If you haven’t yet taken notice, the social entrepreneurship approach to business has been sweeping the globe over the past several years. Where entrepreneurship once largely meant growing a company and making money, today’s business leaders have redefined the term to include the positive impact their companies’ efforts will have the world and on others.
Wikipedia defines social entrepreneurship as “an approach by individuals, groups, start-up companies or entrepreneurs, in which they develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. This concept may be applied to a wide range of organizations, which vary in size, aims, and beliefs.”
In the past, social entrepreneurship was largely confined to philanthropic efforts. No more. Today, companies are starting up with the objective of helping change society while generating revenue, resulting in a win-win for both the enterprise and its marketplace.
Here are three ways companies and their leaders are practicing social entrepreneurship today.
Supporting new initiatives that have the potential to help others.
Many accomplished business leaders are lending their expertise and support to new initiatives in an effort to positively impact the world like George Scorsis, executive chairman at Toronto-based WeedMD and chairman of the executive board at AWAKN Life Sciences Inc, a Toronto startup that seeks to eventually incorporate the use of psychedelic pharmacology into mental health treatment in the UK and European Union. The company recently announced the launch of a Commercial Clinical Research Division that will set up and manage a series of clinical trials across Europe and North America during the months ahead.
Providing much-needed help during a crisis.
Nowhere has the power of social entrepreneurship been felt more strongly than during the recent and still ongoing COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. Companies of all sizes and types, from the biggest corporations to the smallest businesses, whose board members, executives and owners heard the call to get involved, found ways to contribute their time, resources and financial support to help their communities, nations and people around the world deal with this unexpected, large-scale crisis.
In an article published by the World Economic Forum during its recent Sustainable Development Impact Summit, the organization cited the Schwab Foundation’s 2020 Impact Report, which “has demonstrated how its network of 400 social innovators and entrepreneurs has improved the lives of more than 622 million people in over 190 countries, protecting livelihoods, driving movements for social inclusion and environmental sustainability, and providing improved access to health, sanitation, education, and energy.”
Launching businesses that provide a service.
Sam Polk and David Foster worked on Wall Street before launching Everytable in Los Angeles. Their mission: to make good, healthy food available to everyone, especially in urban areas where it can be difficult to find affordable, healthy food. Realizing that parents in low-income neighborhoods needed easy, healthy and ready-to-go meals after work, they started their business to provide meals available at prices that are affordable in the neighborhoods in which they’re served. They also established what’s proven to be a successful “Pay it Forward” program that enables people to purchase a meal for someone in need.
A year ago, the company expressed the desire to create a franchise model targeted toward entrepreneurs of color from underserved communities.“We’re really excited about that lever of potentially using Everytable’s food to push against the structural inequality,” said Polk, “but also our business model to create true economic empowerment and equity ownership over the long term.
Social entrepreneurship comes in all shapes and sizes. In George Scorsis’ case, it can also have worldwide implications. But at the end of the day, the most important benchmark is how it impacts society while also generating profits.