More busi­nesses look­ing be­yond the bot­tom line

From home own­er­ship to healthy meals, many firms are rais­ing more than money


The en­tre­pre­neur­ial busi­ness model has proven it can con­sol­i­date wealth — just last week, Ox­fam came out with re­search show­ing the rich­est 62 peo­ple in the world have a net worth equal to that of half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

But the sys­tem can also ad­dress so­ci­ety’s needs. Take Anita Rod­dick’s ap­proach.

With the open­ing of her first Body Shop in1976, Rod­dick is prob­a­bly the most fa­mous so­cial en­tre­pre­neur of the GenX gen­er­a­tion. Un­der her mantra of “trade, not aid,” she built a global en­ter­prise that cham­pi­oned hu­man rights and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, be­fore her death in 2007.

So­cial en­ter­prises aim to put the power of the free mar­ket to work to­ward a health­ier, more sus­tain­able so­ci­ety. While cor­po­ra­tions of­ten mea­sure their fi­nan­cial, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance, the rai­son d’être of a so­cial en­ter­prise is to meet a so­ci­etal need, lever­ag­ing en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills to ad­dress poverty, education, health and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Not all of th­ese busi­nesses suc­ceed. Even iconic brands have been known to make a mis­step; look at what re­cently hap­pened with Good­will. That’s not to say we can’t learn from the ex­pe­ri­ence and build more re­silient en­ter­prises.

Swe­den, Fin­land, the Nether­lands, the U.K., USAID and the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme have joined to­gether to es­tab­lish “The Busi­ness Call to Ac­tion,” which chal­lenges com­pa­nies to de­velop in­no­va­tive busi­ness mod­els that achieve both com­mer­cial and de­vel­op­ment suc­cess.

In On­tario, with an Of­fice for So­cial En­ter­prise in the Min­istry of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Trade and Em­ploy­ment, and a strong net­work plat­form called SEOn­tario, the prov­ince is host to a num­ber of unique and di­verse so­cial en­ter­prises to en­cour­age the ris­ing tide to lift all boats.

Once rare uni­corns in the busi­ness world, th­ese so­cial move­ments, run in a cor­po­rate guise, are be­com­ing more main­stream. They can be global in am­bi­tion or the mom-and-pop store on the cor­ner. Here are some lo­cal ex­am­ples: A healthy ap­proach Chris Klug­man from Paint­box Bistro, a café and caterer set in Toronto’s re­ju­ve­nated Re­gent Park starts the con­ver­sa­tion with a caveat: “We’re hes­i­tant to call our­selves a so­cial en­ter­prise be­cause we as­pire to set the tone for what all busi­ness should be like in the fu­ture.” He high­lights two ar­eas where Paint­box sup­ports the com­mu­nity. “Food qual­ity is paramount, and the way to reach that is by build­ing our meals from scratch. This way, our work­ers also de­velop the foun­da­tional skills to make a healthy, tasty meal.” Se­cond, Paint­box hires trainees through Wood­green Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, which iden­ti­fies can­di­dates who face bar­ri­ers to en­ter­ing the work­force. Its at- ten­tion to qual­ity and its so­cial com­po­nent have earned Paint­box pre­ferred-sup­plier sta­tus to some large or­ga­ni­za­tions keen on sup­port­ing the com­mu­nity. Cy­cling through the sys­tem The Learn­ing En­rich­ment Foun­da­tion has a bi­cy­cle as­sem­bly and main­te­nance pro­gram that helps youth build skills and dis­ci­pline needed for the work­force. Grad­u­ates get a cer­tifi­cate ap­proved un­der the Pri­vate Ca­reer Col­leges Act and need to take a one-week place­ment work­ing in a bi­cy­cle shop. Funds gen­er­ated from the pro­gram and sale of the bikes it fixes go back into the bi­cy­cle shop and train­ing pro­gram. Af­ford­able home own­er­ship Free­lance artists and con­tract work­ers are of­ten not on banks’ radars as loan can­di­dates, and home own­er­ship for them is of­ten a dream. A non-profit con­do­minium de­vel­op­ment con­sul­tant, Op­tions for Homes, has been pro­vid­ing home- own­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties for house­holds with an­nual in­comes as low as $30,000 per year for more than 20 years. It doesn’t charge to make a profit and it of­fers down-pay­ment sup­port in the form of se­cond mort­gages. The caveat is that the owner must live in the unit. Money from re­paid loans is rolled back into the pro­gram to cre­ate new cost-ef­fec­tive homes for other buy­ers. The de­vel­op­ment con­sul­tant has al­ready put up10 condo build­ings in the GTA and has af­fil­i­ates in Cam­bridge, Water­loo, Kingston, Ont., and abroad. Fair trade Me To We is a retail plat­form, the busi­ness arm of Free the Chil­dren. The ex­tra fi­nan­cial injection it pro­vides al­lows Free the Chil­dren to punch above its weight while demon­strat­ing the power of fair-trade prac­tices. Since 2009, Me To We has do­nated more than $8.5 mil­lion to Free the Chil­dren in cash and inkind do­na­tions, and has em­ployed more than 1,400 Kenyan ar­ti­sans.


Since 2009, Me To We has em­ployed more than 1,400 Kenyan ar­ti­sans while rais­ing funds for Free the Chil­dren.

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