By Sarah Shearman
Be it repair cafes to cut waste or farms that take on convicts, the world is tackling big issues in new ways as entrepreneurs address ever more social and green problems through business.
Yet as the sector gains traction, misconceptions persist, with more than half of respondents to a poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation agreeing the public did not understand what social entrepreneurs do.
To mark Social Enterprise Day, an international campaign to raise awareness, experts shared views on how social entrepreneurship has evolved in the past few years and what should happen next.
SASKIA BRUYSTEN, CEO OF YUNUS SOCIAL BUSINESS, A VENTURE FUND IN GERMANY
“There is growing interest from the corporate sector…They want to buy from them or want social businesses to inspire them for their future business model. So the role of social businesses to help the normal business to get better and be a force for good is ever more important. This is a major opportunity for the social enterprise sector to finally overcome growth hurdles.”
ANASTASIYA LITVINOVA, PRINCIPAL, CAPITALIZE IMPACT, AN INVESTMENT CONSULTANCY IN THE UNITED STATES
“There is more shared knowledge of successes and failures in the ecosystem, and access to a greater variety of better-aligned funding available. However, social entrepreneurs are often not prepared for the investment diligence process, which becomes a key hindrance to raising the capital they need.”
SHALABH MITTAL, CEO OF SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS INDIA
“India is witnessing sporadic growth in unconventional business models that solve society’s complex problems, and the entire ecosystem including government, financial institutions, impact investors, incubators are all coming forward to do their bit. But, is this going to be enough? We need more bold steps to support the individual entrepreneur because it is his/her idea of transforming lives for a collective good that needs the wings to fly.”
JOHN STEEL, CEO AT CAFEDIRECT, A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE IN BRITAIN
“Now is the time. In the last three years, the momentum behind social enterprise as the way forward has been tremendous. Although managing a business for society and the environment is more challenging than just a pure profit focus, there is genuine recognition across all stakeholders that this is the way that business needs to be.”
CARLA GRADOS VILLAMAR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR KUNAN, A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE PLATFORM IN PERU
“Even though Latin America has progressively started enhancing conditions for social enterprise development, with recognizable leaders such as Colombia, the growth is still slow. Even though many attribute this to lack of public awareness, access to capital, among other reasons, there is a clear need to enhance local support organizations that, in turn, can develop local enabling conditions, considering that the majority of social entrepreneurs can’t just plug into the international ecosystem.”
ROB WILSON, CEO OF TOAST ALE, A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE IN BRITAIN
“The last few years has seen the adoption of social and environmental enterprise by the mainstream consumer. People are wanting more from their products and brands now, and have wised up to tenuous marketing claims. There’s now an unparalleled appetite for authentic and genuine mission-driven business.”