“Socially conscious business can change the world” Ray Barreth, CEO of Agora

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For our official blog launch, we’re featuring a 4-part special explaining socially conscious business, or “social enterprise.” This 4 part series by Cal Milton will answer the question, “What is Socially Conscious Business, and Can It Really Change the World?” Be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss a post!

As you may—or may not—know, our vision at Agora is:

To create world where business is a catalytic force sparking lasting world change, connecting people to God, one another, and the opportunity to rise above poverty. 

In short, we believe that, as our founder Ray Barreth is fond of saying, “socially conscious business can change the world.”

[bctt tweet=”Socially conscious business can change the world – Ray Barreth, CEO of Agora”]

We believe that when businesses operate on principles that prioritize the community’s good, the well-being of its employees, and the advancement of a developing society, they will have a direct impact on the economic, social, and spiritual wealth of a community.

But this begs the question, What IS socially conscious business, and can it really change the world?

The next four blog articles will seek to answer that question. We want to inspire you to see the powerful, catalytic force that business can be. And if you are an entrepreneur, we want you to inform you of how your business can be a socially conscious one. In the next three posts, we’ll answer these questions:

  • What does it mean to be a “socially conscious” business?
  • But what about ‘business is business’ and ‘charity is charity’?
  • How does one structure a socially conscious business?
  • How can a socially conscious business be sustainable and really change the world?

Join us on the journey to understand socially conscious business and its key role in global advancement and transformation. We hope you’ll read along…and join the movement of socially conscious business with us!

Today, let’s start off with the first question:

What is a “Socially Conscious Business”, or “Social Enterprise”?

Socially conscious business…values-driven approach…social entrepreneurship…social purpose corporation….benefit corporation…triple bottom line…corporate social responsibility…sustainable enterprise…socially conscious enterprise…socially responsible business…

These terms and others like them prevail in our world today.  But for many of us, they sound like a the newest trendy business jargon.

What do these terms mean?  How do they connect?  Are they relevant to you and I?

Let’s start with a little background. The term ‘socially conscious’ has been used in many contexts –  from Marxist economic philosophy to eastern religious karma.  It was used by philosophers such as David Hume and Adam Smith and can be said to have a wide interpretation.  It has been used in conjunction with everything from investing, to art, to antiques and politics.

No wonder there is a great deal of confusion surrounding this term!

For our purposes, however, social consciousness is considered to be the attribute of sensitivity toward and sense of responsibility regarding injustice and problems in society.  Consciousness is connected to awareness of individuals within society.  To be aware is to care about social issues and act upon that awareness.  A socially aware person values human rights and does something about it.

Contrast this to the historic purpose of business which has been stated in various ways, such as to provide profit for stakeholders; or to fulfill a need; or to provide needed goods and services.  All of these are important but do not take into consideration the social conditions related to the profitable business—such as who is most needy, what goods and services most benefit the community, how to create jobs and alleviate poverty in the community, what working conditions will enhance quality of life for employees, etc.

A socially conscious entrepreneur operates their for-profit business with those issues at the heart and center. As Bill Drayton, CEO and founder of Ashoka, says, a social entrepreneur is a business start up person who “…is not content just to give a fish or to teach how to fish.  They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” We would take the fish metaphor even further and say that their cause is to provide access to the fishing ponds for those who find fishing inaccessible.

So a socially conscious business is a for-profit business which focuses on social, spiritual and economic conditions in its surrounding community and seeks to improve those conditions in the best possible way within their business model.

What is the relationship between business, charity, and social enterprise? Is the whole idea a laughable oxymoron?

Stay tuned to find out!

*Image Credit: 2014 Ray Barreth