1 March, 2016 Best Success Is Shared Success – The New World Order
ocial entrepreneurship, rooted in the belief that business can be a force for social good, is not just a buzz phrase. It is becoming the new global paradigm for the way big business thinks, part of organisational dna in the private sector.
Positive social impact has evolved into a key imperative across all industries in the US and Europe especially, and their customers expect no less. In South Africa, the concept of social entrepreneurship is also gaining momentum. Not just because it is the new world order in business best practice, but because the need for it is obvious. And because it makes sense in our rapidly changing world.
Social entrepreneurs are innovators who come up with solutions to society’s most pressing social problems – homelessness, poverty, unemployment, lack of education and social isolation. In the past, these solutions were executed through the non-profit sector and traditional charities, but over the past two decades there’s been an increasing recognition, worldwide, that if there is to be significant, tangible impact on environments and communities in need, we need to embrace the responsibility holistically, at the well-capitalised corporate level as well as in government and NGO spaces.
The alternative looks bleak – a growing disparity between rich and poor, and a lack of care about the fragility of our planet. Paul Rice, CEO of Fair Trade USA, put it succinctly in a 2014 report titled Redefining Success in a Changing World, a social entrepreneurship survey commissioned by Chivas Regal and co-authored by experts from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Saïd Business School: “… if you look at the way the world is currently, and if you look at the risk of global capitalism posed by our collective indifference to issues of social and environmental degradation, you have to conclude that sooner or later the configuration of market forces and social forces will accelerate the change. In fact, the change is happening now.”
Examine the motives of today’s entrepreneurs, and the evolving culture of businesses, and it’s evident that Rice is right. Many large companies embrace social entrepreneurial principles into mainstream business practices, often in the form of sustainable business models.
A good example is Lush, the global cosmetics company selling “naked” products free of packaging, and known for its generous donations to environmental causes. Another is Intel, the US-based technology giant, which uses only conflict-free minerals and sponsors initiatives to empower new technology start-ups.
Social entrepreneurship is even being embraced by elite MBA schools in the US, with Chicago’s Booth School of Business introducing a programme designed to support executives operating in this space.
Although social entrepreneurship is at a less advanced stage of development in South Africa, it is on the lips of every enlightened executive, contextualised not as charity but as pivotal to the organisation’s survival in the long term. It’s not about ticking the Corporate Social Responsibility box, in other words, but about sustainability being part of profitability, and longevity in a fast changing world.
As Ian Calvert, project leader of Red Bull Amaphiko, observed in the Chivas report: “The shift around the world is that in order to do well you have to do good. Consumers won’t let you just operate with scant regard for the social impact you’re having. You need to build in fundamentally good business practices as part of doing well. Consumers can hold you to account simply by not dealing with you, unless they believe that your day to day way of doing business incorporates some sort of social awareness.”
The ranks of South African CEOs known publicly for embracing this mindset is steadily increasing. When Thabang Skambane was appointed managing director of FCB Joburg last January, for instance, his contribution as a social entrepreneur (he is founder of the Lonely Road Foundation, which enables rural communities to take care of orphans and vulnerable children) was seen as a valuable asset to the company. “Thabang is a man who has not only succeeded as a businessman but one who has done so without neglecting the plight of those less fortunate than himself. FCB believes this mix of capitalism and philanthropy is what is needed today to ensure FCB Joburg’s sustainability,” FCB group CEO, Brett Morris, said at the time.
Profitability and sustainability aside, the fact is that people in positions of privilege really do want to help those less fortunate, it turns out. Last year, 247 South African CEOs and business leaders took part in the inaugural CEO SleepOutÔ, raising R26 054 869 in donations for vulnerable children at Girls & Boys Town. The turnout, and the money made, illustrated quite dramatically that given a meaningful way to express it, the spirit of philanthropy in the private sector is alive and well, and growing.
The new generation of entrepreneurs wants to apply their energy and talent to building a better world, and they are finding fresh, creative ways to do it, far removed from the traditional, NGO charity approach. As this generation progresses and advances in their careers, so social entrepreneurship will gain momentum, becoming normalised and embedded in our economic matrix. Some even see it as an emerging test bed for alternative economic models designed to distribute resources more equitably, replacing older economic models that distribute resources disproportionately.
The findings of the Chivas survey made two things clear: that social entrepreneurship has gained significant traction worldwide, and that it was born in response to a rapidly changing world where social, economic and environmental challenges persist and grow. Social entrepreneurs are all around us and among us, seeing social challenges as opportunities, not only to make an impact on the world, but to redefine what personal success means.
It is cause for optimism, even in the face of expanding problems of poverty, unemployment, lack of resources and environmental degradation. For it means that we are becoming ever more empowered in healing our world, together, and embracing philanthropy – our higher calling – as a way of work, and a way of life.
– By The Philanthropic Collection –
The Philanthropic Collection™ is a boutique social enterprise,
where we tailor haute-couture brands for philanthropy.