This article will explain the concept of social ventures—usually based around providing a solution for a pressing social need—and discuss a few ways social entrepreneurs can market and promote their business ventures and corporate social responsibility concerns via social media and crowdsourcing.
But how do these businesses manage to be profitable in addition to being sustainable? Let’s take a closer look to uncover some possible answers.
❇️ Corporate Social Responsibility
First, let’s start by defining the term “corporate social responsibility,” also known as CSR. You may never have thought to put those two words—corporation and responsibility—together. And what’s with the social bit? Aren’t corporations all about profit and individual earnings? Well, no—not necessarily.
In fact, millennials are demanding that the corporations they patronize be socially conscious, aware, and sustainable—and companies’ profits may suffer if they can’t step up and deliver on these new expectations. And it’s not only companies themselves who are expected to take responsibility. Employees also want to have the opportunity to contribute to a social cause during work hours; ideally, this social venture will not only benefit those in need but an employee’s resume, as well.
Corporate social responsibility, according to Ohio University, means that “[A] company takes steps to ensure there are positive social and environmental effects associated with the way the business operates.” What does all this mean for small businesses? Well, smaller scale establishments, as well as entrepreneurial social ventures, can opt to become a “B Corporation,” a for-profit company certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
❇️ Sustainable Development
Increasingly, businesses are finding it both simple and practical to change their operations and sourcing procedures over to more sustainable methods. For example, the price of solar energy continues to drop, making residential development companies like that of Dante Archangeli easier to run in a low-impact, sustainable manner. For example, Archangeli’s capstone project (which he is completing as part of his Master of Sustainability Leadership program), Campus Farm Green, is building homes that generate more energy from the sun than they consume—and the same goes for water.
With such affordable prices becoming more prevalent in the renewable energy world, it makes good sense to build sustainable real estate—as opposed to utilizing traditional energy sources. However, Archangeli also learned that city zoning laws and other regulations can sometimes prove to be a temporary barrier requiring negotiations and skillful persuasion abilities—something that not every contractor or independent builder may have the patience to utilize.
Once a zoning regulation is adjusted to make room for new technology or development, future developments will be easier to implement. Archangeli’s company works in conjunction with Tucson Electric Power, who allows power customers to purchase blocks of solar power, regardless of whether they have solar panels installed. This type of partnership between renewable energy and conventional energy sources could serve as a model for other utility companies around the country who would like to adopt more forward-thinking, sustainable energy policies.
❇️ People, Planet, and Profits
The future of business is sustainable, but new companies and entrepreneurs must also become familiar with a few financial best practices if they intend to maximize growth and minimize anxiety. A few wise guidelines to follow that will help improve cash flow include forecasting, calculating profits and expenses, building capital, and learning about finance.
It’s best practice to be just as concerned with financial matters as with social works. After all, it’s impossible to be of any help, financially or practically speaking, if your business is struggling.
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What are your experiences with running or working with social ventures and CSR-minded businesses? Share your feedback in the comments section below!