Community notice Category: Notice
Businesses with a social conscience valued, but often misunderstood
While the majority of consumers (87%) state a preference for buying products or services from a business with a social conscience, four out of five people admit to uncertainty when it comes to identifying an organisation that has a positive impact in the community, according to new research by Iridescent Ideas, a social enterprise Community Interest Company (CIC) delivering business support and services to other social enterprises in the UK.
The release of the survey findings coincides with the launch of the Pymouth-based business’ Social Frontier Project – a series of free to attend online workshops to raise awareness of and support start-ups and existing social enterprises across the country. Iridescent Ideas’ initiative is backed by the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All grant.
The definition of a “social enterprise” causes confusion, according to the research, particularly concerning how these businesses are funded and where profit goes. Reflecting the opinion of many, one respondent said, “I’m not entirely clear what the definition of a social enterprise is”. And, almost a third of those surveyed believe that a social enterprise is “not-for-profit”.
Commenting on these common misunderstandings, Gareth Hart, founder and director of Iridescent Ideas, said, “A social enterprise is a business with a good cause. Most do aim to make a profit but it’s what they do with that profit that sets them apart from other businesses. In fact, many are highly profitable, creating wealth and jobs while tackling social and environmental issues at the same time.”
This was echoed by survey respondents, who pointed out, “not-for-profit can mean different things to different people” and “it’s what you do with the profit that counts”. There were also calls for social enterprises to be “compulsory to a degree” or “to form part of every business’ aims and objectives”.
“It’s great to see that the public has a strong sense of conscience but many people do not know what a social enterprise is, how to identify organisations operating within this sector and what they do with the profit they generate. Our project aims to raise levels of awareness and understanding to address this”, he added.
Social conscience goes beyond consumerism as people not only wish to buy from organisations that have a positive impact on society or the environment but would consider starting their own business with the same aim. In fact, almost a fifth of those surveyed responded positively when asked if they would “like to start a business that would improve people’s lives”.
Gareth continued, “It’s really encouraging to see that having a social conscience translates into entrepreneurial spirit but what’s lacking is access to free information and advice to help start-ups get off the ground. That’s why our project goes beyond raising awareness to offer sound business advice and support to new and established social enterprises.”
The Social Frontier Project will deliver a series of four online workshops initially, with another four to follow, on the topics of starting, growing, funding and proving the impact of a social enterprise. To find out more and register for the webinars visit: www.iridescentideas.com/new-events-page.html.