This is a guest post from Marissa Willcox, Buy Social Canada.
Landing on this blog post, you most likely agree with the need to create sustainable solutions to social problems, through “ethical business alternatives”.
For starters, lets define social impact. Social impact in a business sense, accounts for how a business or organization’s operations affect social and environmental factors in the community where it operates. Social enterprise for instance, is a business that can make profits, but reinvests those profits back into the community to fill a greater social need.
As a Buy Social Canada affiliate, I’ve worked with a variety of social enterprises to advocate for their organizations’ social mission through our social media platforms. One of the main barriers we face, is the lack of education amongst the general public around the need for social enterprises.
This may be a different reality in countries other than Canada, as the UK and Australia are getting closer to reaching their social impact and procurement goals for 2016.
These international accomplishments aside, how are the terms “social hiring”, “social procurement” and “social enterprise” still so foreign when talking to my fellow Sociology students? If senior level University students are unaware of these terms, then we can make the assumption that the general public is also unaware of the positive and necessary outcomes these organizations create.
Explaining the “why” of social enterprise
The key here, isn’t describing the definition of these terms, it’s getting at WHY we need social enterprise.
The WHY message is what is missing in most research and online written rhetoric.
Explaining that ethical business or social enterprise helps strengthen local economies and better the community only goes so far.
What is Social Procurement?
Let’s talk about social procurement. Sustainable social procurement frameworks empower the organizations that are already creating on the ground solutions to our social problems.
Hence, buying from a social enterprise facilitates a much more layered affect than donating to a charity. As the majority of social enterprises operate with the business model of creating jobs for people with barriers to employment. Therefore, it gives people jobs instead of handouts.
We could go on and on about the benefits of integrating a social procurement framework into your life or organization, but this movement will never gain enough momentum until the general public and consumer market understands that WHY message.
Being transparent, no matter how hard we try to avoid big corporations, even the best of us still buy from Walmart.
Let’s move onto price. If it’s the price that deters a person from buying socially, welcome to the club.
We have many social enterprises in Vancouver that offer great products, but at a higher price than their corporate counter parts. This is mostly due to their commitment to pay their local employees living wages. And living in Vancouver is pricey!
In comparison to the big corporations that utilize foreign slave labor, the small “Mom and Pop” shops just cannot compete with those prices.
No matter how “consumer conscious” we’d like to think we are, when faced with two price points for a product of similar value, it’s safe to say the majority would go for the cheaper item, regardless of the companies’ standards in socially sustainable supply chains.
The Layers of Sustainability
Getting deeper into the layers of sustainability, the differences between ethical business, social enterprise, and living sustainably is not the key thing to focus on in this campaign.
For example, if a consumer wishes to purchase a service offered by a business that is NOT a social enterprise, should they feel bad about it? No! This is still a grassroots movement, we cannot expect the entire country to do a 180 overnight.
In fact, there are usually for-profit businesses that buy products locally or from social enterprises. They often don’t advertise this as part of their procurement process, in fear of appearing “green washed”.
But fear not, we WANT businesses to tell us what specific steps they are taking towards fulfilling or creating their social mission.
Whether its the commitment to buying from a social enterprise, creating a diverse workplace, implementing a sustainable supply chain, or hiring socially, we want to hear about it.
Lets start the conversation by educating the public around the need to create socially sustainable supply chains in all business operations.
I’ve written this article as a call to action.
Globally, locally, we wish to engage in conversation with your local businesses and social enterprises.
What steps are you taking to implement a positive social procurement framework, or ensure you have a socially sustainable supply chain?
Tweet about it, read about it, or email us about it. Any step you take towards creating positive social solutions in your community is worth talking about.
Marissa is the Information and Services Coordinator for Buy Social Canada. A blogger, adventurer and story teller, she takes every opportunity to write about, speak about and facilitate social change. She enjoys eating avocados, and is currently working on a social media series for the Buy Social Canada campaign. Stay tuned for her next upcoming project that will focus on showcasing a series of different social enterprises from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.