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Would Social Enterprise Deliver a Better World?

December 5, 2011

Just imagine a world where every business is a social enterprise.

There was nowhere to spend your money that was not taking a portion of it to reinvest in social change, to alleviate hardship and increase social justice.

You eat at a restaurant that uses part of the price of your ham hock to help the homeless find a job.  You pay a premium on your office space so that your landlord can re-invest some of your cash into supporting entrepreneurs in the local poor folk.  You buy your petrol from an oil company that takes a slice of your cash to improve marine conservation and invest in promoting democracy in the oilfields of the planet.

Every time you buy something someone puts a smile on the face of the world.

The more we consume the better things get!

Growth is genuinely good! Isn’t it?

Well perhaps, because all of these social enterprises are also genuinely sustainable in a one planet economy, all paying a fair wage for a days work, and are well capitalised as investors recognise investing in social change is in their long term ‘self interest’ too.  The return they get on their capital is worth much more than just money.  It is a planet fit for the grandchildren.

How would the market for ‘social change’ play out in our new socially enterprising economy?  I suspect that saving Pandas and Snow Leopards might do disproportionally well while less popular causes like ‘kids in care’ or special needs education may not get a look in.

Life for us shoppers might get a little more complicated as we look to factor in not just cost, quality and decency of the corporate that we buy our goods from – but also whether they are investing effectively in causes that we want to support.

But what a vision!

A post capitalist economy where entrepreneurs and markets set the agenda and provide the fuel for social change.  And perhaps just a quango or two checking the veracity of their claims for ‘re-investing profits’.  We could call it SEQC – the Social Enterprise Quality Commission.

What could possibly go wrong?

  1. I’m guessing with a little forethought, planning, time and ability to spend a little extra on purchases you could probably do this now. It just depends on what you look at. I once had an amazing business described to me that you would fall over to shop at as they did so much for the community, turned out to be Tesco. Interesting how you can interpret things?

  2. mikeriddell62 permalink

    Interesting that you refer to a ‘post capitalist economy’. If you haven’t done so, try and read Peter Drucker’s brilliant book ‘The Post Capitalist Society’ since there’s lots of clues in there about what the future holds for us all.

    Back to your post though Mike. I like the word ‘fuel’ in the context of social change. My own view is that the fuel we currently use – money – is no longer fit for our engine. The world needs to understand the harm that ‘money’ does to people and planet. Another currency to counterbalance the corrosive effects on communiy is now required so that people can have real choice about outcomes. Another currency that rewards contribution to community (through teaching, giving, learning) would be a better way of valuing the more important things in life. So one could still ‘consume’ as you propose in your post – just a bit more sustainably. Think of it as a move from mindLESS consumerism to mindFUL consumerism.

    Measuring success according to GDP is no longer an appropriate measure of success because it incentivises consumption, rather than preservation, of the earth’s resources. GDP externalises the cost of business so that others pick up the bill for the pollution of people and planet that results. Instead, we should begin to measure Gross National Contribution but that’s only ever going to be possible with the right fuel in our tank.

    For me, that fuel is a community currency that makes better things possible – the more you give the more you should get. That way the polluters pay to clean up their own mess.


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