From choosing the brand of chocolate to buy to choosing the company you want to work for, corporate social responsibility plays a huge role in our everyday decisions. Why is this? Well, put simply, people care about the world and want to help make it a better place. Therefore, many businesses use this sense of moral value to their advantage by running outreach projects and advertising the fact that their company cares more about the world than their competitors. In turn, this increases their profits at the end of the year. So it’s a win-win situation for everyone: businesses make more profit, people in need receive the help that they require, and the consumer feels better about himself/herself because they have bought a product from a company that cares about the world.
But can businesses do more? This is where social enterprises come in. As with all businesses they compete to deliver goods and services. The difference is that a social purpose is at the very heart of what they do, and the profits they make are reinvested towards achieving that purpose. Where ordinary businesses consider their bottom line, social enterprises consider what is called the Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet and Profit. In other words, a successful social enterprise will try to maximise the positive impact it has on people around the world, will try to protect the environment, or at the very least, make sure that it is not having a negative impact on the environment and, at the same time, make a profit.
Why is it important to make a profit? Why not just create a charity? Well, the idea is that social enterprises are self-sustainable in the long-run. A social enterprise does not require donations, grants or volunteers to survive, but is able to cover its own costs and pay reasonable salaries to its employees. You may now be thinking that this all sounds good in theory, but do social enterprises actually exist and if they do, how successful are they? Examples of successful social enterprises out there right now include the Big Issue, The Co-operative, the Eden Project and Divine Chocolate. These are just a few examples and the truth is that social enterprise is one of the most exciting and fast-growing movements across the world.
So you are now interested in social enterprise and you want to make a difference in the world using the positive power of business. But as a university student, how can you get involved?
There is an international non-profit organisation called SIFE. SIFE stands for Students in Free Enterprise and is active in more than 1,500 universities across 40 countries. Students can join a SIFE team and develop community projects that will improve the quality of life for people in need. SIFE teams apply business concepts and teach personal skills to create economic opportunity for others and make a sustainable impact in their lives. Projects can range from helping a young entrepreneur draw up an effective business plan, or teaching school children how to run a small business, through to international projects that will change the lives of an entire community. SIFE teams present the results of their projects at an annual National Championship, where leading business executives, from companies such as KPMG, RBS, Heinz, GlaxoSmithKline and Slaughter and May, judge which SIFE team around the country has achieved the most impact that year.
So how can you join SIFE at Durham? Well go to http://www.sifedurham.com for more information about the SIFE projects in Durham and how you can get involved. The only question that remains is: “Do you have a head for business… and a heart for the world?”