There is a critical need for more diversity in business, and social enterprise could be the answer, writes Alan Greig, from the Social Enterprise Legal Models Working Group.
Sustainable social enterprise can go a long way towards introducing the kind of “values” into capitalism that Kevin Rudd once made reference to in 2009 – “the values of equity, sustainability and community”.
With the range of “values based” enterprises that are rapidly developing – many of them profiled in Pro Bono Australia News – social enterprise is already setting the pace in this direction. Social enterprise is changing the way we do business. As social enterprise grows in terms of scale and diversity, it will provide a solid foundation for building a people-centred “new economy” by also changing the way that income and benefits are distributed through the economy and within society.
How do we know this? In the UK, they have been tackling the task for some years. For example, Jonathan Bland, then chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, said in the UK Guardian newspaper in 2007: “Britain has a very ‘thin’ model of business. The reality, he says, is that there are a range of fantastic business models but a real ignorance about the fact we can use them and be successful.”
The point being that there is a critical need for more “diversity” in the way we do business and the way we own businesses. Social enterprise is now delivering this diversity in spades through its operating models which create social impact, community empowerment and stakeholder ownership.
The economy is currently dominated by the private corporation where only one stakeholder matters – the investor. It is questionable whether this business model is environmentally and socially sustainable. Business systems need to develop beyond the financial bottom line and look to opportunities for involving a wider range of stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers and the broader community.
Social enterprise business models can do this by delivering social good while keeping wealth in the hands of the community, and achieve this in the mainstream economy through trading activity that is both profitable and self-sustaining. Social enterprise is not anti-market nor is it anti-capital – though they are not based on maximising returns to shareholders through capital ownership (profit distribution is mostly limited to re-investing into the social mission of the enterprise and capital gain is often restricted through an asset lock).
The social enterprise belief system is that people and their knowledge are more powerful than money and that collaboration can be more effective than competition. Also, some forms of social enterprise – cooperatives for example – are re-invigorating the self-help, mutualism and trust of the “old days” when these values underpinned social activity and civil society. To read more click here.
The National Sustainability in Business Conference; renewables, markets, innovation, opportunities and capital will be held 23 – 24 March 2017 at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Brisbane.
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