when business meets social
The business world is going through an intriguing shake-up. Stories of brave innovation among the traditional business set, creative entrepreneurial adventure, and communities rallying, all with a common fixation: tackling the world’s most “wicked,” seemingly indomitable social and environmental issues. Poverty. Educational failure. Environmental waste. Damaged oceans and marine eco-systems. A solution? Business—but different.
From coffee growing, to embroidering, to web coding, to toy making; you’re about to learn how social businesses are disrupting the norm, and clearing the path for a host of novel ways to tackle old problems. And it’s up to us—the card-swipers, the consumers, the vaguely labelled “general public”—to vote with our feet and our wallets, and decide whether the demand for such business grows.
You’ll hear the words “social enterprise” in here a lot. What I’ve discovered is that there’s a thriving sector helpfully labelled thus, and beyond it, there’s also a bunch of folk out there in traditional, mainstream organisations, trying their darndest to be more intentional about how to help both people and planet through what they do every day—all while making profit. It’s a continuum.
Those raised on a TV diet of The Wombles and Captain Planet may be leading the charge on this one, but they aren’t alone. In the UK a few years ago, the Secretary for Civil Society was given the responsibility for growing social enterprise, and the sector is on the up-and-up. While New Zealand has been slower to catch on, the concept is now piquing interest here across vastly different industries.
After reading what this volume’s contributors had to say, it struck me that if momentum continues at this pace, the next generation will be bewildered that we used to do mainstream business the way we do now. The difference? Organisations prioritising a healthy social impact will thrive. This is far from “fluffy altruism.” Our collective social conscience is always changing, and the years ahead could well herald seismic cultural change if recent events are anything to go by. Take for example the “eco” awareness shift in the last 20 years, and imagine trying to justify the presence of recycling bins at every desk to your average office manager back in 1994.
Let the disclaimer resound: in canvassing such a world of human activity, we could’ve created a tome seven times this size, and still contemplated a sequel. What follows is simply a snapshot of what’s happening out there.
My hope is this: that you will be inspired to think laterally about ways you can put a new lens on your own vocation, whatever that may look like. It’s a lifelong challenge, and it’s one being taken up by hundreds of thousands of people in this country every day.
– Jaimee Abict, Editor