Taking the Word “Social” to the Next Level

Today we are all things “social” – social media, social networking, and more. But what if the word social can actually mean so much more? Find out how some businesses, known as social enterprises, take the word “social” to a whole new level in our latest video!

Full video transcript available here.
 There is no question that human beings are social creatures. Even when we are looking down at our screens, we’re more connected than ever before!

With one button, we can like, repost, or share ideas with anyone. Social media has made social interaction and creating social relations easier. That’s a lot of “social”, isn’t it?

With the word “social” describing so many aspects of our lives, this creates an issue for many of us who work in or with social enterprises. While many do understand what “social enterprise” is, some people we’ve met associate the “social” in social enterprise with social media. And others ask us if it means social networking. But that’s not what “social” means when we talk about “social enterprise.”

As we mentioned in our last video, a social enterprise is “a business whose purpose it is to change the world for the common good.” In that case, the word “social” in social enterprise refers to social problems or impacts. As in, a social enterprise is a business that solves a social or environmental problem through commercial means.

So while social media is definitely one way for social enterprises to promote their causes, it’s important to remember that “social enterprise” is NOT the same as “social media.”

Social enterprise is also sometimes mistaken for Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. CSR is typically a socially-minded initiative that a company chooses to implement, but it is only one aspect of what that company does. On the other hand, a social enterprise centers its entire business model around their social or environmental cause.

Here’s an example: Second Chance Coffee Company is a social enterprise that sells high-quality coffee beans. Their reason for existing? To give ex-prisoners a second chance. The company provides employment and rehabilitation to people rebuilding their lives after serving time.

They also work closely with support groups to get their employees counseling, mentoring, and life skills training. Second Chance Coffee Company sustains their mission by sourcing, roasting, and selling top-quality coffee beans under their aptly-named brand of: “I Have a Bean.”

In comparison, Starbucks offers employment to refugees, youth, and veterans. By providing those groups employment, Starbucks is giving them a fresh start to become financially stable. But ultimately, Starbucks exists to offer high-quality coffee and a great café experience for its consumers. This CSR programs, while wonderful of course, is still just a part of what they do, not the whole reason for Starbucks’ existence.

Simply put, just because a company has a CSR program doesn’t automatically make it a social enterprise. But the exciting thing is, social enterprises can exist in many forms: a certified B Corp, a Benefit Corporation, an L3C, a non-profit, a for-profit and more. What makes any company a social enterprise is its reason for existing, which is ALWAYS to solve a social or environmental problem!

So we hope this explains why, when it comes to social enterprise, the word “social” really does mean more. We at CiTTA Partnership are all about empowering the impact of social enterprises – join us in spreading the word!