There was a time when the concepts of social responsibility and sustainable revenue lived in two separate worlds. For-profit businesses rarely considered the environment, their social impact on the world, or the importance of creating jobs for a purpose other than to generate revenue. Now, the concept of the triple bottom line, the introduction of B Corp Businesses, and the influence of the millennial business model have made these concepts interchangeable.
Including social objectives in the infrastructure of a company is slowly becoming more popular. As the benefits manifest and more organizations see the relevance of social and economic sustainability, could there be a shift in the pure for-profit business concept? Or is social enterprise still a long way from standing on its own?
At Sandbox Centre, we focus on encouraging growth from within for new and accomplished businesses. By providing resources, partnerships and information, our team helps the local economy here in Ontario by giving businesses a leg up. One of the big changes we’ve seen lately in our client base is the sudden interest in global sustainability. Working to create positive outcomes in the community while continuing to reap revenue through goods and services is exactly the kind of social entrepreneurship Ontario needs.
If you’re considering entering the social enterprise sector but are unsure whether it’s a fad or the way of the future, here’s some information to help you get started.
One of the main reasons so many businesses are taking on a social mission is the improvement to net profit. How? Through sustainable revenue. Companies that cater to the social economy do good for their communities and the world. When consumers see these changes, it improves brand recognition and brand loyalty. This sustainability also makes your business a low-risk investment for future investors. To better understand this, let’s take a closer look at the social impact a triple bottom line business has on the local economy.
The most obvious of the benefits a socially relevant company has on revenue is more jobs. Supplying your community with jobs means more income in local neighbourhoods, more money being supplied to local projects, and more funding to local schools. More jobs also mean more revenue, as your number of employees increases and your sales reflect these numbers.
Local Sourcing for Local Sustainability
Another way to incorporate social goals into your company is by using only local sources for your products, packaging, transportation, and more. The more local sourcing your company does, the more local businesses are financially supported. These partnerships benefit your community, but they also benefit your business. How? Because now your business is in a thriving community where you’re not likely to see the state of buildings and business diminishing over time. By supporting others, your business will get supported in return through networking.
Community Funding for Better Trained Employees
Social issues affecting your community, such as a lack of training and education, could also impact the success of your business. By investing in community training and programs you increase the potential for well-trained employees and educated new hires. You’re helping the community and helping your business.
These are just a few of the ways to achieve a social goal and reap an economic benefit.
It’s not just your local community you want to help, but also the globe. Being a business on planet earth means in order to stay successful, the planet needs to stay healthy. By implementing strategies to help the environment while simultaneously earning profit, you’re helping yourself by helping others.
A great example of how your brand affects global sustainability is through the usage of natural resources and the emissions of gas and chemicals. It may cost money to make changes that impact the environment, but once these changes are made the advantages to your company are long-term. Some examples include:
- Using energy-efficient machinery
- Switching to water-efficient taps and drains
- Opting for recyclable packaging and product materials
- Using ingredients which emit the least amount of chemical or gas waste
- Reusing tools and products when applicable
- Switching to paperless billing and communication
- Investing in solar energy
- Sourcing from eco-friendly companies
- Partnering with eco-friendly transportation and shipping firms
Once you begin making these changes they come easily. One of the amazing things to consider when spending to eliminate waste is that eventually many of these practices will be obligatory. By acting early to become environmentally accountable, you beat competitors to the punch and look like “the good guy” to investors and consumers.
The Millennial Business Movement and its Purpose
If there’s one word that describes millennials the best, it’s “idealistic”, and social enterprise is nothing if not ideal. Promoting a world where business, people, the environment, and the communities we live in are equally important is promoting a sustainable tomorrow. The concept of social entrepreneurship may not have been invented by millennials, but it has certainly been embraced by them. In fact, some companies are becoming so taken with the idea of social responsibility that they are choosing to become B Corp Certified.
The B Corp movement was developed by a non-profit organization called B Lab. B Lab operates with the triple bottom line in mind, encouraging companies to be socially, environmentally, and financially conscious of their role in the global community. The organization created and distributes something called an Impact Assessment, gaging a business’ level of social responsibility through a series of questions. Companies that earn 80 points or more out of 200 are awarded this certification.
So, the question remains. Will social enterprise supersede pure for-profit businesses? Probably not in this lifetime. However, if the world wants to remain sustainable and businesses want to continue earning revenue, many for-profit businesses may need to take a hard look at their bottom line and work to make it fit the modern business model.
For more information on social enterprise, B Corp Certification, or to get connected to local business resources in Central Ontario, contact Sandbox Centre and join the Sandbox community on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Keep an eye out on our events page for coming B Corp & Social Enterprise events. We’re partnered with SENCO an initiative of Georgian College’s Centre for Changemaking & Social Innovation (CCSI) who inspire, connect and equip those looking to engage in social enterprise to face cultural, environmental and social challenges in our region. Check out their events page for sessions like Social Enterprise 101 and screenings of the Social Shift movie.