Social enterprise is often associated with worldly causes, but these of stateside start-ups want to do good while succeeding. Here's how.
While Google’s famous unofficial corporate motto is “Don’t be evil,” many companies take a more proactive approach, trying to actively do good in the course of doing business.
Such homegrown social entrepreneurship aims to offer a positive return for society in addition to a return on investment.
While such efforts are often associated with global initiatives, such as Heifer International’s efforts to bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to impoverished communities, they also appear at stateside start-ups wanting to do good as well as turn a profit.
Here’s a look at companies that build business with a social conscience.
Flip-Flops for Veterans
The name of the company says it all: Homegrown for Good. Brothers Tommy and Tim Gibb are veterans of the shoe business who want to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. Not only do they want to provide local jobs, they want those jobs to go to other veterans: those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
According to Forbes, The Gibb brothers invested in new technology to open a 10,000 square-foot factory in New Rochelle, N.Y., that will make them sufficiently productive and cost-effective to compete with inexpensive flip-flops made overseas.
In addition, they worked with a Detroit polyurethane manufacturer to develop a special compound that makes a better, more supportive flip-flop that features colorful pictures from the likes of such artists as Keith Haring.
Inspired by an event Tommy attended for the nonprofit Heroes in Transition, the company focuses not only on hiring veterans, but providing them with management training. While politicians may practice the art of the flip-flop, Homegrown for Good practices making flip-flops that do good for the country and those who have sacrificed to serve it.
Image via Argus
Work that Matters
Argus is an ad agency where Don Draper couldn’t work. They don’t take on clients in the alcohol or tobacco businesses. Or, for that matter, those who manufacture guns or any consumer goods accounts.
As The Bay State Banner reports, Argus works with such causes as Neighborhood Health Plan, which provides health care coverage to Boston families, and Children’s Trust, which funds childhood development. While Argus does have some business accounts, it is typically for such social-tinged purposes as promoting services to Latino markets.
Argus was founded almost 20 years ago. It’s not riding any new trend or, for the more cynical, capitalizing on the idea of social entrepreneurship as a marketing angle to gain investor attention. Argus has demonstrated that, Mad Men to the contrary, the business of advertising can have a soul.
Making an Impact
The Impact Engine is a Chicago-based accelerator for social enterprise. According to Forbes, the social mission of an eligible company must be intertwined with its business mission. A company that simply apportions a portion of its profits to charity wouldn’t qualify.
A company that is doing something that produces a positive social impact does. An example is Jail Education Solutions, which delivers targeted television programming to inmates, ranging from TED talks to discussions on anger management techniques.
A similar endeavor based in Seattle is called Fledge, as in a fledgling bird about to take flight. Its stated goal is to help foster a wave of companies that make not just a measurable impact in the world, but noticeable improvement in the lives of everyone on the planet.
Examples include East Africa Fruits, the largest aggregator of fruits and vegetables in Tanzania that works to improve conditions for local farmers, and Hydrobee, which harvests power for a USB battery charger strictly from renewable energy sources.
The bottom line is that you can make a profit and make the world a better place, all at the same time.