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September 24, 2010 / compassioninpolitics

Every business is potentially a social business.

One of my big takeaways from the Social Enterprise Alliance conference was that “Every business is potentially a social business.” *

Here are twelve ways to make a business more of a social enterprise:
1) Increase efficiency and decrease waste. (Here Lean practices, kaizen, and Six Sigma will likely help)
(leveraging other potential waste streams and letting others use your waste stream)
2) Serve the under served (poor, disadvantaged, disabled, rural, ex-cons, etc…). Democratize your business (lowering prices dramatically so less affluent customers can purchase your product)
3) Donate a large percentage in corporate social responsibility (CSR). For instance, the sell one-give one model is pretty compelling at Toms Shoes)
4) Develop a culture of social enterprise (hopefully a spillover effect with occur)
5) Provide your good/service at a remarkably reduced cost to nonprofits, social enterprises, or poor customers.
6) Sourcing from social enterprises (either created by social enterprises or created in a sustainable way. Changing your sourcing or supply chain practices can go a long way toward your business having a big positive social impact.)
7) Focus on training, education, coaching, and mentorship.
8] Positive social movement or social change at the heart of the mission or as an adendum to missional goals. (ie linking up like-minded people in a coop, association, network, or conference/event). Or provide public education or advocacy on an issue.
9) Good human resource practices which respect the worker.
10) Good customer relations practices which add value to the customer.
11) Bringing more transparency to an industry or share lessons learned & best practices more readily.
12) Avoid unneccessary intermediaries. (part of Lean movement)

Ultimately, creating a double or triple bottom line business can help create a more sustainable community and world for our generation and the next. What do you think “is every business potentially a social business?” What are your thoughts on Carl Schramm’s “All Business is social” from the Stanford Innovation Review? (link below)

* The notion that “Every business is potentially a social business” or a social enterprise is borrowing a theme from Mohammed Yunus. While I don’t agree with his notion of social business entirely (he says its zero profit) which kinda warps my mind–I generally agree that every business is potentially a social business. I’m of the opinion that guns, tobacco, and gambling are businesses which aren’t particularly amenable to being social businesses–but I guess its better if they are than if they aren’t. In other words, the effort to make them more social–even if they aren’t **may** may be a good thing.

**This article is in some ways the logical counterpart to Carl Schramm’s “All Entrepreneurship is Social” which I disagree with (for instance see below–and health care & mobile are unique industries in some respects), but can help drive home the point that all businesses can have a positive social impact (outside the profit generation & the standard parts of the consumer relationships). “All Entrepreneurship is Social” was published in the Spring 2010 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

***Some might add buying local to the list, but I’m not entirely sure thats always true. For instance, sourcing from a fair trade organization may be better from a sustainability and cost to consumer.


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