Is social enterprise part of the future of sustainable capitalism?

17. 6. 2015
Social entrepreneurship has rapidly arisen as an attractive option for changemakers who embrace the idea of entrepreneurship for societal rather than primarily private benefit. They have adopted alternative business models including B-corporations, cooperatives, companies controlled by foundations, and the Belgian Social Purpose Company.

Based on this premise, Frank Bold organised an event on the 18th of March to gather people who are committed to deep change to discuss the subject.

On one side, supporters argued that non-profit organisations and “hybrid” businesses expand conventional business to link people with deeper sources of purpose, creativity and value. Detractors, on the other hand, are concerned that social entrepreneurs will never achieve transformational change because they are unable to scale.

We had the pleasure to count with us Cliff Prior, CEO of UnLtd, the UK Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and Marleen Denef, Professor at KU Leuven in Brussels and partner at Curia law firm, as speakers.

Marleen's speech helped the participants understand the wide variety of legal statuses of enterprises, from the purely non-profit to the purely profit motivated, with all kinds of combinations to be found in between. She also stated that 'social enterprises are still perceived as soft businesses' and that lawyers are generally not familiar with them, a situation she described as a challenge to change. Nevertheless, she also emphasized the importance of making 'regular' business socially responsible as it was clear to her that the 'the legal form will not determine the ethical or unethical conduct of a company'.

Cliff Prior gave an overview of the current situation of social enterprises in the UK, where 100,000 are created every year. He started his presentation with a clear definition of social entrepreneurs and an explanation of the different stages they must pass through to become one. Among the participants there were several entrepreneurs who presented their projects and sought advice. According to Cliff, social enterprise is 'clearly the way to a sustainable future', underscoring that it is perfectly possible to be a profitable enterprise whilst being social. Ideally, social enterprise and responsible mainstream business will both thrive and complement each other.

The debate was moderated by Paige Morrow, Head of Brussels Operations, as part of the Purpose of the Corporation Project. 

There is where is cleanest business:

The Purpose of the Corporation Project

Frank Bold