• Caterina Sullivan

What is the Relationship Between Social Enterprises and Big Business?




The wave of social enterprises or social entrepreneurship is gaining more momentum by the day.


Social enterprises are for-profit businesses established with a focus on giving back to the community, whether it be socially or environmentally or both. Many not-for-profit organisations are becoming social enterprises as the financial model of a social enterprise is far more sustainable.


As big business becomes more and more concerned with the overheads of not-for-profit organisations, they are looking towards more meaningful partnerships with social enterprises.


There are three main ways that social enterprises engage with big business. Firstly, big business can purchase from social enterprises for goods and services. This allows big business to commit to economic, social and environmental sustainability through their supply chain.


Secondly, big business and social enterprises can team-up on certain projects in the community and create impact for less money by pooling resources. For example, if both organisations are looking at hosting an event in the local community to raise awareness about a certain issue, by combining resources, the event will attract more people and at a lower cost than running two separate events.


Thirdly, big business can invest in social enterprises, especially in the start-up space, by providing grants for organisations which align with their values and which they believe can make the biggest impact in the social or environmental space in which they are operating.


The key point to remember for both big business and social enterprise is to ensure there is an alignment of values within the partnership. For example, if one organisation is focused on land restoration and the other is focused on ocean clean-up, there might be another business with which to partner, which has a closer alignment of values. Otherwise, organisations can meet in the middle by discussing the intersection of these issues (for instance, how ocean pollution affects land degradation). It is also important to ensure marketing messages are similar in order to host joint campaigns without mixing individual organisations' normal messaging.


For social enterprises looking to join with big business, there needs to be a clearly defined sustainability commitment in place which goes beyond the nature of the social enterprise. This needs to demonstrate a holistic approach to sustainability on an economic, social and environmental scale and needs to demonstrate that the business' day-to-day operations also practice sustainability - not just through the overall purpose of the company.


For more information about how your social enterprise might be able to partner with a corporate organisation or vice versa, contact Strategic Sustainability Consultants today!


If you are a social entrepreneur, you might like to read about how entrepreneurs can work towards sustainability.

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