Workplace Innovations · · 10 min read

20 Inspiring CEOs That Are Changing The World Through Business

Here is a list of 20 inspiring CEOs that are changing the world in their everyday jobs. These 20 CEOs run companies that are developing their business/organizations to solve or prevent some of our worlds most pressing issues. Neil Blumenthal – Warby Parker  Photo by Alonso Nichols, Tufts Photo Neil

20 Inspiring CEOs That Are Changing The World Through Business

Here is a list of 20 inspiring CEOs that are changing the world in their everyday jobs. These 20 CEOs run companies that are developing their business/organizations to solve or prevent some of our worlds most pressing issues.

Neil Blumenthal – Warby Parker

Photo by Alonso Nichols, Tufts Photo

Neil and three friends launched Warby Parker in 2010. Warby Parker is able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eye wear at a fraction of the price.  They’ve partnered with non-profits like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. Neil had been the Director of VisionSpring, a non-profit social enterprise that trains low-income women to start their own business selling affordable eyeglasses in developing countries.

Ned Breslin – Water For People

Ned Breslin is the CEO of Water For People. Ned has been working on safe water projects since 1987. Twenty years later he moved back to the US to join Water For People as its Director of International Programs, eventually becoming CEO in 2009. For twenty years, Ned has worked on these projects trying to find a more sustainable approach. He has led innovative efforts that test new approaches to service delivery and create more accountability of water and sanitation programs. In 2011, Breslin received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.

Barbara Bush – Global Health Corps

Barbara Bush is CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps. GHC has deployed 322 fellows from 24 citizenships to work in 7 countries, since 2009. She has traveled with the UN World Food Programme, focusing on the importance of nutrition in ARV treatment. Barbara is a member of UNICEF’s Next Generation Steering Committee and the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council and is one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Shapers.

Rachael Chong – Catchafire

Photo by : Network 355

Rachael Chong is the Founder and CEO of Catchafire, a platform that connects professionals with nonprofits on projects that create positive social impact. Catchafire has become the world’s largest online skills-based volunteer marketplace.  In 2012, Rachael was named Fast Company’s Most 100 Creative People in Business and received the NYC Venture Fellowship and the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award.

Pat Christen  – HopeLab

For over 20 years, Pat led the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation. Today, she is the CEO of HopeLab, an Omidyar Group philanthropy that creates tech-based solutions to support human health and well-being. HopeLab applies insight from scientific and human-centered research to design consumer products that improve lives.

Jessica Matthews – Uncharted Play

Jessica is the Co-Founder & CEO of Uncharted Play, which is a for-profit social enterprise dedicated to improving lives through play. Their flagship product is the SOCCKET, an energy harnessing soccer ball. She has over seven years of start-up and small business experience in the software and technology industry.

She is the recipient of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Next Generation Award (2013), Named as one of Black Enterprise’s “40 Under 40 Next Generation of Women in Power” (2012), Named Scientist of the Year by the Harvard Foundation (2012), one of the “10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs” by Fortune (2011), and Next Generation Breakthrough Innovator by Popular Mechanics (2010).

Invited by President Barack Obama to the White House to represent small companies for the signing of the America Invents Act. Education: MBA from Harvard Business School (2014); BA in Psychology & Economics, Harvard College (2010).

Michael Elliot – ONE

AP Photo/Danny Johnston

Michael is the President and Chief Executive Officer of ONE. ONE is a global campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 3 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Michael also served as editor of TIME International, Deputy Managing Editor of TIME Magazine, and was a columnist on the global economy for Fortune magazine. Elliott was named editor of TIME International in 2005.  He joined TIME in May 2001 as an editor-at-large after a year spent as editor-in-chief of eCountries, an Internet based news and analysis service on global affairs.

Jeremy Heimans – Purpose

Jeremy Heimans is co-founder and CEO of Purpose, a home for building 21st century movements and ventures that use the power of participation to change the world. Since its launch in 2009, Purpose has launched several major new organizations including All Out, a 1.7 million-strong LGBT rights group, built the world’s first open-source global activism platform, and advised institutions like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ACLU and Google.

Magatte Wade – Tiossan

Magatte Wade is the founder and CEO of Tiossan, a high-end natural skin care company based on indigenous Senegalese recipes. Magatte was born in Senegal, educated in France, and started her entrepreneurial career in the U.S. Her first company, Adina World Beverages, based on indigenous Senegalese beverage recipes, became one of the most widely distributed U.S. brands started by an African entrepreneur.

Jensine (Yen-See Nah) Larsen – World Pulse

Jensine Larsen is an award-winning social media entrepreneur and international journalist and speaker. At age 28 she founded World Pulse – an action media network powered by women. Today 50,000 women from 190 countries are connecting through World Pulse and producing a multiplier effect of change. Women previously unknown by the global public are having their stories picked up from World Pulse by the BBC, CNN, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, the UN, and the Huffington Post and beyond.

In addition, by networking through World Pulse’s website grassroots women leaders are finding job opportunities, starting new programs and businesses, launching women’s cybercafés, and finding international speaking opportunities that are changing their lives and lifting their communities.

Jean Case – Case Foundation

Jean Case – Case Foundation

Jean Case is an actively engaged philanthropist who, together with her husband Steve Case, created the Case Foundation in 1997. Jean spent her early days at the Case Foundation doing a deep-dive into philanthropy and seeking the best ways she could make a difference.

After having success with some early initiatives (and learning some really valuable lessons!) Jean realized that she and Steve could make the biggest impact by centering the Foundation around many of the same entrepreneurial approaches they cultivated throughout their business careers. As Jean would be quick to tell you, a good investment is a good investment — even if the way you measure a return changes somewhat as you move across sectors.

The Case Foundation has long believed it is better to focus its efforts on a small number of “big ideas” – focusing on a handful of swing-for-the-fences ideas that have transformative potential. While many of the “big ideas” we have invested in at the Foundation vary in focus, they all are built upon a foundation of leadership, collaboration and entrepreneurship and provide opportunities for meaningful scale and sustainable impact.

Martin Edlund – Malaria No More


Martin Edlund is a founding member and CEO of Malaria No More. During his tenure at Malaria No More, he has implemented high-profile engagement campaigns complimented by cutting edge mobile, social, and e-commerce platforms as Chief Marketing Officer.

He has been instrumental in shaping the conversation of the complex issue of malaria for leadership audiences across the globe, Edlund also lived and worked in West Africa as Malaria No More’s Director of New Programs, where he helped launch innovative net distribution and education campaigns with country leadership and local partners in Senegal, Cameroon, and Chad.

Prior to joining MNM, Martin was a journalist for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Republic and Slate, among other publications, and a political consultant in Washington, D.C., specializing in online campaign strategies

Maggie Fox – The Climate Reality Project


Maggie L. Fox is the President and CEO of The Climate Reality Project, the leading organization dedicated to raising awareness of the growing climate crisis. She is a long time leader of numerous political, environmental and national issue campaigns.

She has over 30 years of experience mobilizing people to work for progressive change. As President and CEO of The Climate Reality Project, Maggie has led a campaign to help citizens around the world discover the truth about the climate crisis and take meaningful steps to bring about global change. Maggie has trained thousands of climate educators from around the world, most recently in Beijing, China; Jakarta, Indonesia; Istanbul, Turkey; Chicago; and San Francisco.

Lauren Bush Lauren – FEED


Lauren Bush Lauren is the Founder and CEO of FEED, a social business whose mission is to “Create Good Products That Help FEED the World.” In 2004, Lauren became the Honorary Student Spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme. During this time, she traveled to various countries and learned about the issues of hunger and poverty.

Lauren was inspired to create a consumer product that would engage people in the seemingly overwhelming fight to end world hunger. In 2005, she envisioned the idea for FEED by designing the initial FEED 1 bag which, when purchased, feeds one child in school for one year. In 2007, FEED was founded.

Every product sold has a measurable donation attached to it. FEED has been able to donate over $6 million and provide nearly 60 million school meals globally through the United Nations World Food Programme and Feeding America. FEED has also supported nutrition programs around the world, providing vitamin supplements to over 3.5 million children through UNICEF.

Matt Mahan –


Matt Mahan is responsible for the strategic and operational leadership of, the world’s largest platform for social good with over 180 million registered users, 20,000 nonprofit and corporate partners, and 500,000 grassroots action campaigns. Matt served as Causes’ Chief Operating Officer from 2011-2012 and prior to that ran business development for the company, overseeing nonprofit and corporate partnerships and creating its first revenue products.

Matt has been featured as a panelist and speaker at leading conferences, including the United Nations Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, Social Capital (SOCAP), Net Impact, Nexus Global Youth Summit, Stanford’s Social Media On Purpose, and Social Media Day. He is a frequent presenter on college campuses, including Harvard, Wharton, Boston College and Duke, and delivered the keynote address at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Nonprofit Conference.

Nina Nashif – Healthbox


Nina Nashif is the Founder and CEO of Healthbox. Nina brings 15 years of experience working within entrepreneurship and healthcare management. Healthbox is a platform to stimulate early-stage innovation, enabling entrepreneurial success while creating a collaborative global ecosystem to build positive change in the healthcare industry.

Our goal is to identify high- potential healthcare technology startups that address the meaningful industry challenges and provide them with the resources, support and network to enable rapid development and growth.

As founder and CEO of Healthbox, Nina has been named a 2013 Chicago TechWeek 100 as well as 2013 “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum, an honor awarded to individuals sparking economic development and change around the world. She also spoke at TEDMED 2013. In 2012, she was also recognized by the Chicago Crain’s as a “40 under 40.”

Andreas Raptopoulos – Matternet


Andreas Raptopoulos is the founder and CEO of Matternet, a Silicon Valley startup building networks of flying drones to carry essential goods to otherwise inaccessible areas. Matternet uses lightweight, electric unmanned flying vehicles capable of carrying 2kg packages between low cost ground stations.

Matternet networks will be set up in places with poor road infrastructure in the developing world to enable the delivery of vaccines, medicine or diagnostics; in places affected by natural disasters for first response; and in congested cities in the developing, emerging and eventually the developed world for transportation of small goods.

Maria A Ressa – Rappler


Maria A. Ressa is the founder and CEO of Rappler is a social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change. Her most recent book FROM BIN LADEN TO FACEBOOK: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism maps how terrorism spreads through physical and virtual worlds.

A journalist for nearly 3 decades, Maria spent nearly 20 years running CNN’s SEAsian operations, reporting on tumultuous political, social and economic events. After that, she ran the Philippines’ largest multi-platform news operations for 6 years. She believes harnessing social networks in the country ComScore called “the social media capital of the world” can build institutions bottom up.

Gene Gurkoff – Charity Miles

Photo via: The Webby Awards

Gene Gurkoff is the founder of Charity Miles, a free iPhone/Android app that enables people to earn money for charity from corporate sponsors when they walk, run or bike. Since launching last June, over 100,000 people have walked, run and biked enough Charity Miles to go from earth to the moon and back three times, collectively earning over $400,000 for charity.

Charity Miles has been widely recognized as a top fitness app and has won several awards, including the SXSW Dewey Winburne Award for Social Good and the SXSW People’s Choice Award for the entire 2013 SXSW Interactive Festival. Gene has personally run 38 marathons and 6 Ironman triathlons to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s research in honor of his grandfather.

David Miliband – International Rescue Committee


David Miliband is the President of the International Rescue Committee. The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster.

He has had a distinguished political career in the United Kingdom over the last 15 years and resigned as Member of Parliament for South Shields on March 27, 2013. From 2007 to 2010, he served as the youngest U.K. Foreign Secretary in three decades, driving advancements in human rights and representing the United Kingdom throughout the world. As Secretary of State for the Environment he pioneered the world’s first legally binding emissions reduction requirements.

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