Making a Profit and a Difference

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

As the economy reels, enterprising individuals who apply business practices to solving societal problems are gaining support from public and private sectors

By Stacy Perman

Social entrepreneurs-enterprising individuals who apply business practices to solving societal problems, such as pollution, poor nutrition, and poverty-are now 30,000 strong and growing, according to B Lab, a nonprofit organization that certifies these purpose-driven companies. Together, they represent some $40 billion in revenue.

The idea of blending a social mission with business is not new. One of the founding forces behind the movement, the Ashoka Foundation, since its inception 1981 has granted multiyear living stipends to support more than 2,000 fellows dedicated to finding answers to a host of social ills through business ventures. Indeed, the concept of building a profitable business model in which doing good is an intrinsic part of the business and not just a philanthropic sideline has been gaining ground in recent years. Sally Osberg, president and chief executive of the Skoll Foundation in Palo Alto, Calif., another guiding force within the social venture community, says the number of institutes, universities, and organizations that are now tapping into social entrepreneurship has mushroomed since former eBay (EBAY) President Jeff Skoll established the foundation in 1999.

Source: BusinessWeek (link opens in a new window)