Do you ever wonder what a company means when they say their product is “Sustainably Sourced?” Have you read any articles lately that are talking about things such as “Benefit Corporations,” or “Fair Trade,” and it has peaked your curiosity? I myself have been witnessing quite a few terms being used these days to describe a business model. Such as Social Purpose, Benefit Corporation, Corporate Responsibility, Ethical Capitalism, Mission Driven, etc.….and I am sure there are many more. The bottom line for all of these names are the same:
Harnessing the power of business to do good in this world.
This concept is not a new one by any means. One can attest to this by what Charles Dickens wrote about in his story, “A Christmas Carol,” in 1843. Everyone is familiar with the plot of this story and it ends with the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, deciding to use his financial position to promote good will in his community, instead of spreading negativity, so to speak.
I think that perhaps since you are reading this, you too are in a position to try and make a difference in others lives. Maybe you are wanting to be more mindful of your purchases? Maybe you are a new business that is looking to incorporate a positive aspect into your business model? Maybe you are an already established business? Maybe, you were just visiting by three ghosts last night and they told you to look me up, maybe not. If they did, I don’t want to know. Either way, I want you to know that this is a very murky area right now.What I am getting ready to tell you all falls under the term “Social Enterprise.” Well, at least right now it does. As of Feb 2016, the time frame that I am writing this, the following is what I am witnessing.
- Up until a few years ago, businesses in the U.S. could talk all day long about how they were “helping others.” Just take a look at any corporate website and you can see items such as “Community Support,” and “Social Investing.” However, there was never an actual 3rd party standard a business got to adhere to that really proved they were walking the walk with the entire company, not just talking the talk, so to speak. For example: It makes zero sense to say that you give X amount of profits to charity, when you are simultaneously inadvertently poisoning a community’s water supply when manufacturing your product. Right? So, as we sat with our head in our hands and becoming frustrated with these types of circumstances, someone took notice. Then, lo and behold, like the answer to a bat signal, there was actually such a thing that businesses can adhere to, that can prove they are an all-encompassing entity that makes a profit, as well as being a benefit to others and the planet. Which leads me to my next point….
- With that being said, there are two main movements that I am seeing gaining major steam. The first movement is called becoming a “Benefit Corporation.” It was a movement that was spearheaded a few years ago by a nonprofit called, “ The B Lab,” and this idea is going global. Make sure to visit their website at www.bcorporation.net. Its great stuff and I am completely smitten with the concept. It is basically a process that a business can go through that will promote transparency and contribute to the greater good, all the while still making a profit. It adheres to what is called in the accounting world as “the triple bottom line.” This means that people and the planet are given the same consideration as profits. I also know of a few very large companies that have joined this movement such as Ben and Jerry’s and Etsy. However, know that as of right now, not all 50 states recognize a benefit corporation as an actual legal entity. Other states have passed a hybrid of sorts that does resemble a benefit corporation but are not called such. But, if your state is not one that recognizes this type of legal entity, you are still free to participate in the B Lab’s certification process if you would like. This concept is also known as “Corporate Responsibility” or” Ethical Capitalism.” As of April 2015, there are over 1200 certified B Corporations across 41 industries in 121 countries. If you would like a more in depth explanation of what a B Corp is really about, feel free to watch this YOUTUBE VIDEO.
- The second movement is a whole plethora of platform based initiatives happening. These methods actually utilize a third party process that have the end goal to indeed create a positive impact in society. This is essentially when a business sector, nonprofit sector, government,and/or person acts as the investor for a venture that is intended to make this world better. Each blend has its own method of madness when it comes to investing for social impact and measuring its effort. This concept is known as “Impact Investing,” or “Social Impact Investing.” According to the Global Impact Investing Network, otherwise known as the GIIN (Pronounced JEN), there are approximately $60 Billion dollars invested globally for this specific movement and just like ice cream, there is not just one flavor. Feel free to check out their website at: www.thegiin.org for more information. Once again, its pretty great stuff.
Don’t be. Think of all of this as a really cool Van Gough painting where all of the colors stand out, but yet complement each other and are connected in some way. Close up, it looks like a mess. But when you stand back and look at the whole thing, it takes your breath away.
For the sake of throwing more information at you, here is a another YOUTUBE VIDEO explaining CSR from the University of St.Gallen, Switzerland.
Do I think any of these stated ideals will fix everything? No. I can see how some of these methods need to be modified and some may even fail.
I also know that there are many critics in the background voicing their opinions pertaining to social enterprise.
But, you know what? I liken all of these concepts with a rage against the dying of the light in this crazy world that we are residing in. This is a step in the right direction and God Bless the ones that have honest intentions with any of this, and are really trying to make a difference. That concept right there ladies and gentleman, makes me feel a bit better, and it should do the same for you too. If that makes me a naïve little Pollyanna, then so be it.
You can show your support for these companies as well if you would like, by visiting my ethical business promotional page HERE. They have some really great things going on I think you may need to go check out 😉
Until Next Time,
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