Beyond the “bottom line”
Social enterprises are organizations that have two main goals: to earn revenue; and to achieve social and environmental wellbeing. Social enterprises can either be non-profit or for-profit. While social enterprises may look like traditional businesses, responding to social issues is a substantial part of their objectives, while reaching financial goals often comes secondary. This sets them apart from traditional businesses. The main purpose of a social enterprise is to make social change, whether that be by working with younger generations, raising funds for people in need, or selling fair trade products.
According to the Social Enterprise Council of Canada, “Social enterprises are community-based businesses that sell goods or services in the marketplace to achieve a social, cultural and/or environmental purpose; they reinvest their profits to maximize their social mission.”
A new approach
Social enterprise is a new business model that goes beyond simply donating profits to charitable causes as many for-profit companies do. With a social enterprise it is really ingrained in the objectives of the organization, and even the reason for forming the business in the first place. What is great about these social enterprises is that it is new and bold and a way to change the world that you don’t get with traditional donation models. Yet, it shows that businesses can be built to serve people and social good. Along the way, it can also train underserved populations in business while elevating the community.
The shoe company TOMS is a well-known social enterprise founded by Blake Mycoskie. After visiting Argentina while competing in the second season of The Amazing Race in 2002, Mycoskie returned to Argentina and spent some time volunteering to deliver shoes to children. After witnessing the struggles that children had to face without proper footwear, the company TOMS was created. TOMS sells a style of shoe which is inspired by the simple canvas slip-on shoes that are popular in Argentina. For every pair of shoes sold, a new pair is provided to youth living in Argentina and other developing nations. This successful business model resulted in TOMS launching an eyewear line, a handbag collection that contributes to advancements in maternal health, and a coffee line which helps provide potable water to families in need that live in coffee-producing regions.
Another example of a social enterprise is Seventh Generation, a company founded by Jeffrey Hollender that specializes in the production of environmentally friendly household cleaning and personal hygiene products. The company produces a number of products such as dishwashing soap, laundry detergents, baby wipes, menstrual products, disinfectant cleaners, body wash, shampoo, and deodorant. While Seventh Generation has a strong environmental focus, the company also donates 10 percent of its profits to non-profit organizations and businesses that are dedicated to social and environmental causes.
Focusing on youth and agriculture, Baban Gona is a social enterprise that aims to revolutionize agriculture for small-hold Nigerian farmers. Due to the low yields and lack of market access, youth in Nigeria are straying away from agriculture and going to urban cities where employment is not easily accessible. Baban Gona aims to revitalize agriculture and provide the youth with viable income. Through this organization, smallholder farmers gain access to quality inputs, credit, and agriculture training in order to increase yields and profitability. To date, more than 65,000 smallholder farmers have been able to double their yields and increase their net income 2.5 to 3 times higher than that of an average farmer.
Supporting social enterprises is important, as it helps to create long-term change that is sustainable. By supporting a social enterprise, you are also contributing to the positive social and environmental impacts that the enterprise stands for. In many cases, you are able to see exactly where your money as a consumer goes and who you are helping. Try looking into and supporting different social enterprises that align with your beliefs!
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