Social enterprise: not just social responsibilty

Cheming Yang

Nowadays, few will argue against the existence of corporate social responsibility. There was a time when the world was still debating about whether businesses should bear social responsibility. Milton Friedman is the most well known champion of the no answer. Friedman was an American economist who received the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Friedman takes a shareholder approach to corporate social responsibility. This approach maintains the goal of the firm is to maximize profits and reward its shareholders for the risk they took in investing in the firm. The shareholders can then decide for themselves what social initiatives to take part in.
I am not saying that the debate has ended completely. However, fewer and fewer have doubted the importance of corporate social responsibility and the world also sees the emerge of social enterprise. Social enterprise is defined as an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being. Social enterprises can be structured as for-profit or non-profit. What differentiates social enterprises is that social missions are core to their operation. These enterprises basically engage in businesses that have been traditionally treated as social responsibility. They can still profit from their operation but under no circumstances will they hurt either the society or the environment.
In 2008 a global steering group was established from national social enterprise support agencies seeking a means to collaborate to advance social enterprise development throughout the world, which is the origin of Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF).
The SEWF Board comprises of 8 members from Canada, USA, Australia, Scotland, England, Italy, Republic of Korea and Hong Kong. With Advisory Committee Members from USA, Germany, South Africa and Australia. Each year the SEWF examines the conditions needed for social enterprises to thrive, highlighting outstanding examples of innovation and best practice from around the world. The forum provides an opportunity to discuss how social enterprises can develop in the face of changing world and local markets.
As the world evolves, so does the world of business. The rise of social enterprises signals a paradigm change in organizational behaviors. The firms not only needs to pay attention to social responsibility but some of them can also make reasonable profit from taking care of social responsibility.


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