What is Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is a term used when referring to a business model that has a social or environmental focus. A social entrepreneur is an individual who pursues opportunities to create social and/or environmental change, whether through a for-profit or non-profit business model.

At Causeartist, we tend to focus more on the social entrepreneurship model through the lens of a for-profit business model.

Social entrepreneurs are individuals who identify social problems and develop innovative business solutions to address them.

Unlike traditional businesses, social entrepreneurs are not only motivated by profit; their primary goal is to create impact within their chosen sector or community.

There are many examples of social entrepreneurship, from businesses that provide micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries to companies that create sustainable products made from recycled materials.

While social entrepreneurship can take many different forms, all social entrepreneurs share a common goal: to create positive social or environmental change.

Social Entrepreneurship Model

There are many business models of social entrepreneurship, but some of the most common include businesses that work to promote fair trade, support local farmers, or reduce carbon emissions.

It can also show up in businesses that seek to provide affordable access to clean water, education, or healthcare; businesses that work to reduce waste or pollution; and businesses that strive to create equitable supply chains.

While social entrepreneurs can come from any sector, they are typically found in the for-profit sector and use business strategies to achieve their social or environmental goals.

While the social entrepreneurship business model is still evolving, there are a few key characteristics that are often seen in these types of businesses.

  • First, social entrepreneurs typically have a deep commitment to their social or environmental mission. This mission drives everything they do, from product development to marketing to sales.
  • Second, social entrepreneurs often use innovative business models to achieve their objectives. They are not afraid to think outside the box and challenge traditional thinking about how businesses should operate.
  • Finally, social entrepreneurs typically seek to create social or environmental value, rather than simply generate profit for shareholders. This value can take many forms, such as providing access to essential goods and services, creating jobs in disadvantaged communities, or protecting the environment.

While social entrepreneurship can take many different forms, all social entrepreneurs share a commitment to using business strategies to make a positive social or environmental impact.

Social Entrepreneurship Types

The types of social entrepreneur are:

  • The market-driven social entrepreneur who creates a for-profit business to address a social or environmental issue.
  • The cause-driven social entrepreneur who creates a nonprofit or NGO to address a social or environmental issue.
  • The innovation-driven social entrepreneur who develops and implements new solutions to social or environmental problems.
  • The systems-change social entrepreneur who works to create sustainable and systemic change in order to address social or environmental challenges.

Social Entrepreneurship Examples

Over the past decade at Causeartist we have interviewed over 700 social entrepreneurs around the world and heard stories of amazing examples of social entrepreneurship from across all business sectors.

Here are just a few of them below. If you would like to read more about these amazing stories, check out our annual list of social entrepreneurs to watch for, our weekly newsletter, and weekly podcast.

There are many social entrepreneurship examples, but some of the most notable include:

Fairphone

Fairphone is a social enterprise that is working to create a fairer electronics industry. Fairphone started out as a project to create a more ethical smartphone, and has since expanded into other Fairphone-branded products like cases and chargers.

Fairphone’s goal is to create a supply chain that is more transparent and fair to workers, and to promote the use of conflict-free minerals. Fairphone also encourages customers to repair their phones rather than replace them, and provides easy-to-follow instructions on how to do so.

In addition, Fairphone encourages its customers to recycle their old phones responsibly. Fairphone’s products are not only more ethical and environmentally friendly, but they’re also designed to last longer, making them a great choice for anyone looking for a more sustainable option.

MADI Apparel

MADI Apparel is a women’s undergarment brand with the dedication to Make a Difference domestically and globally. MADI is founded upon the principles of American manufacturing, self-sustaining fabrics/packaging and socially conscious global impact through underwear donations.

Social Entrepreneurship Examples - MADI Apparel

MADI does an amazing job in all aspects of their eco-system. The most impressive part of this eco-system is taking the time to develop a domestic manufacturing relationship to create local jobs for women effected domestic violence and abuse.

American made fashion has long been outsourced by major brands, who actually have the ability to set up domestic production, but choose not to do so due to profit margins and pressure from stock holders. It is so refreshing and exciting to see MADI’s approach out the gate to take on domestic manufacturing and impact local lives within her own community.

LSTN Headphones

For every pair of headphones sold, LSTN helps restore hearing to a person in need through a partnership with the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

Social Entrepreneurship Examples - LSTN Headphones

Over the past 8 years, by selling millions of headphones and speakers globally (including D2C, Delta Air Lines, Nordstrom, Barney’s, and others), LSTN, along with its customers, has had the remarkable opportunity to bestow the joy of sound upon more than 35,000 individuals across various countries like the U.S., Peru, Mexico, China, the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Indonesia, Kenya, and Uganda.

era92

era92 is a social enterprise that partners with businesses to amplify their message & build digital products to have a greater impact on the world while helping them train and employ young adults in Uganda.

3 in 5 youth in Africa are unemployed and lack skills, The era92 mission is to make this statistic irrelevant by implementing technology training pathways for individuals living in extreme poverty in Uganda.

Era92 also believes that the youth of Africa has amazing potential to bring creativity and talent to businesses around the world and plans on making Uganda the next global tech hub for young skilled tech workers.

Indosole

Indosole takes old tires that would otherwise contribute to Indonesia’s massive landfill problem, and transforms them into beautiful sandals and shoes through a production process that is organic, toxic free, and environmentally sustainable. Not only that – the process provides dignified work for many in Indonesia.

Social Entrepreneurship Example - Indosole

Since 2009, Indosole has prevented 150k+ waste tires from going to the landfill and given them new life as soles for footwear. They strive to not only be pioneers of recycling in the footwear sector but also reduce and repurpose landfill waste on a global scale.

With transparency in the manufacturing process as a core driver, Indosole is continuously reworking its production process and concept to become the greenest and cleanest in the game. As a certified B Corp they are committed to the standards set forth in order to create a more ethical and open business environment. 

Shea Yeleen

Shea Yeleen is redefining beauty through proving that nourishing our skin with the purest, most lush, quality ingredients is not mutually exclusive from empowering our sisters across the globe.

The company believes that the health of our bodies, our community, and our planet is interwoven. That beauty is re-imagining the way we do business in order to build a more equitable future for all.

Shea Yeleen founder Rahama Wright

The handcrafted products nourish more than just your skin— each purchase directly contributes to the financial empowerment of women in Ghana, which builds stronger communities. Currently, the business model is supporting the education of 268+ children. 

If you’re interested in social entrepreneurship, there are a few things you can do to get started. First, educate yourself on the topic. There are many great books and articles about social entrepreneurship, so start reading!

You can also attend events or conferences related to social entrepreneurship, and listen to our social entrepreneur podcasts.

FAQs

Can social entrepreneurs be profitable?

Yes, many social entrepreneurs operate profitable businesses, using their earnings to further their social or environmental goals.

Can a traditional entrepreneur become a social entrepreneur?

Absolutely. Many traditional entrepreneurs pivot or expand their focus to include social goals as part of their business models.

Is social entrepreneurship a trend or a lasting change?

Given the increasing consumer and investor interest in sustainability and ethical business practices, it’s likely a lasting change towards a more socially-conscious business landscape.

How is the success of a social entrepreneur measured?

Success is measured by the scale and sustainability of the social impact achieved, alongside financial viability.

What challenges do social entrepreneurs face?

Challenges include securing funding, balancing impact with profitability, and measuring social impact.

How can consumers support social entrepreneurs?

By choosing to purchase from and invest in socially conscious brands and businesses that align with your values.

What role do governments play in supporting social entrepreneurship?

Governments can support through favorable policies, funding, and incentives for social enterprises.

Are there specific sectors where social entrepreneurship is more prevalent?

Social entrepreneurship is common in sectors like healthcare, education, climate technology, and regenerative agriculture.

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