“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” – Melinda Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Being truly altruistic does not always come naturally to some of us. Especially when it comes to business. Why should a business help other businesses when they can hardly help themselves? But if we all thought like this, there wouldn’t be cases of businesses uplifting their communities and doing their part to support important causes.
86% of millennials think that business success should not only be about making profits, it should also include the extent of service to society and the world at large.
Today, entrepreneurship is a very common career path, especially for millennials. However, being the owner of your own small to medium size business generally doesn’t allow you the luxury of a big budget for charitable causes. So how can you use your business and professional voice to contribute meaningfully towards society without breaking the bank? In this article, I will not only show you how important social entrepreneurship is today but also how you, as an entrepreneur, can use your business to practise as well as promote social entrepreneurship.
Firstly, what is social entrepreneurship? It is the funding or implementation of solutions to environmental, cultural or social issues that are embedded in the goals, mission and objectives of a business.
For example, a clothing brand that recycles their fabric to reduce the impact of waste on the environment or a restaurant chain that aims to provide housing and employment to the homeless. This mission is to both raise money as well as to have a sustainable and mutually beneficial social or environmental cause. Generally, social entrepreneurship is not motivated by profit even if the success of the cause requires funding or results in financial gain. A successful entrepreneur measures their success by the overall impact they have made and aims to reinvest any profits accrued back into their business to continue supporting their social, cultural or environmental mission.
The idea of social entrepreneurship is at its core, altruistic. However, it is an added bonus that by participating in social, cultural or environmental causes as a business, you are also receiving additional brand exposure and awareness. It’s a win, win situation! If you are not already convinced social entrepreneurship is a good idea for your business, here are FOUR reasons why it is:
1. It provides the opportunity for everyone to have a voice.
It is vital for start-ups to get involved with global movements and causes. However, it is even more important that businesses act in unison with global movements and causes. For example, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. This movement originated in the United States back in May 2020 but quickly spread throughout the globe. At the time, many businesses posted or shared a solid black image on their accounts in solidarity with the BLM movement. However, true social entrepreneurship goes further than that. Making sure your company supports organisations that fight against social injustices or integrating a more inclusive hiring company policy that aims to hire people from multicultural backgrounds, is what social entrepreneurship is all about.
2. It attracts attention from potential investors
Investors are more likely to invest in companies that offer a more diverse portfolio of business approaches. They also value the outcome that supporting sustainable projects provides and let’s face it, the more resources that are invested into these types of projects and missions, the better the world has the potential to be. Sustainable investing accounts for environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors where the intention is to create a positive and long-term impact on the world.
3. It helps with brand exposure and client trust.
Today’s young people are as concerned about making a positive impact on the world as they are with making money, with 94% wanting to use their skills to benefit a cause.
The general public is far more aware of social injustices and environmental issues (we can thank millennials and Gen Z for that). This means that many people are willing to spend a tad more money on products and services if there is a promise that it supports a cause. For example, the “Save the Rhino” campaign resonated with many South Africans and a multitude of shops and companies asked to donate on behalf of their customers for this cause. Plus, people tend to respond positively towards a business that is supporting a common cause, such as cleaning the environment or supplying food to a local feeding scheme.
Consumers like to know that the brand they are loyal to is doing good in the world and that by supporting a specific business, they are too.
4. It allows employees to connect to a common goal and keeps them motivated.
Not only is having a social, environmental or cultural cause built into your business model benefit you, but it also allows the people who work in your business to be more involved in the broader strategy of the business.
It creates a connection to your brand’s ‘why’ by showing ‘how’ it strives to change societal norms. This can be achieved through the creation of a product or service which has a direct impact, or through collaborating with other brands and organisations that share common beliefs and goals.
In 2017, 7% of all UK small businesses were considered social enterprises.
Now that you are familiar with how important social entrepreneurship is for not only the betterment of your business but to the world too, let’s look at how YOU can implement this in your business. Here are FOUR simple ways small businesses can include social entrepreneurship as part of their brand values and mission:
1. Create a social mission.
On top of your business mission and vision statements, you can incorporate a third category that emphasises how you actively seek to help your community. Mention any immediate resources that you have available to allocate to a community cause and how you intend to disburse them. Write a simple social cause statement that focuses on encouraging teamwork and transparency within your business.
2. Set realistic goals.
Create a set of goals in a list format that you would like to achieve in the forthcoming months. Setting realistic objectives that you’ll be able to accomplish without causing any significant disruptions to your daily tasks is key.
3. Promote and encourage volunteer work.
Volunteering has multiple benefits for not only your business but for your team too – or if you don’t have a team, for yourself. See if there are any daytime charitable causes and sign yourself and your team up every month or so. The benefits are that volunteering is a very effective team building activity and it allows you to contribute to a good cause.
4. Consider how you can promote environmental sustainability.
You can promote environmental sustainability within your business in the following ways:
Practising recycling within the office space
Installing eco-friendly lighting and plumbing
Creating energy-efficient policies
Implementing and encouraging carpooling with co-workers
Discouraging any unsustainable practices within your work environment as well as within industry standards.
Ultimately, what this all boils down to is having a clear business purpose that adds to the betterment of society and aligns with your business goals. Businesses should be more than just a money-making instrument but should, in addition, have a part to play in righting wrongs and supporting good causes. If you agree with this, then social entrepreneurship is definitely for you.
“A social entrepreneur is not just someone that does good while doing business – it’s a lifestyle, a mindset that comes down to doing what’s good in an organisation, no matter the size of it” – Michael Feur
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