Adrian Grenier has directed, produced and starred in hit movies and television shows alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
But his focus now rests on using entrepreneurial initiatives and innovative technologies to create positive social change.
Last Thursday, the Entourage star was the final keynote speaker at ACS’ Reimagination conference, and was joined on stage for a Q&A with the 2016 ACS Female Young Professional of the Year, Cynthia Lee.
“I think capitalism has gotten confused the difference between monetary value and real value, so I’ve been really exploring creating value for people,” he said.
His search for ‘real value’ has led him down the path of social entrepreneurship.
He is particularly passionate about using technology to protect the environment, a vision that started in 2009 when he launched his green shopping app ‘EcoHero,’ which allowed shoppers to assess the social and environmental impacts of individual products using a barcode scanning feature.
“It’s a great idea in theory, but in practice you just want to go to the store and buy it,” he said. “You want someone else to do the hard work and tell you what to buy.”
The app was ultimately a lesson learned, and was out of circulation by 2010, but the experience served as a launching pad into the world of technology and social change for Grenier.
His next project was SHFT.com, a digital media platform that aims to encourage incremental changes in consumer behaviour that benefit the environment, such as changing from plastic to paper straws.
“We created SHFT.com as a marketplace for all things sustainable. Aspirational, lifestyle options for all things single-living.”
The project has continued to develop, and in 2015 Dell appointed him as its first-ever Social Good Ambassador, a position that gave him the platform to put the ideas from SHFT.com to practice.
“Dell asked me to come on and be their social good advocate,” he told the crowd.
“In partnership with them, I was going to help them to achieve their legacy of good goals by 2020, and in exchange they were going to help me do some of the work I was doing in regards to the environment.
“So, it was a great partnership and a great exchange.”
The role has involved close collaboration with Dell, including with company CEO and founder, Michael Dell.
“Michael Dell said to me, 'when one of my computers ends up in a landfill, or god forbid the ocean or anywhere else, it’s got my name on it! They know where to trace it.'
“I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t hiring me just as a publicity stunt, but that he wanted to make real change, and it was an incredible experience.”
And his work with Dell has already inspired change, with the computing company earlier this year announcing a pilot program to use recycled ocean plastics for their product packaging.
His advice to budding entrepreneurs? Think with a social conscious and don’t go in alone.
“I really do believe that anybody who does something in a vacuum, in isolation, will ultimately fail.
“We need to work well with people, and that’s the reason why we want to create these technologies in the first place, to improve the lives of human beings.
“Eventually society will correct itself and ultimately reject your technology if you haven’t taken into consideration their ultimate needs… you have to really create value.”