This week’s post is courtesy of guest contributor Hope Wang
Social enterprise has many definitions and is geographically dependent. With a deepening curiosity about what this concept actually means, we asked Shawn Smith, a social entrepreneurship instructor from Simon Fraser University to give us insight on this business emergence.
Social enterprises can be defined as ventures that have a sustainable revenue model and a positive effect on society. It is definitely a new landscape that people are still exploring but it’s not hard to believe the potential joining business and social good. Businesses can affect positive change when they use their power for the benefit of society and account for human aspects such as public and environmental well-being. The trick is acknowledging that businesses have the capacity to contribute to society in a positive manner through their actions rather than separating social good with sustained profit. This may be one of the reasons why another potential usage of the term ‘social enterprise’ is business with a social purpose.
A useful way to be recognized as a social purpose business is to be officially certified by a certifying organization. Businesses in BC can become recognized through B Lab, a nonprofit organization that certifies B Corporations if they:
- Meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards;
- Meet higher legal accountability standards;
- Build business constituency for public policies that support sustainable business.
I asked Smith to give his view on how a Business Improvement Association could encourage the businesses in their district to have a social edge and/or adopt a social entrepreneurial spirit and here are a few simple ways he suggested:
- Engage the business owners in dialogue around the idea that the skills and knowledge of business people are needed in the conversation about creating stronger communities. They should not be left outside of the discussion and only consulted for financial support. Empower the business to believe in the notion of connecting the power of business with the heart for greater good. It will be difficult to reach a perfect balance; but the structure right now could certainly be improved.
- Educate businesses with the direction the world is heading towards. There is an ever growing concern about the practices of a business and how and where products and services are from. Businesses must demonstrate accountability for their actions to common stakeholders, but should also include the community. Businesses should move towards creating shared value between itself and its stakeholders by bringing societal progress to the heart of its operation. This can also help the business itself in becoming more economically efficient.
It is about finding that sweet spot that can let sustainable profits and thirst for social good join forces headed for a better future.
Shawn Smith’s Bio:
Passionate about building scalable, intelligently designed enterprises with global impact, Shawn teaches social entrepreneurship at Simon Fraser University. He is the co-founder of several successful organizations, including Education Generation, Global Agents, the Equilibrium Partnership and Radiant Carbon Offsets. His ventures and consulting touch on Europe, Africa, South America, North America and Asia. Shawn is a graduate of Simon Fraser University and holds an MBA from Oxford where he attended as a Skoll Scholar in Social Entrepreneurship. He sees no greater lever for global and local change than inspired, empowered young people.