
In recent years, Verizon has taken a critical look at how the triple bottom line really plays out for a tech company. For its part, the company is well positioned to make a real climate impact — it makes massive renewable energy purchases every year and aims to achieve net zero by 2035.
But Siegler admits that’s not enough to reverse the damage that’s already been done and is affecting the most vulnerable in real time.
“Climate change is here, and we’re experiencing it right now,” she said. “Unfortunately, this summer has been a really good example of how that is manifesting.”
Verizon Forward for Good
Verizon envisions a world where tech such as 5G will help reduce climate impacts for everyone, especially underrepresented communities. Tech accessibility and carbon neutrality are key components of Verizon’s responsible business strategy, and another new initiative will further embed social impact into the company’s core business proposition.
In its first Forward for Good Accelerator cohort, Verizon dedicated resources to scale seven early-stage startups focused on climate justice. Each startup was awarded $50,000 in non-dilutive funding in addition to mentorship, networking and technology to help them build their businesses and become more venture-ready.
The first cohort startups have found niches engaging seven categories: Wildfire, Oceans, Community Impact, Agricultural Monitoring, Hurricane Warning and Mapping.
In the Wildfire category, for instance, Fireball Info Technology (recently rebranded as Exci) provides early fire detection and mapping services tailored to protect populations and infrastructure vulnerable to wildfire. In Community Impact, ISeeChange helps cities, engineers, utilities and the public develop climate solutions together.
Assistance is custom-tailored to each startup — some need a boost on the tech side of things, others need executive mentorship, and others need help polishing their value propositions. Verizon will help them all authentically communicate how their product or service will help people in communities hardest hit by climate change.
A year of back-to-back, record-breaking heat waves and natural disasters put climate justice front and center. Verizon’s future cohorts will address other social impact topics, the next being disability. The annual 16-week program will feature different social impact themes and the startup innovators rising to the challenge of moving the needle within them.
Business as a launchpad
Verizon notes that Forward for Good focuses on supporting smaller, more nimble businesses developing innovative solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. Verizon is making an intentional investment in the external innovation community by leveraging Verizon resources to drive positive change.
Verizon commits to always support small-scale change makers advancing external innovations while continuously building its own advanced CSR strategy. Both, Siegler said, are essential to authentically impactful sustainability work.
“Verizon is always going to be a mammoth communication and tech company, and we’re not going to have the nimbleness or agility that a small startup will have to address very specific concerns in the community,” she said. “What we saw as Verizon’s core competency here is this ability to provide tech resources to those that are out doing it. We wanted to leverage what Verizon is good at, and provide what we’re good at to those smaller companies.”
Verizon seeks to tune into market signals indicated by the innovative startups, most of which are on the cusp of emerging market trends. Together, the Verizon Forward for Good cohorts and Verizon will create an interface for fresh strategies and partnerships in new and developing fields.
“We’re meshing the expertise and resources inside Verizon with these innovative, nimble businesses,” Siegler said. “It helps us, it helps them; it’s a way for Verizon to learn from them what’s happening in the marketplace. All of that creates a yeasty environment to foment an innovative environment both internally and externally.”
Beyond the accelerator
Verizon Forward for Good sends a clear signal of the company’s willingness to build meaningful collaborations with more nimble change makers, offering Fortune 20 assistance in a mutually beneficial way.
“This isn’t just philanthropy. This is a pragmatic way for Verizon to be part of something that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see into,” Siegler added.
After a hybrid demo event September 29, Verizon is offering ongoing development opportunities for the climate justice cohort, matching each startup with experienced executive mentors as well as skills building workshops throughout the year following the Accelerator.
“Verizon is incredibly invested in the success of these companies,” Siegler said. “The 16 weeks has come to an end, but our relationship with them has not; and we really look forward to continuing to explore how we can work together and what sort of social impact innovation we can do together.”
Verizon recently announced the theme for its next cohort: Disability Innovation. Startups building technology for the disability community with 5G, MEC, AI, & XR can apply by November 1.