Business is an important part of modern day life. Also known as enterprise, it is an activity that seeks to satisfy demand by providing goods or services to people. For many businesspeople, achieving a profit is the main objective. However, there are some businesses where the main target is to achieve a goal which benefits the society. Such enterprises are known as social businesses. These ones are driven by a cause.
The entrepreneurs and investors of social businesses seek to achieve specific causes or benefits for the society by operating the business. The impact on the society or the environment is the main indicator of success or failure of the social business. Profit is secondary. Consequently, the social entrepreneurs only seek to recoup invested capital and make a minimal profit margin to keep the social business running. Benefits to the society or the environment are of first priority. Social businesses have transformed the lives of thousands of people for the better. Here are 10 types of social business ideas that can make the world better.
Many small and medium entreprises depend on loans so as to get off the ground and flourish. However, needy people who have business ideas do not have access to these loans. This may be because of bad credit or simply inability to reach lenders. Kiva is an online loan platform that solves this problem: people in need can go to their website, submit a personal story of why they need a loan and Kiva can help them to get one. This social business has its headquarters in San Francisco and allows people to borrow as little as $25 so as to escape poverty through a small business. The service is backed by corporations, donors and national organizations. The recipients of these loans are often low income earners but they pay back the loans 99% of the time. Thanks to this, Kiva is very successful and lends $2.5 million in loans per week and their online micro-lending service is a great way to spur entrepreneurship among the less fortunate.
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Energy efficiency has always been concern in terms of environmental responsibility. The use of non-renewable fuel depletes the planet's energy sources and creates global warming. Therefore, any social business that seeks to make life more energy efficient deserves recognition. One of such is Biolite. This is a startup company that has innovated a thermoelectric, wood-burning stove. It utilizes very little wood to create copious amounts of energy. This prevents the over-use of wood as a fuel. Major corporations such as Johnson & Johnson, Nike and Hewlett Packard have already endorsed Biolite. The stoves are compact, ideal for camping and used by impoverished families in third-world countries. The energy efficient stove is a great social business idea to make the world better.
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The organic wave is currently sweeping industries across the world. From organic food, fuel and now clothing, environmentally-friendly materials are more accepted among societies today. Rapanui is a fashion brand that makes all its clothes out of eco-friendly, organic materials. The fabrics are sourced from fibrous plants, environmentally friendly processes are utilized to make the clothes and the factory is wind-powered. The whole operation uses 100% renewable energy and is environmentally friendly. This social business has caught the attention of respected businesspeople such as Sir David Attenborough. Moreover, the management helps young people to get placement and jobs in their factory and beyond. The Rapanui idea provides afforable, organic clothing and also provides employment. It is a great social business activity that makes the world better.
There are many vacant houses in our urban areas today. Many of them stay empty and do not benefit anyone. Voidstarter is a social business that turns such spaces in Dublin, Ireland into incubation labs for entrepreneurs and learning centers for short term study. The company also turns them into shelters for homeless people and to teach the unemployed some new skills. By converting unused space into centers for investment in skill, this social business is combating unemployment and providing hope through education.
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Aaron Chavez and Dale Partridge are the founders and operators of Sevenly. This is a social business that uses t-shirts to raise money for charities, drive social awareness and crowdfund ideas all at the same time. The founders have a vision of leading a whole generation to become more generous. They print t-shirts with a cause statement or design on them. After that, $7 from every purchase is donated to a charity. They sell their t-shirts at conventions and other places where people congregate. Since their inception in 2011, Sevenly has raised and donated $2.7 million to charities around the world. Their approach of using t-shirts as a tool for social change, empowerment and fundraising is a great social business idea.
Water is a very important resource today. Not only do we use it to cook, it is ideal for hydration and general hygiene. However, there are many communities around the world who do not have access to water. Belu water is a social business that aims to improve this situation in an environmentally friendly way. They utilize innovative methods to create water bottles out of glass and plastic. These bottles are then used to deliver free water to less fortunate communities around the world through a partner organization known as WaterAid. Belu water is also sold in their home country of Britain and directs all the profits to WaterAid. The bottles are made of recycled materials and the factories are fully carbon neutral. By providing this product, this social business is able to remain environmentally friendly while providing the impoverished with clean, drinking water. It is a great social business initiative.
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This is a social business which creates footwear that is eco-friendly using locally available, recycled materials. The use raw materials such as organic cotton, recycled tires and jute to create the product. By hiring local artisans in their headquarters of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the managers of soleRebels apply modern design to their shoes. The social business was founded in 2004 with an objective of creating employment. Today, their sustainable, creative and durable footwear is sold in more than 30 countries. This idea is a great social business and can make the world better.
Other ideas to explore :
Arsenic absorbent material to prevent poisoning
Arsenic is one of the pollutants which finds its way into our drinking water. It is harmful to our health. Many people across the globe suffer from arsenic poisoning. Records indicate that a total of 140 million people have been affected by this poisoning. Professor Arup SenGupta has started a social business that provides an arsenic absorbent device. He has designed it such that it fits over faucets and absorbs all the arsenic which flows through it. This provides you with clean, pollutant-free water to use. The device is re-usable too. Professor SenGupta is a Fullbright-Nehru scholar and has deployed his device across India and the United States. His product has already reduced the rates of arsenic poisoning in these nations.
Compreneuship social business
Compreneurship is a combination of community and entrepreneurship. It is an idea that involves journalism students and the community around their institution. In this social business, the students share their design and journalism skills to create a local newspaper with the local homeless people. This newspaper would be sold by the homeless people at an affordable rate. Moreover, the vendors get to keep all the revenue and the students get graded for the success of the newspaper project. In this way, they get to apply their education in real life situations, learn and provide homeless people with a way to earn a living.
The Important Take Away
Social business has a greater impact than regular, profit-focused business. This is because it changes the society and environment for the better. The ideas above are practical and have tangible results in terms of making a positive impact on the society. If you have a social business idea, execute it and make the world a better place.