Arul Velan and Dinesh Thirupuvanam, founders of San Francisco start-up Viv, have a bright idea – give businesses a simple way to go green while driving sales and profits. Viv is founded on two principles: 1) Small changes add up and 2) Give consumers the power to do good without going too far out of their way, and they will.
Viv believes that it will take consumers and businesses coming together and working on many solutions at once to turn the tide of global warming. As such, Viv offers a simple, easily adoptable, almost elegant, program to help businesses and consumers embrace environmental sustainability. Essentially, consumers are empowered to vote with their wallets for their favorite businesses to green their practices by consuming as per usual. Customers show their Viv sticker to participating businesses at the time of purchase. Businesses that accept Viv stickers commit to making their own stores more eco-friendly as more Viv purchases are made.
Once a certain number of Viv transactions occur (usually 50), the partner business will switch all lights to CFLs, exchange all cleaners for biodegradable alternatives, start a composting program, or whatever other green action the business has agreed to. The program continues such that businesses will make more green changes as each threshold of Viv transactions is hit (50, 100, 200, etc). Viv will even spec out the most impactful and needed green improvements for the business, tailored to each individual store. And Viv will check in to ensure changes take place as planned, as well as record them on the website to reward businesses with publicity and inform consumers of their impact.
Founders Arul and Dinesh are two entrepreneurial cousins who’ve spent their share of time learning the secrets of the business world from the inside out (between the two of them they have experience at American Express, Facebook, Accenture, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and they’ve been educated at top institutions including Stanford Business School and Wharton). So it’s not surprising they’ve come up with such a unique and timely idea. As a writer who focuses on green business innovations, I’ve been following Viv closely since emergence from stealth mode in September 2008 and I’ve been looking forward to writing about them. Viv is a new idea that is unique in many ways, and intelligently combines innovative elements from other companies I admire:
Like RecycleBank, (which I’ve also written about), Viv gives consumers the chance to make a difference, which is rare aside from sheer purchasing power, and communicates those actions through the website.
Like Carrotmob (now part of Virgance), Viv harnesses that very purchasing power and uses it as a catalyst for green change.
Like Green Zebra (my former employer), Viv highlights local businesses and drives sales for establishments that have greened or are willing to green their operations.
Viv’s plan is to start in San Francisco and expand outside of the Bay Area by the end of the year. In just a few months, Viv has set up shop in over 60 San Francisco businesses across the city, and many of the businesses have started to make changes. For example, a bar switched to biodegradable cleaning products, a wine store has started to recycle, and a dog-grooming shop has started to compost leftover hair from their groomings!
What Arul and Dinesh understand is that simple, cost-effective green changes at businesses city-wide, and eventually nationwide, will add up quickly. They also realize that consumers often feel helpless when fed piles of environmental problems, and very few solutions are available for day to day life at no cost. Everybody wins with Viv, and I think the program can really make a difference. Want to get involved? Get stickered, sign up your business, and tell a friend today.
What do you think of Viv? I will make sure Arul and Dinesh get your feedback.