Dare to Be a Social Enterprise

Green business, triple bottom line business, non-profit, ethical company, green certified, B Corp or responsible business; are we talking about the same thing? And if so, we should dare to call ourselves, "Social Enterprise!"?

Today, the idea of "social enterprise" is a buzzing phrase, especially in the UK. There, the Social Enterprise Coalition counts over 62,000 social enterprises contributing over $32 billon (or £24 billion) to their economy, all while employing more than 800,000 people. Social enterprises are starting to have a stronger voice with local government and among other bigger businesses throughout the UK.

In London, one key social enterprise foundation, UnLtd, holds over $150 million (or £100 million) endowment for business development for only the most innovative and sharp social entrepreneurs.

The phrase, "Social Enterprise" started the early 70's with conversation in, "Sociology and Social Movements," which isn't online funny enough. The phrase was also made famous within a 1981 report on "A Management Tool for Co-operative Working" by Freer Spreckly.

The stories of social enterprises are the key to their success. In the process of trying to change the world, social enterprises have garnered not only success but admiration by their customers. Think about Seventh Generation or TOMS Shoes, for example.

After recently reading The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz, I was moved by Jacqueline’s path across South America and Africa researching real-life social enterprises. At the same time, I've also heard of start-up stories from other social entrepreneurs who started in the late 80s, like Christine Esposito, who is now President of Terracom Public Relations.

The stories of social entrepreneurs are memorable.

In 2011, the Harvard Business Review talks about "rethinking capitalism." In opposition with purely money hungry business, social enterprises offer an alternative business model that focuses on helping community and being financially feasible, while also maintaining organizations' clearly stated social or environmental missions.

Social enterprise is getting more and more popular, with now an estimated 90K hits on Google (compared to say, the more than 100 million of 'Facebook login'). People are becoming curious about this topic, and Americans are tentatively moving away from donor-centric business models. Whether you're a for-profit or not-for-profit, understand your cause-based company as a social enterprise.

And yet, I've asked several businesses (not named) that might label themselves as "social enterprises" but still call themselves non-profits or green businesses. I'm not against defining your organization strictly as a non-profit, it just seems that quantifying our shared value through organizations like associations, clubs or groups, we could help re-define business.

Social enterprise is already re-defining business and the development of corporate social responsibility, corporate philanthropy and socially responsible investing among many other industries. But if we all were labeled "social enterprise", we could move quicker.

So let's just admit that we're the face of business change. Social enterprises throughout the USA are making great strides for re-defining the role of capitalism.

Let's dare to be social enterprises.

Erica Grigg is Founder and CMO at Carbon Outreach, a marketing and digital advertising agency in New York City. She is co-authoring a series of . She speaks frequently on marketing for not-for-profits, green business and corporate philanthropy marketing. Follow Erica on Twitter @ericagrigg.