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Entrepreneurship 25 Mar 2019

Why Social Enterprise Matters

Two young friends on a surfing trip to Bali, shocked by the heaps of plastic they found washed up on the beach, returned to the United States with an entrepreneurial vision to clean the ocean. Their company, 4Ocean, promises to remove one pound of trash from oceans and coastlines with the sale of every one of its $20 bracelets, which are made from recycled plastic and glass bottles. In roughly two years, the venture, which now employs more than 150 people around the planet, reports that it has recovered over 4 million pounds of trash.

For-profit 4Ocean says its business model has created “new, more sustainable economies” worldwide by paying fishermen to collect refuse from the ocean rather than fish, while also raising awareness of the ocean trash problem and optimizing technology to help address the issue. As of last year, the company reportedly generated more than $30 million in bracelet sales.

4Ocean is but one example of social entrepreneurship, a flourishing phenomenon that takes various forms to marry entrepreneurial endeavors with social causes. Whether dedicated to improving the environment, employing impoverished people in remote corners of the world, helping other vulnerable populations or boosting animal welfare, a myriad of ventures aims to generate profits while doing good.

Yoobi, for example, sells office, school and art supplies, promising to donate a school supply product to a U.S. classroom with children in need for every item sold. Its motto: “One for you. One for me.” The company’s “give partner,” the Kids in Need Foundation, distributes Yoobi Classroom Packs with pens, crayons, markers and such to elementary schools where at least 70 percent of the children qualify for free or discounted lunches.

The shoe company TOMS helped pioneer this concept with founder Blake Mycoskie’s “One for One” business model, which set about to help someone in need with every purchase. The company says it has provided more than 86 million pairs of shoes to children since 2006 and performed many other services, including vision care, safe water and support for safe births.

Environmentally conscious household products company Seventh Generation, another corporate social responsibility leader, dedicates itself to driving a “consumer revolution” to nurture the health of the next seven generations.

Organizations no longer are judged only for their financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, they are being evaluated on the basis of their impact on society at large…

“Organizations no longer are judged only for their financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, they are being evaluated on the basis of their impact on society at large — transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises,” Deloitte said in a report last year, based on a survey of more than 11,000 business leaders.

In many cases, though, social entrepreneurship involves grassroots efforts to bring about significant social change, either through nonprofit organizations or social driven for-profit businesses.

Today, conscious consumers are becoming a majority consumer segment.

“As the social enterprise industry has grown, so too has the conscious consumer movement. Today, conscious consumers are becoming a majority consumer segment,” said Kila Englebrook, president and CEO of the Social Enteprise Alliance. “In turn, this presents an unprecedented opportunity for social entrepreneurs to launch, grow and scale organizations that use the market to drive significant social or environmental impact. By offering innovative, quality, mission-driven products and services, social enterprises can capture consumer attention and loyalty, ultimately building consumer trust that business can be a force for social change.”

BBVA Momentum, a global program supported by BBVA at a country level, seeks and identifies successful, innovative, entrepreneurs who are solving social or environmental problems — or both — through their growth-stage ventures to help them grow and scale their businesses.

Now in its third year in the U.S., last year BBVA Momentum — BBVA's five-month accelerator program for social entrepreneurs — will help up to 35 participants maximize their social impact. Applications for 2019 participation are open through April 22.

The program offers training, support, networking, a higher profile and potential access to capital through its competitive four-month program. Click here to apply or participation in BBVA Momentum and see if it could help your startup scale up and change the world for the better.

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