Business Spotlights: Bold Donut

Business spotlight - Bold Donut

Leveraging the power of fun for sustainability education

Bold Donut is a mission-led gaming startup that takes the doom and gloom out of climate change with fun, climate-conscious games you can play from your smartphone or laptop. 

The business was established by Nathan Cruz Coulson and Kate Williams when they realised a real need existed to frame climate action more positively and in an engaging way.  

They turned their attention to games, recognising that games are a fun and safe way for people to experience climate-positive behaviours and possible futures without fear of judgement or making a mistake.

CEO Kate Williams shares a bit more about the business: “Bold Donut is a Dublin-based startup that helps organisations to engage and educate their audiences on ‘sustainability basics’ through fun digital frames. For example, our first game, the ‘Waste Game’, was designed to help sustainability managers who were struggling with waste contamination.” 

She adds: “Instead of putting up more posters or sending out emails begging people to rinse out their cans before putting them in the recycling, our waste game is a fun way to get employees engaged on the very dry topic that is waste. They can learn while having fun, relish in the competitive element and come away having measurably learnt something.” 

Challenges along the way

Every business, whether starting out on its sustainability journey or an established sustainability-focused enterprise, experiences challenges. For Kate and Nathan, one of the major ones was trying to get the message of the importance of sustainability engagement across. Being in the game development arena, the Bold Donut team are also expecting to face challenges concerning their energy usage. 

Kate says: “As a company, as we scale, our energy usage through cloud services and use of devices will grow and at this stage, we are looking for ways to mitigate this over time.”

Another persistent issue for the team, particularly for the waste game is the complexity of waste in different areas. In Ireland, there are standardised waste regulations but individual companies have their indepedent  guidelines as well. The problem is that their guidelines may differ from the national regulations. The Bold Donut team combat this by finding a happy medium to not confuse or frustrate players.

In terms of key success indicators that Bold Donut’s mission is taking strides in, Kate shares two main ones. She explains: “Engagement time and increase in knowledge. These are two indicators that prove our solution is helping educate people in a new and fun way. We continuously strive to improve them for ourselves as well as our clients.” 

The importance of education

Kate feels education should be a critical piece in any organisation and that acquiring knowledge is key to overcoming barriers to change. She shares: “Education is one of the first steps to overcoming the barriers to change. Following on from education is application as a way to cement said education.”

Kate says the team tries to find this alignment between education, application, motivation and fun in their games because through the repetition of actions, whether digitally or in real life, these actions become habitual and help to reduce the perception of effort, which is a huge barrier to changing behaviours. 

Despite being a sustainability company, for Kate and her team, the sustainability education journey is never over. She explains: “Sustainability knowledge is very important to our business. We are constantly learning through different mediums to keep it interesting whether that is attending talks and workshops, reading new publications, or tuning into podcasts.”

Kate says another avenue for education for her and Nathan on their journey to scale this sustainability gaming startup has been continuously speaking with sustainability managers across different sectors to understand their challenges and goals. 

Next steps

In relation to the next sustainability goals or milestones, Bold Donut strives to use the most environmentally friendly digital and cloud services for its website and hosting. They also plan to produce content that makes the topic of sustainability actionable and relatable. 

Bold Donut made a courageous move by taking on the topic of waste with its first game, given the current bin literacy issues society faces. The next topic they are working on is another that has a literacy problem and requires a serious amount of demystifying: energy. 

Here’s Kate’s advice for businesses that are trying to overcome their sustainability challenges: 

“Move away from the negative messaging or the ‘doom and gloom’ of climate change, whether it’s in your business or your personal life. ‘Doom and gloom’ is not inspiring and tends not to spur most people into action.”

She adds: “Focus on the positive and success stories that relate to your context and use them to illustrate your point and galvanise people. It’s not easy to do, we’re all inundated with terrifying statistics and predictions all the time, so resist the urge to follow that pattern because if it worked, there would be no climate crisis and that’s clearly not the case.” 

Businesses like Bold Donut open our eyes to the immense possibilities that lie in the path of integrating sustainability into our daily lives. This case study should inspire you to seek solutions and overcome sustainability challenges innovatively.


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