At the end of A Christmas Carol, miserly capitalist Ebenezer Scrooge gives away some of his gold, feeds the neighbors with a giant turkey, and advocates for Tiny Tim. It’s considered a happy ending – and definitely a great improvement for Scrooge – but honestly…. He really could have done a lot more. Instead of helping just this one, Scrooge could have started a new business, one that trains and supports homeless people on their journey back to the job market, or offers services to children with disabilities. His efforts could have a huge difference in the long term – and Scrooge could have found a way to not only make a profit, but also help other people in the process. And that is how you mix the free market with good will.
Companies should be doing this all year—and some are, in a much more organized way (and without a guilt trip from three ghosts). They’re called social enterprises. In this blog post, I’m going to talk about 2019’s top 10 most innovative and impactful social enterprises and what you can learn from them to apply to your own business.
What are social enterprises?
Social enterprises and their networks are popping up all over the world; basically, they practice a hybrid model that uses business solutions to make a positive impact on the world. As I mentioned before, they are still for-profit companies, but they make money by solving social problems. For example, when you buy a recycled, reusable water bottle that funds water projects overseas.
Or when you buy a necklace that was hand-beaded by Kenyan entrepreneurs earning more wages with a wider market.
The point being… Scrooge just needed more imagination. Even if your business is not a social enterprise, every business can find ways to continuously give back and make a positive impact on the world while still making money. And consumers certainly expect companies to give more back; in fact, one recent study found that as many as 86% of US consumers expect companies to act on social and environmental issues and 87% will buy a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the world’s top social enterprises that you should keep an eye on (and draw inspiration from) in 2019:
1. The Movement: ME to WE
One of the most successful and impactful social enterprises of this generation, ME to WE is a social enterprise that provides Fairtrade products and global volunteer trips to a mostly millennial audience. It was launched in 2006 by two Canadian brothers and has grown very rapidly, now engaging millions of consumers and beneficiaries around the world. It’s innovate Track Your Impact promise brings technology to social impact, and allows consumers to enter a unique code from ME to WE products to transparently see exactly how and where the funds from their purchases are changing lives. This not only helps them make a positive impact, but it also allows their audience to be more involved and to see exactly how their choices are making an impact.
2. The Godfather: Ashoka
Bill Drayton is considered the godfather of social entrepreneurs, widely credited with bringing the term ‘social entrepreneur’ into the mainstream. Since 1981, his organization, Ashoka, has been supporting leading social enterprises around the world. With 3,500 fellows from 92 countries, Ashoka has built a formidable network but their ultimate goal is to help build a world where everyone can make a change and every person has the power and ability to contribute towards making positive changes in the world.
One of the things that Ashoka does best is their youth focus – their commitment to working with and influencing the younger generations and even putting them in charge of different initiatives.