Christian Møller-Holst [Interview]: How CSR can become a profitable business model

Audiences are growing more business-savvy by the day, absorbing knowledge and quickly reacting to it through social media platforms. They have formed tribes and communities according to their beliefs, concerns and causes. They have also become more expectant, expecting companies to become more focused on their causes and concerns.

World governments have also looked towards companies to make good examples on how big money can help the little people. Employee and team members have also joined the fight, with a slowly growing number wanting to be more conscious and hoping their companies with join them.

Danish entrepreneur Christian Møller-Holst’s Goodwings has been garnering interest with their hotel initiative. The hotel is a novel take on how companies can give back with sustainable business models that can still gain a profit.

We sat down with Christian, one of the founders of Goodwings, to talk about their efforts in helping the world become a better place, long-term CSR efforts and how supporting a cause can motivate your team before he goes on stage this Sunday for the Creative Industry Summit: Ramadan Edition.


Let’s start with your topic for the summit, Doing Good through Innovative Travel Concept, what’s it about?

“It’s about showcasing how anyone can now take action and do good, for FREE.

This is made possible by our innovative approach to global brand-building and distribution. We don’t spend any money on advertising, instead we give our entire marketing spend to NGOs.

This is approximately 5% of the price of any given hotel. Our competitors, the big online hotel platforms, spend more than 30 billion USD every year on advertising, so the potential for doing good is enormous.”


The startup you founded in 2015, Goodwings, is such an interesting business model, to be entirely focused on CSR. Could you explain the idea behind it?

“We wanted to start a company where CSR/impact was part of the DNA. With the Goodwings business model, we cannot be a commercial success without making the NGOs’ fundraising successful. I believe that in this way we have created a very honest and transparent approach to cross-sector partnerships.”

Goodwings’s approach and business model aims at promoting the ecofriendly and world-helping NGOs and initiatives, all the while disrupting the travel industry. With CSR at its core, Goodwings has established over 300 corporate client relationships, all of whom are choosing to make the world a better place.


How can booking with Goodwings help companies and the world?

We enable companies of all sizes and across industries to take action and support the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals because the donations are included in the price.

Thereby more companies can contribute to the world by impacting people and planet positively.


Goodwings works towards the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development, could you tell us a little bit about it?

“All the NGOs that we work with support one or more the 17 Global Goals. So, any funding to them is a help towards the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda.”

The UN Global Goals are part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, aiming at leaving “no one” behind in a race to improve the world and the lives of those that live in it.

“When you browse our website and read about the NGOs, you’ll see which of the SDGs the specific NGOs supports, [such as Amazon’s Sustainable Foundation (FAS)] and ultimately we give our corporate clients an annual Impact report that demonstrates the company’s outcome and impact.”


Which goals is Goodwings focused on helping with?

“All of them 🙂

We simply cannot choose amongst the 17 development goals so we decided to build a global network of NGO-partnerships covering all the goals.”


So, your newest business and your talk is about doing good and giving back, why is it so important for you and for businesses to do?

“Personally, I believe that if we can, we must.

It’s funny because when we look at companies, we tend to see them as non-human entities, you know [like] legal entities. But companies, really, are just groups of people working together, which is why, at least in my opinion, we ought to expect the same from companies that we expect from individuals.

Also, we need the private sector to take action if we are to fulfill the global goals. Governments and civil society simply cannot solve the problems alone.”


Could you give an example on how some companies can start giving back on a small scale?

“I can demonstrate a Goodwings case: an average Goodwings-client spends 50,000 USD annually on hotels. With us, approximately 5% will be donated, so that is around 2,500 USD – every year!

If you take Gravity Water, one of our NGO-partners working to give people in Nepal and Puerto Rico access to clean drinking water for as little as 8 USD per family, an average Goodwings-client can thereby positive influence the lives of more than 300 families.”


Ramadan is a time in the year where charity and helping the world becomes a strong factor, but many companies only focus on this theme during the holy month. How do you think companies can continue this good faith further into the year?

“By making it part of the corporate strategy or at least formalizing their commitment in some way. And again, seek solutions where doing good is part of the price, because then the company’s CSR is not so vulnerable to recession.”


Does it do more damage or good for companies to focus their CSR efforts on a specific time in the year rather than a continuous effort?

“Difficult to say, there might be good reasons to focus CSR on specific times but normally I would say that good CSR requires a strategic, long-term approach.”


Finally, you’ve cultivated quite a team of cause-oriented team members, do you believe it’s important for companies to start working towards a cause, not just for CSR but to fulfil employees’ sense of happiness or accomplishment in the work place?

“Very much so! employees of all ages seek purpose and meaning, it’s therefore good business to be able to motivate and retain talents by offering them a workplace where work matters.

“…We spent some much of our time working, and work is increasingly important for our identity. The whole narrative therefore needs to be more than a transactional relation: I work – therefore I get paid. Today it’s more I work, therefore I am this.

Obviously, you still want to get paid, but I myself have managed to attract senior professionals at below-market wages simply because we love what we are doing, and we’re goddam proud of it :)”


Find and meet Christian, and hear his talk on “Doing Good through Innovative Travel Concept,” at this year’s Creative Industry Summit: Ramadan Edition on Sunday.

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