The notion that a business can contribute to a better world is not new, but it’s definitely an idea whose time has come.

Nowhere has this been better demonstrated than in Taiwan, which has become a real hub for social enterprises, driven by its entrepreneurial culture, the passion of its people, and strong government support.

KPMG firms have been fortunate to play a part in this success, offering advice and other essential services to up and coming social enterprises that are making a difference. Within a context of a thriving enterprise ecosystem, deliberately supported by government, here are some of the stories of the businesses KPMG firms have worked with:

Fashion that’s cool, chic and circular

Story Wear is an ethical fashion company making designs from upcycled materials – primarily recycled denim jeans. Upcycled design combined with social impact is the core value of the fashion brand.

“Taiwan has the world’s top textile innovation technology” says Kuan Chen, who founded the company in 2014. “But here, and around the world, millions of textiles have been produced and then are simply thrown away every year.”

Kuan was initially writing a blog on the sustainable fashion industry, but soon realized the market lacked solutions for the matter. So, Story Wear was born.

“I wished to build a fashion brand with no waste that was also sustainable” says Kuan. “Recycled clothes tended to have a rather drab image, so I was determined to create a brand that was cool, chic – and circular.”

Stack of different rolled denim jeans

Kuan spent 1.5 years forming the production line and searching for material. There was a huge amount of jean waste at the recycling station and it is something that was rarely sold in secondhand shops. Therefore, denim jeans become the main material featured within the collection.

When researching the Taiwan market, Kuan discovered that many skilled workers, like seamstresses and tailoresses, had lost their jobs and were struggling financially.

“Disassembling denim and patch work are an arduous and highly skilled job. By giving these disadvantaged women the chance to work for Story Wear, I felt I was utilizing an untapped resource while also helping my local community.”

The brand has made great strides within Taiwan, with both an online and retail presence, fueled by some innovative marketing in the form of pop-up shops, exhibitions and large corporation collaborations.

“Our next goal is to go international” Kuan explains. “I believe Taiwan can be a great example of how a sustainable fashion industry can exist. From sustainable textile resources to a highly skilled workforce and a circular mentality.”

Woman's hand touching the ears of wheat with tenderness in the barley field

Alechemist turns barley into liquid gold

“It began with a handful of barley.”

So explains Robert Chen, founder of the popular and fast-growing Alechemist beer brand, produced in micro-breweries and made from locally harvested ingredients.

Robert had never intended getting into the beer business, being more interested in farming, as he explains:

“Taiwan used to have a proud tradition of growing a diverse selection of crops, including barley, but over time many of our crops were discontinued as the jurisdiction focused almost exclusively on rice farming. I wanted to reignite a more sustainable rotational agriculture system, using barley as a model crop that helps promote diversity away from monocropping rice.”

With a mission to reduce pesticide, and to farm less intensively, Robert’s barley farm took off. He then faced another challenge: what to do with the produce?

The answer was to start brewing beer, and the Alechemist brand was born.

“When we started in 2015, Taiwan’s craft beer scene was in its infancy. I had actually worked in a micro-brewery while studying in the US a few years prior, so I built on this experience.”

With names like ‘Hefty Red’ and ‘Pale Jade’, Alechemist’s beers have proved quite a hit with the jurisdiction’s discerning drinkers and can be found in many cafes, bistros, and bars. The brand is expanding into supermarkets and is starting to sell overseas in Japan and Singapore.

Despite the success of Alechemist, Robert remains committed to agriculture. He encourages local tours of farms to reconnect citizens with the land and help them understand what lies behind their food and drink.

“My dream is to return to the older ways of farming, with a wide variety of crops and a rotation system that ultimately remediates the environment and uses fewer resources. Every small farming community can create something unique, with a true local flavor. And if you can do it in Taiwan, you can do it anywhere!”

Keeping your skin – and the planet – healthy

“Do you know the number of ingredients in your skincare products that might not be necessarily essential to your skin?” says Maggie Sun, Public Relations Manager at Greenvines, a Taiwanese clean skincare brand with a difference. “This is why we built the 'Unnecessary List', comprising over 2,700 ingredients, which go a step further than the number of ingredients forbidden by EU Cosmetics Regulations.”

Greenvines' stated mission is to transform skin rituals into sustainable outcomes, by making skincare simpler, with fewer products and natural, sustainable ingredients.

Started in 2010 by three college classmates, and inspired by environmentalist, scientist and entrepreneur Dr. Lin Pishia, Greenvines is spearheading the move towards sustainable beauty.

Woman wearing surgical mask and hand holding the bottle of facial foam

Having made its mark in Taiwan, the company is striving to build an international presence. It already markets in Hong Kong and Malaysia, with Singapore and the US in its sights.

But, as the business expands, its owners face a dilemma: how to stay true to their original values?

“Our decisions are always guided by our beliefs” explains Maggie. “For example, we’ve been very careful to limit the number of products, as this sends a message that we should only buy and use what we need. It’s a similar story with our store expansion, which has been limited to retail stores that meet our green requirements.”

This is also why Greenvines chose, in 2015, to become Taiwan’s third ever Certified B Corporation, which means the company must meet strict social and environmental standards, balancing purpose and profit.

Amongst its many achievements, Greenvines has helped to create the largest organic Moringa farm in Africa, as well as initiating a ‘21 Days of Green’ campaign, where consumers complete one simple, eco-friendly action for 21 consecutive days, to build good habits.

“We’re delighted to be recognized as a Best For The World Certified B Corporation for environmental excellence for four consecutive years.” Maggie explains. “In a survey we held last year, over 90 percent of respondents agree that skincare products should do good to both skin and the environment. By reimagining the way we cleanse our skin, we’re also changing our relationship with the world around us – for the better.”

Connect with us