The recent series on social enterprise examined the idea of a socially conscious business, or social enterprise. We defined what social enterprise is. We explained the merging of business and charity. We looked at structures available to social entrepreneurs. We discussed why we really believe the statement of our CEO, Ray Barreth,
Socially conscious business can change the world!
We defined a socially conscious business, or social enterprise, as a for-profit business which focuses on improving social, spiritual and economic conditions in its surrounding community within its business model. Such a business holds equally the aims of making a profit and achieving social impact that is not dependent on aid; both are vital to its DNA.
[bctt tweet=”A social enterprise holds equally the aims of making profit and achieving social impact through its business.”]
The chairman of PRI Resources, Dwight Nordstrom, has built more than 27 businesses in China and Central Asia with $100 million in investment and 10,000 employees. While many of his businesses may not be readily identified as social enterprises, he made a vital point at a congress in Thailand in 2013. He said that the business you choose to start or invest in is very important, because it highly influences your social outcomes. The key here is that he is pointing to the business itself as the vehicle for accomplishing social outcomes.
In this conclusion to the series, we’ll profile two “proof of concept” businesses that are clearly identifiable as social enterprises in that they identify a social ill and direct their profitable business toward sustainable social solutions to that need. One is more than two centuries old; the other is contemporary.
Two Social Enterprise Profiles
Guinness Beer – A Social Calling
Arthur Guinness was a man of faith heavily influenced by the mantra of John Wesley,
make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.
In mid-1700 Ireland, the primary social problem was excessive drunkenness, called “The Gin Craze.” It was fueled by unsafe water supplies and forbidden importation of liquor. So the Irish started making their own drinks. An overwhelming number of people drank whiskey and gin as their primary beverage.
Guinness was infuriated with this drunkenness. He prayed for and worked toward a solution. His solution was this:
make a drink that men will drink that will be good for them.
The result? A dark stout beer called Guinness containing so much iron that people feel full before they could drink more pints. Today nearly ten million glasses of Guinness are consumed daily. In 2003, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin concluded that a pint of Guinness a day actually bolsters health and is infinitely better for you than the caffeine in coffee or the high fructose corn syrup in soda.
Guinness’ vision went beyond the successful business but focused on life transformation. He founded the first Sunday school program in Ireland and created a family culture that focused on generosity and investing in people. One foundational belief of the Guinness family was that
you cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make money from you.
The company invested in its employees with medical care, dental care, funeral expenses, education for the whole family, and a pension plan – long before these issues became expected of employers as we find in modern times.
Guinness and his descendants did all they could to make a social impact on the world around them, using beer as an instrument to spread their ethics and make a social difference in a holistic way. His socially conscious business really did change the world of 18th century Ireland and subsequent generations.
[bctt tweet=”You cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make money from you. – The Guinness Family”]
Discovery Eye Clinic – Ethiopia
Sub-Sahara Africa has the highest burden of blindness per capita in the world, and has only one ophthalmologist per million people. The Discovery Eye Institute (DEI) began in 2014 as a joint initiative of U.S. and Ethiopian ophthalmologists and professors. Together they are pioneering a for-profit center for excellence in eye care in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
DEI’s implementation is modeled on the Aravind Eye Care System in Hyderabad, India, the largest eye care organization in the world. It is private and self-sustaining. It is designed for the lower income economics of the developing world, thus addressing a primary social need. DEI partners with U.S. based Sight for Souls in effort to maximize the social benefit. From the Sight for Souls website:
Sight for Souls has developed a strategy for reaching the rural communities of Ethiopia, which bear the heaviest burden of poverty-related eye disease. Through short-term clinical and surgical projects, community education and screening programs, and public health initiatives, we aim to enable people and their communities to reach their full potential and overcome barriers from blindness.
One of Agora’s partners was retained to help develop the business model, which included capital development, project planning, government liaison, and business development. People like Gwen Rapp, now with Agora, invested business expertise because this is a classic social enterprise as described by their tagline,
transforming lives and communities in the areas of greatest need through the gift or sight for the body and soul.
These are just two examples of socially conscious businesses whose social purpose and for-profit model are inextricably woven together. These businesses, while vastly different from one another, share the common belief that a for-profit business that exists to serve its community has immense power to transform lives and communities.
As we launch our training program and in-country accelerators in the coming months, we’ll be sharing with you many more examples of socially conscious businesses that really are changing the world.
[bctt tweet=”A for-profit business that exists to serve its community has immense power to transform lives and communities.”]
*Image Credit: 2007-2015 Britney Hamm
Did you miss our series on Social Enterprise? Read each post to catch up!