Social Entrepreneurs Mean Business

Social entrepreneurship is a way of using business to tackle social issues. It has been defined as a “halfway house between profits-driven businesses and charities" that can "take the profit motive to parts of the voluntary and public sector that have in the past been hostile to it." We have read about Belu water, the English company that has developed a biodegradable bottle for its water AND donates its profits to projects with WaterAid in India and Africa. Here are a few more examples of a growing group of ethical entrepreneurs who are turning their businesses and profits towards having an impact on the world’s problems.

Eako is a small company that makes handbags and luggage from the 25 year old rubber hoses on London's fire engines. Not only are they preventing all that hose from ending up on the landfill sites, they are also donating 50% of profits to retired firemen through the London Fire Brigade's benevolent fund. They make belts out of the hoses adding a good-looking buckle made of reclaimed pewter. Their newest venture is a messenger bag complete with ridges and grooves and dates from the original hose. The founder, a Canadian living in England, says "For me, social enterprise means that you have a social ethical issue at the core of business. It is not about profit, but I am very keen to make a profit because that is what moves business forward."


Goodone Clothing creates new clothes from old--their great looking jackets and stretchy dresses are made from recycled clothing bought by the pound from a recycling company or donated. They don't rework existing pieces of clothing, instead they de-construct and reconstruct garments to make completely new ones. Every piece is a one-off, created by a young designer and her business partner who are committed to "providing a creative solution for waste reduction in this new era of fast fashion." For them "social enterprise is about creating a viable alternative company. ...We are social entrepreneurs but it's more than just social; it's environmental as well."

Sponsor A Kid For A Quid is a fundraising website where university students could share the cost of sponsoring children in African countries for a pound (2$) every month. It makes it cheaper for students because they allocate allocate 18 students to one child, so spreading the responsibility (and cost) amongst many. Started by a student, his next project is Wahblo, run on the same principle--people contribute £1 a month towards a specific charity project, such as building a school in Uganda, until the project reaches its fundraising goal and get ongoing updates. This way of donating gives people a positive feeling about their contribution, regardless of the amount donated. As the founder says "in the past I think it was harder for people to combine their personal ethical motivation with business. But growing up in an age where there is social awareness...I think if there is a way that you can do something that has a positive impact on the world then you should do it." :: Guardian (special report on social business)

Best of TreeHugger