Social enterprise: doing business to improve the world

Some people become entrepreneurs to improve the quality of their lives, other to earn; other people become entrepreneurs because they see an indispensable business opportunity on the market. The desire, however, to generate positive change sometimes stimulates the entrepreneurial spirit. In that case we can talk of social enterprise. With globalization, issues such as sustainability and global development come to the fore. By definition, the social enterprise pursues an ethical goal and undertakes to devolve profits to its realization; customers are indeed also “supporters” of the company; by purchasing goods or services, they contribute to the achievement of the corporate mission.

What is a social enterprise?
Social utility can be the core value of both non-profit organizations and for-profit activities. By the 3 evaluating parameters to the success of a social enterprise, the “3Ps” are analyzed:

  1. People. Social impact; the company’s ability to develop a community, changing people’s lives in a positive and sustainable way.
  2. Planet. Environmental impact; the company’s ability to contribute to a sustainable planet, reducing its own and customers’ ecological footprint (CO2 emissions).
  3. Profit. As with traditional businesses, there is a need to make a profit to finance the business and develop it, and also to pay employees. The difficulty, however, lies in measuring – in addition to profit, which is quite simple – the impact of the company on people and on the planet; and to do that, it is necessary to find the most suitable formula to express these data. In the social enterprise, the mission is at the center of everything; the entrepreneur assumes his responsibility in front of customers and supporters to achieve the expected results. For today’s consumers and businesses, social responsibility is a growing priority; in fact, among the most debated worldwide topics there are climate change, global development, ethical production.

General advantages for social enterprises:
To the restrictions of the profits destination correspond some benefits, which help social enterprises to achieve their goals. Let’ s see what they are.

  • Branding based on the corporate mission – For the social enterprise, history and mission become central; audience is inclined to spend and to support the cause.
  • Partnership opportunities – A social enterprise, according to the goal, can agree with other organizations by establishing a partnership. In that way, it will be able to make itself known by exploiting the presence of an already formed audience and an already established reputation. It will be able to grant benefits and discounts, which is not uncommon for social enterprises.
  • Media coverage – Magazines and blogs love to talk about social enterprises and their work; this helps in spreading their message and increasing their impact.
  • Possibility of obtaining support – Social enterprises can be recipients of donations and can obtain funds for charitable purposes, aimed at creating jobs and sustainability. In addition, by formalizing their status as a social enterprise, they acquire greater credibility (commitment to transparency, required by law), being able so to attract more customers, collaborators, volunteers and investors.

Defining your mission and describing the impact you want to achieve
For every social enterprise, the mission constitutes a competitive advantage, useful to highlight in a crowded market, especially if the company is able to motivate it and to know what is its possible impact. Currently, there are social enterprises with the following objectives:

  • Creating job within communities that you want to help, for example the employment of former prisoners or the possibility of delegating production to communities in need of fair job and development opportunities.
  • Reducing the ecological footprint by planting trees, or by changing production systems to contain CO2 emissions and informing consumers.
  • Hosting seminars and training initiatives to provide people with skills and build a better life for themselves and their community.
  • Defending diversity and promoting the integration of under-represented groups, becoming a source of inspiration.

Transparency and sustainable impact

As a social enterprise, you can implement your change plans directly, or by partnering with non-profit organizations. In the first case, your commitment could increase as the company grows; in the second case, on the other hand, by becoming a partner of non-profit organizations, you can use their help to realize the corporate mission, as many do.

Financing your social enterprise
Each social enterprise is responsible for the cause it supports and must set aside a portion of the profits, investing them to achieve what is planned. Social entrepreneurs often have to use creativity to earn money. And for this reason crowdfunding is a popular option. Furthermore, a new trend is born: the impact investment. In this case, the expected return on investment is not only financial, but also includes a social and environmental impact.

Promoting your mission
The most effective method of marketing is not just one, but it varies from business to business. In general, however, promoting the corporate mission is a good method, especially when it comes to companies with a charitable purpose. Dwelling on this aspect satisfies the need for transparency, brings the company’s goals closer and creates awareness.

Content Marketing

Today digital media and the internet make it possible to tell and spread stories on a large scale, which was not possible in the past. By shooting videos or sharing photos on social media, social enterprises can document their commitment by sharing real stories with the audiance; they can proof that each purchase has been really intended for charitable purposes. You can visit the community you are helping and shoot a documentary-style video. You can also create an info graphic with illustrations based on data, relating to the impact achieved, or on the need for your intervention. In short, every social enterprise has wide opportunities to spread its mission, sharing stories and contents.

Non-profits organizations often host fundraising events or other initiatives; hence, the opportunity for social enterprises to become their partners or to sponsor their causes. The important thing is that the purposes of the organization are related to the corporate mission. For a traditional business, similar initiatives would constitute “advertising spending”; instead, for a social enterprise, they can also be considered an investment to pursue the beneficial cause of the company.

Public relations
With a story that gives positive emotions and a carefully structured introductory speech, a social enterprise can be cited by the media. Bloggers and online magazines are always looking for interesting news to be offered to their audience. Since every social enterprise has a goal to achieve, usually there is no lack of material to talk about. And this kind of stories is often more engaging than the kind of stories behind a traditional business.

Social Media
Shopping is not the only way people have to support your mission. Support can also take place by sharing your posts on social media. If you are marketing by mentioning your mission, you can expect the audience to help you spread the word. You can also amplify the message by starting a Thunderclap: you set a deadline to collect Tweets, shares Facebook, Tumblr posts, which will be all posted at the same time. Thunderclap offers a fantastic way to mobilize your social media followers by contributing to a cause or campaign you care about.

Social enterprise: doing business to improve the world
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