How our decisions can help to change the world

13 October 2016
How our decisions can help to change the world

A little change can make a big difference

It’s easy to be overwhelmed about the number of social problems that exist in the world, while feeling helpless that there is nothing that we can do about it. However there is a new movement of businesses called “social  enterprises” that are making a difference in helping to address global and community problems. We can support their efforts simply by making a conscious decision to buy the products and services they offer. This means taking a little bit of effort to understand the company before purchasing and asking questions such as:

  • “Are they using their profits to give back to the community?
  • “If not, are there other alternatives out there that do use their profits for good.

If we all take a stance to support social enterprises that are making a difference, then we are supporting the thought the businesses should exist to serve the community, not the shareholder.

 

What is a Social Enterprise?

Social Traders defines social enterprises as “businesses that trade to intentionally tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people with access to employment and training, or help the environment”. In other words, they are profit-driven companies just like any other, but the profits they make are designed to help the public rather than the shareholder. Social enterprises are less about business owners getting rich and more about reinvesting in the community and the world at large. It’s not a legal entity in the same way that a limited company or a charity is and currently, you can’t register your business as a social enterprise within the tax system, but there are some generally accepted definitions of what a social enterprise exactly is:

  • It must be driven by a public, or community-based cause.
  • It must derive most, if not all, of its income from trade and commerce (as opposed to donations and grants like a charity).
  • It must contribute at least 50% of its profits to the social cause it has chosen.


Social Enterprises in the real world

What’s even better is that social enterprises are becoming more and more popular. It’s estimated that there are currently 20,000 social enterprises in Australia alone, 73% of which are small companies and 38% of which have been going strong for ten or more years. That’s a lot of profit that is going a long way to doing some good in the world, and it’s estimated that 35% is going to helping people with disabilities, 33% is helping young people, and 28% is helping disadvantaged women. There are, naturally, hundreds and thousands of specific examples too, but here are just a few that are making an impact:

 

Thankyou

Founded in Melbourne in 2008, Thankyou sell bottled water, food, and body products and the profits they raise are used internationally in a bid to end global poverty. Co-founder Justine Flynn explains that “we believe we can end global poverty in this lifetime, together. That’s why we give 100% of the profits from our products to helping people in need”. Thankyou’s track record is impressive too, as they have funded safe water for 192,367 people, created sanitation solutions for 302,814 people, and provided 12.1millions days’ worth of food aid.

Streat

Founded in Melbourne in 2009 by social entrepreneurs Rebecca Scott and Kate Barrelle, Streat offers troubled youths between the ages of 16 and 24 a pathway from homelessness to a sustainable income. Starting out as a simple coffee cart in the street, Streat now has a number of coffee outlets, restaurants, and even a coffee roastery, from which they offer training and employment programs to some of the 26,000 homeless youths in Australia. 70% of their revenue comes from an earned income as opposed to donations, and they aim to be financially self-sufficient by 2018. They have around 1.5million customers and up until now, they have helped 520 young people through 52,000 hours of training and support.

Energy Pledge

Energy Pledge helps people to make better decisions with fact based information on service providers and charities. It’s 100% free and uses an innovative approach to deliver funds to worthy cause projects. They've helped fund community initiatives such as this one with an approach they term as "no-cost fundraising". This essentially means people can save money on their own household bills, while making a meaningful difference to their community.

 

Making the decision to support Social Enterprises

You can give back to your community today simply by making a better decision when you buy goods and services. Buy your water or food products from Thankyou, your coffee from Streat or change your energy provider with Energy Pledge and your purchase will make a difference, while not costing you anymore.  A little change can mean a lot to a person in Africa that needs clean water, a young person who is living on the street and struggles to find work or people with intellectual disabilities that want to be a play a larger role in the community. So support social enterprises that are making a difference with a simple decision. Your everyday purchases can help change the world if you are buying them from the right business.