What Is The Meaning Of Social Enterprise?
One of the first things that every business, especially publicly-owned businesses, does is reveal the details of its business model – that is, what are their plans to achieve growth and financial sustainability? A social enterprise, on the other hand, takes an approach that is focused much more on social objectives and what its social mission is than its financial objectives alone.
“Social enterprises take a more expansive view of the business and look at running a successful AND profitable organization for the benefit of what some have termed the ‘triple bottom line,’ i.e., people (social impact/personnel), planet (environment) and profit,” says Joe Kenner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Yonkers, N.Y.-based Greyston Foundation.
Kenner is quick to follow his summarization of what a social enterprise is by explaining what in his view it is not. “It is not taking into consideration other stakeholders at the expense of profit,” he says. “But include every stakeholder in the calculus of operating a business.”
What Is An Example Of A Social Enterprise?
Many might surmise that a successful social enterprise is one that practices social entrepreneurship in ways that make a social impact to achieve social good and social goals.
“Greyston, of course, is a good example,” says Kenner, “but truly any organization that is trying to make an overall positive contribution to society in a clearly defined and measurable way is considered a social enterprise.”
Kenner is quick to offer an in-house example. “As we say at Greyston Bakery, we don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people. Our goal is to bring people – particularly the traditionally marginalized and excluded – into the mainstream labor force and off the sidelines.”
Asked how more traditional businesses can address social problems through social innovation, Kenner has a thoughtful reply. “The goal is to eliminate as many barriers, as is reasonable and possible, to get people into work,” he says. “We obviously lead with our incubator, Greyston Bakery and Open Hiring, but other companies can focus on disconnected youth, single mothers, and the formerly incarcerated, to name a few.”
How Is A Social Enterprise Different From A Business?
Many businesses shy away from involvement in social issues, but Kenner believes the tide is turning toward more involvement. “A social enterprise exists for a purpose far beyond mere economics,” he says. “The goal of a social enterprise is to leverage the core capability of a business to address one or more social concerns, i.e., poverty, education, discrimination. More and more companies see the need in these areas and are becoming more proactive.”