Matthew Hanly, Founder & CEO of EcoFoote
Posted: 25 October 2021
Former St Stithians Boys’ College pupil, Matthew Hanly is not only the Founder and CEO of EcoFoote, he is also a qualified Geography and Science teacher. Matthew’s childhood experiences of growing up on farms in both Zimbabwe and then South Africa have inspired a life devoted to environmental protection and service. Matthew credits St. Stithians and Round Square for giving him his universal approach.
His early exposure to political instability and violence has given him a passion for peace and social equality.It is in the spirit of Environmentalism that Matthew created his company ‘EcoFoote’, embodying the Round Square belief that a systems-based appreciation of the interdependence between human beings and the planet highlights the fine balance needed to make that relationship a healthy one. Matthew explains that EcoFoote, as a multi-dimensional sustainability platform, that guides people to reduce their environmental impact. It encourages users to take sustainable actions and incentivises them with eco-coins that can be redeemed on environmentally-friendly solutions, thus promoting responsible consumption and production.
He draws inspiration from his early childhood and the community spirit instilled in him through his school’s Round Square community service projects. Matthew has kept the core principles of Round Square as the guiding light for his business and believes that it is these principles that need to be emphasised in order to make positive changes in the world we live in.Matthew had a unique upbringing. He started off life in Zimbabwe, however, when he was about seven years old, during a time of great political unrest and corruption, the government took possession of his family’s farm. Matthew and his family were exiled from Zimabawe, prompting his family to move to South Africa and start a new life in KwaZulu-Natal. Matthew remembers conversations with his father as he explained what had happened to the family and how they had been forced out of their home. Similar issues were happening in South Africa, having just been freed from the apartheid. “That’s when I really started to become passionate about making sure that people have opportunities and social equity”. This was really the start of his global awareness, which was later strengthened by the Round Square focus on Internationalism and being exposed to different real-world issues across the world. Having spent his childhood living on farms. Matthew had a very strong connection with nature, this was reinforced by his school which encouraged a strong focus on sustainability. Moving to St Stithians Boys’ College at high-school age really heightened his awareness of the world around him and fuelled his passion for promoting social justice and environmental conservation. It comes as no surprise that out of all the Round Square IDEALS, the one that really struck a chord for Matthew was environmentalism. Matthew believes that, “the environment is the core of everything. We cannot live without it and it is vital to the stability of our planet and society. Without it we wouldn’t be here”.Matthew feels that the ethos of Round Square has played a big part in influencing his life choices and has fuelled his passion for serving the community and protecting the environment. This began in high school, it has grown throughout his life, “I think those values were instilled in me, but it was afterwards that I started to realize the importance of it and began my journey of activism.”
Matthew feels that small actions can create the difference we need for sustainable change, he has just launched a new EcoFoote app with the strapline, ‘Every action you take is a step towards the future. What future will you choose to create?’ The digital application guides people to reduce their environmental impact by suggesting actions then rewarding completion with eco coins. These coins can earn discounts on environmentally-friendly products, which in turn drives sustainable consumption.When asked what brave conversation we should be having right now, Matthew believes that we should start by addressing basic needs, such as access to water and electricity, both can be in short supply in Africa. Beyond this, at a macro level, Matthew believes that the key to building a sustainable economy is a shift in consumer mindset and a transition to a greener economy,
“A balance between the environment, society and the economy are crucial to build a sustainable world. If you strike a balance within that, then that’s what sustainability really is. We must strive for a balance of the triple bottom line, where we cannot over-extend our planetary boundaries, we must promote societal equity and there must be economic stability. We cannot continue with unlimited economic growth as the world has finite resources, so we must attempt stability within the systems of our planet.”
Asked what advice he would give to students today, Matthew shares that he thinks the most useful thing that students can do is to identify a problem and find the solution. Students can start to mould their critical thinking skills to come up with solutions that can change the world. I think that’s really what we need. We need problem solvers and we need to implement the solutions to solve all Earth’s problems that we face.