The Social Enterprise Alliance defines social enterprises as “organizations that address a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach.” Social enterprises are businesses that use markets to provide goods and services, but they reinvest their earnings into social or environmental initiatives. Social enterprises are driven by environmental, cultural or social principles, rather than by maximizing profits. They strive to make a difference in the world and bring about positive change.
Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, a global organization dedicated to identifying and supporting social entrepreneurs, says that “social entrepreneurs are the essential corrective force. They are system-changing entrepreneurs. And from deep within they, and therefore their work, are committed to the good of all.”
Since the 1980’s, when Ashoka first began to recognize and organize a network of change-makers and entrepreneurs, the movement has grown and evolved.
It has recognized problems and implemented market-driven solutions to challenges throughout various sectors. Thriving models like Terracycle or the One AcreFund have paved the way with examples, demonstrating that it is possible to build a sustainable and economically viable business model around a social cause. The success of their business models depends not only on return on investment (ROI) but social return on investment (SROI). Unlike the ROI, which is a parameter that solely assesses financial profitability, the SROI is a tool that quantifies extra-financial impacts, including the broader social, environmental, cultural and economic impacts of an activity or business.
The world has recently seen a surge of interest in social enterprise projects. The rise of consumer consciousness is expanding opportunities for businesses to incorporate the value of social impact into product prices.
The sectors of agriculture, forestry and the environment are all experiencing growth in the number of social entrepreneurship initiatives, projects and businesses that are being leveraged to market-driven social good. These projects tackle issues such as deforestation, reforestation, water conservation and waste management. A network of projects that provide localized solutions to sustainable landscape problems is growing. To what extent can this movement be a part of the solution toolbox toward more sustainable land management?
The panelists that will be discussing social entrepreneurship have direct experience being part of social enterprises, accelerators and working with financing solutions.They will express their views on the following:
To what extent do they believe that social enterprises can have important, sustainable landscape impacts?
What kind of social return on investment (SROI) have we seen from funding that has been directed into social enterprises driven by sustainable landscape objectives? How is the SROI assessed and what is the impact?
How accessible are financing options to social entrepreneurs? From the funder’s perspective, what are the obstacles and opportunities in making loans and financing available? And, from the social enterprise’s perspective, what are the obstacles and opportunities in accessing financing options?
What examples do we currently have in this sector? What kind of social enterprises can already serve as models? Are we seeing models that have achieved scale through funding support?
What lessons can participants share about supporting this sector in meaningful ways?