The term corporate social responsibility has evolved over the years to include many names that describe the concept.
At CSRwire, we notice a spike in interest from our passionate and engaged audience of journalists, analysts, activists, academics, investors, and public relations and investor relations professionals every time there is news about “social enterprise,” “social innovation,” and “social entrepreneur.”
The numbers especially explode when an enterprise or individual wins an award for either of these topics. The awards can be as little as $10,000 or as high as $250,000.
The concept of a social enterprise is simple: apply the tools, principles, and talents of business to find solutions to social or environmental challenges.
My favorite example is the Greyston Bakery. The bakery does not hire people to bake brownies; they bake brownies to hire people. Every time you eat a scoop of Ben & Jerry's ice cream with brownies, you should know that the brownies are from a bakery that only employs homeless people.
This one ingredient in the supply chain of a multinational company saves 65 lives. This one ingredient results in a ripple effect for an entire community by providing economic independence and ensuring public safety and social dignity to generations of workers.
For social entrepreneurs like the founders of Greyston Bakery and Ben & Jerry's, CSR has been evolving for several decades, and social innovation is the evolving form of CSR. By elevating capitalism away from a single, bottom-line concentration, social innovation propels the idealistic sounding CSR into practical terms. The shift is finally happening. Business is becoming a tool to improve the quality of life on the planet instead of exclusively being engaged in “maximizing shareholder value.”
This form of commerce is much more interesting than the latest earnings report, corporate giving campaign, or PR strategy. When business is engaged in providing solutions to challenges in the context of making money, the story becomes fascinating and inspires others to be more creative.
Ultimately, we will find organizations competing with one another to find better solutions to challenges, attracting attention and talent, providing an emotional bond with customers, reducing risk, inspiring partnerships, and creating a new phase the evolution of our economy.
Encourage your clients to engage social enterprises in their supply chain. This will increase their brand value and make them not only smarter businesses but also sustainable partners in business.
Joe Sibilia is CEO of CSRwire, a digital media platform specializing in social media and multimedia communication strategies.