Social Entrepreneurs of the New Economy

Periods of economic scarcity often give rise to new ideas and levels of creativity which enrich our world. This concept holds true on both a social and individual level. The global economic downturn of the last decade unveiled the problems of our economic system and created a powerful movement which responded by fostering opportunity for positive change. A new generation of forward-thinking American entrepreneurs are addressing economic injustices and inequalities within the USA and throughout the world through social enterprise. Rather than focusing on simple profit generation, the innovative leaders of the new economy are reshaping old business models by asking how their businesses can effectively address the needs of humanity while improving the quality of our lives. This mindset and approach, inspired by Judeo-Christian principles, may be termed “business as a calling” rather than business set up for mere profit generation. Profits flow naturally to ethical and conscious businesses and organizations which seek to do good. Many of these powerful enterprises are referred to as B Corporations. They have set out to improve the environment, reduce social inequalities and help both local and global communities in need.  Such companies are changing the economic landscape of this nation as consumers become more aware of how their purchasing decisions impact the world in which they live. These consumers are broadly referred to as the LOHAS Market (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability). According to studies published on the LOHAS website, LOHAS is a powerful consumer group comprising 19% of the adult US market representing an estimated $209 billion U.S. marketplace for goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living. LOHAS consumers search out products and purchase from companies which coincide with specific social, health and environmental objectives. To ensure the endorsement of the LOHAS Market, a company must achieve a higher than average rating with regard to employee relations, environmental responsibility and positive social impact. Companies following more traditional standards of business do not set well with this market segment. Traditional marketing and sales techniques, which fail to address a mission of positive social impact, also fail to gain the attraction of the pro-sustainability consumer. Therefore, adapting and making changes to company bylaws and missions alongside the sustainable economic movement is profitable for traditional corporations, some of which have been slow to address the interests of the sustainable marketplace. A consumer activist network called Carrotmob is an example of how pro-sustainability consumers organize to reward socially ethical businesses. Carrotmob is a project of Virgance, an incubator which turns ideas into world-changing companies by linking social entrepreneurs to venture capitalists. Through purchasing power, the growing LOHAS market has strengthened social entrepreneurs and their sustainable businesses. The LOHAS market segment, along with the entrepreneurs it produces, are unstoppable forces, which are positively reshaping how we view and understand the purpose of business. Guy Kawasaki effectively sums up this innovative mindset by stating, “Based from my observation, companies that really are successful change people’ s lives. Most companies that set up just to make money eventually fail.” Considering their collectively positive goal of encouraging health and social justice, the only possible outcome of the sustainable and conscious business marketplace is absolute success. For the health of both consumers and workers alike, the sooner such success is comprehensively achieved, the better for the nation and its workforce as a whole.

By Kevin Peery

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey presents a relevant overview of some of the aforementioned concepts at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

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