You may find some examples of social enterprises around you. The keywords are they balance economic, environmental, and social.
Social enterprises do not only aim to maximize profits as profit-oriented companies do (economic motives). On the other hand, they may also not pursue environmental and social goals, and neglect profit as non-profit organizations such as charities do. However, they need profits to serve their social agenda, providing more benefits to the environment and society.
What is a social enterprise?
A social enterprise is a business organization whose main goal is to balance profit, social, and environment – we know these three aspects as the “triple bottom line.” Thus, they are different from conventional companies.
Some social enterprises do engage in for-profit activities. However, they use their profits for social and environmental purposes. In other words, their main orientation emphasizes the other two aspects rather than just profit.
Meanwhile, conventional companies use their profits to grow the company and maximize shareholder value. They may also run corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. However, such programs are not their main orientation. Rather, their orientation is to maximize business profits and shareholder wealth.
734 Coffee is the first example of a social enterprise. It dedicates to supporting Sudanese refugees displaced after fleeing war, atrocities, drought, and famine. 734 is the coordinates for the Gambela region, 7˚N 34˚E, where the program is run.
This business works with local farms, harvesting them and selling them to the United States. The proceeds from the sale are then channeled into scholarships and education programs for Sudanese refugees.
ANA by Karma
ANA by Karma helps craftswomen in Bhutan to make handmade scarves and market their products. It then uses its profits to support women’s and community development programs there. Their retail outlets are available in several countries such as Bhutan, Hong Kong, China, and Malaysia, and they also have an e-shop.
Baron Fig, based in the United States, manufactures high-quality “Confidant” notebooks. The company is committed to planting a tree for every notebook sold to promote environmental awareness. Their products include various notebooks, Blank, Ruled, or Dot Grid. This business is also 100% owned by employees.
Belu provides water with the lowest possible carbon footprint for customers such as hotels and restaurants. This United Kingdom-based business invests more than £5.0 million to provide clean water, proper toilets, and good hygiene through WaterAid. Belu also uses recycled material bottles to support the circular economy model.
Better World Books
Better World Books is an example of a social enterprise in education. This United States-based company sells books online and collects them from various sources such as college campuses, libraries, and bookstores where there is an excess of material.
Then, the company uses a portion of the proceeds to fund literacy initiatives worldwide, including supporting libraries and education. In addition, the company also donates books that cannot be sold to at-risk communities in the United States.
Bio Lite helps people in developing countries with their products, which are more efficient and friendly. For example, replacing traditional cooking methods with the BioLite Stove helps save about $173 on fuel each year. The money is then used to subsidize costs for those who can’t afford it.
Books to Prisoners
Books to Prisoners repackages books obtained from donations by community members. Then, the company sent it to those who were imprisoned.
This Seattle, United States-based organization seeks to foster a love for reading among inmates. It also encourages them to pursue knowledge and self-empowerment and break the cycle of recidivism. In 2012, the organization received the Light a Fire award for its dedication.
Cafédirect uses half of its profits to donate to the farming community through Producers Direct, a United Kingdom-based charity owned and led by smallholder farmers. Cafédirect has invested more than £6 million to improve the sustainability and livelihoods of coffee producers worldwide.
CocoAsenso, based in the Philippines, processes coconut directly from local farmers through a network of medium-scale processing plants built in remote areas. The business sourced coconuts directly from the farmers and allowed them to work part-time in the mill, as well as to provide training and financing.
Community Dental Services
Based in the United Kingdom, Community Dental Services provides clinical dental and oral health services through its 56 clinics spread across several regions. This employee-owned social enterprise provides dental care for everyone, especially vulnerable and marginalized groups.
Company Shop, a social supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, offers excess food at heavily discounted prices. The company also uses sales proceeds to support job skills and knowledge to members, from cooking to household budgeting. In addition, the company is also opening partnerships with the largest retail partners, manufacturers, food services, and logistics providers to donate their excess stock.
Cracked It, a London-based business, gives ‘at risk’ and previously imprisoned youth the opportunity to manage smartphone repair services. It aims to teach them life skills, provide job opportunities and increase their confidence to make “clean” money.
Crowde is an online crowdfunding platform based in Indonesia. It connects farmers with retail investors to provide capital support. As a result, it increases opportunities and encourages more jobs, increases production, and earns farmers income. As of September 11, 2021, the outstanding loan has reached around IDR31.2 billion.
Evoware (PT Evogaia Karya Indonesia), a social company based in Indonesia, provides biodegradable products which are safe for the environment. The company uses seaweed as a material for single-use plastic products, buying it from seaweed farmers in Indonesia.
Fair Phone develops consumer electronics made with environmentally friendly materials, can be recycled and mined socially and environmentally responsible. In addition, products are offered at prices that are fair and transparent to the end consumer.
Faire Collection empowers jewelers in developing countries by offering fair wages, hardship grants, and strong employee benefits. The products are then sold on the international market. Faire Collection started in rural Ecuador in 2008 and then expanded its business by partnering with craftsmen in Vietnam.
Goodwill Industries, a social enterprise based in the United States, employs poor people to work with donated goods from wealthier areas. They work to repair the items for resale.
Then, the sales proceeds are used to support job training programs. Goodwill has helped more than 126,000 people train for careers in banking, information technology, and healthcare.
Haqdarshak, based in India, leverages technology to help citizens navigate bureaucratic hurdles in applying for government and non-government financial aid schemes. In addition, it provides easy access to welfare services by bridging the information gap.
HelpUsGreen employs local women in India to recycle flowers discarded for rituals into biodegradable products. The organization handles 2.4 tonnes of flower waste and recycles it into various products such as organic fertilizer and incense.
Imagtor creates a better, independent, and empowered future for people with disabilities. The company – founded in 2016 in Vietnam – employs them. Their proportion includes about 40 percent of the internal staff.
Kiva utilizes crowdfunding to provide capital and expand financial access to underserved communities. This organization provides it at an affordable cost and in more flexible terms. It uses 100% of every dollar received to fund loans. The organization has served around 4 million borrowers in 77 countries.
Livelyhoods takes a business model by offering training and job opportunities. It gives opportunities for unemployed youth and women.
Livelyhoods hires them to sell clean energy products to their community on a commission basis. This door-to-door distribution network opens opportunities to escape poverty and improve their communities’ health and quality of life through its products.
Roma Boots is a social enterprise to serve the common good. This organization gives back for every purchase of a pair of boots to a child in need. Its founder, Samuel Bistrian, seeks to combine his love of fashion and philanthropy with helping children in his native Romania.
SELCO provides sustainable energy solutions for poor households in India. It has installed more than 450,000 solar power solutions by empowering surrounding communities. It also incorporates a doorstep service model through its energy service center and employs local youth to maintain the installed facilities.
Solar Sister brings clean energy technology to rural Africa by empowering women. It provides services, training, and support for women entrepreneurs to build businesses. It has helped 5,019 entrepreneurs and reached 1,765,304 people in 2020.
STATE Bags, based in the United States, gives back for every bag purchased. It delivers backpacks containing all the essential tools for success to American children in need. It also promotes and enables community education and inclusiveness. The PACKMEN and PACKWOMEN teams, who lived in risky environments and overcame their circumstances to make a living, distributed backpacks.
Sustainable, Organic, Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL)
Sustainable, Organic, Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is a non-profit research and development organization in Haiti. It designs, tests, and implements sustainable and cost-effective solutions to address the sanitation crisis.
SOIL implements sustainable and low-cost solutions by employing local workers. In addition, it also donates 93% of every dollar received to support and run its environmental programs.
Textbooks for Change
Textbooks for Change partners with community or student clubs to collect university and college textbooks and donate them to students in need at underserved universities in developing countries. It donates 50% of textbooks to campus libraries in Africa. In addition to textbooks, it also receives various important materials in helping the learning process, including study guides, course packages, foreign language textbooks.
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