Navigating the Gray Area of Social Enterprise

We have all seen the definitions of social enterprise, they are all basically variants of “an enterprise that creates social benefit” could be for profit or it could be a non profit.   After that general definition, though the clarity stops. It can be argued that almost any business, run ethically, creates social benefit and customers and investors alike are starting to look more closely at businesses and what societal benefits they create.ImageThe problem is each business touts the good things it does, but that does not tell the whole story. We have seen what has happened to “greenwashing” in the environmental area.  Now there are “green” oil companies….maybe that just means greener than the others.  Now the term “green” is virtually meaningless.

The key is the that the social impact part of the business must be integrated into its business model in a way that can’t be changed. That way the social impact is not an option it becomes a goal. We must not dilute the benefit that true social enterprises are accomplishing by allowing greenwashing to happen  in the social entrepreneurship field. Just because a company is involved in philanthropy  does not mean it’s a social enterprise.


About stevehoberg

I enjoy working to help people to develop and improve sustainable businesses that have positive social impacts
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One Response to Navigating the Gray Area of Social Enterprise

  1. Bill Towner says:

    I think the “green oil company” is strictly a marketing and political move. Not that I’m against oil companies because frankly I drive or fly every place I go…except when I’m walking for the sake of walking. Now if an oil company were to promote cleaner hydrocarbons, such as natural gas as opposed to oil – that may be a green effort, relatively speaking. Not an end member solution but rather a stopgap to the future.

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