Blog: Social enterprise and the desire for business to give back

Chris Smith
Chris Smith

By Chris Smith, a lead partner in the corporate department at Gillespie Macandrew

Social enterprise in Scotland has never been more popular. On a personal level, it is easy to see why we’re so keen to support businesses which use their resources for good causes. It makes us feel good knowing that when we buy our lunch or coffee we are also doing something for our community or planet.

Even Hollywood actors and a former president of the USA have lined up behind of some of our most high profile social enterprises.

In Scotland we create around 200 new social enterprise start-ups a year, some of which have gone on to develop their reputations both here and abroad. Of course, this increase is not something unique to Scotland. The Scottish Government clearly believes we have the potential to be world leaders in the sector, recently launching its first ever strategy for internationalising social enterprise to encourage social entrepreneurs to take their products on to the global stage.

The Scottish Government has reason to want to boost the sector: recent figures suggest that the sector already contributes £1.68 billion to our economy. In addition, as the hosts of the first ever International Social Enterprise World Forum in 2008, Scotland already has a reputation in the sector we can build on globally.

However, this experience should be welcomed for more than just economic reasons.

Social enterprises operate much like a hybrid between traditional businesses and charities; their primary purpose is to reinvest profits or surpluses into social, community or environmental causes. However, this is just one way businesses and their owners can use their resources for the good of others and integrate social causes into their operation.

Ethical ways of doing business are becoming more of a priority, from the way staff are managed and employed to how excess produce is disposed of. How a company’s resources are managed is something we are all more aware of. This is leading to a rise in broader types of ethical business.

Many of these companies are employing innovative business models to shape the ways they can improve our communities and beyond. This increased creativity and innovation should definitely be encouraged.

At Gillespie Macandrew, we are seeing more successful individuals who are looking for ways to invest their money which fully reflect their ethical standards. This often goes beyond looking at a company’s corporate social responsibility policies, though important, and instead we are seeing a wider culture change around business and giving back.

This trend is something I hope we all nurture. The more we show that business can thrive while doing something good, the more we will all benefit from the results.

Gillespie Macandrew

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