The Rise of the Social Enterprise

Article by Samantha Borja

The year is 2015. Technology is rapidly changing and a new trend amongst entrepreneurs and businesses has become prevalent: going green. By definition, a social enterprise is an organization that aims to improve the conditions of the environment or human life through a market-oriented approach (Wikipedia). With this, social entrepreneurs are now as popular as ever. It is not enough to solely run your own business; it is now about building companies with a sustainable purpose and resources.

One example of social enterprise is the popular shoe brand TOMS, which has a 1:1 policy: for every pair of shoes purchased in the store, a pair goes to a child in need. The company has begun to expand to fund eye surgeries, allow easier access to clean water, promote anti-bullying campaigns, and provide safe births (TOMS Website). They have now donated over 35 million pairs of shoes.

Locally, the Philippines itself has become a hub of ingenuity and a location with lots of room for innovation. Gawad Kalinga’s (GK) Enchanted Farm, a large social enterprise, contains several organizations focusing on different societal issues, including Bayani Brew. As you may have already seen, Bayani Brew is quickly gaining popularity amongst cafes and supermarkets, utilizing local ingredients (sweet potato, pandan) to create a uniquely Filipino iced tea. The most popular GK brand, however, is the local organic soap store, Human Nature. This company runs on the slogan “This is not just about a business. It’s about caring for our home,” and does so by hiring low-income workers and local farms to help produce their products. Currently, Human Nature has become so popular that it sells internationally. Through GK, the profits of both enterprises aid GK’s goal of ending poverty in the Philippines by 2024.

manila soleAlternatively, Manila Sole is a new social enterprise that focuses on creating shoes for anyone and everyone. These shoes are made from recycled tires found in landfills. The shoes are then named after Filipino heroes and embody the Filipino creativity. Manila Sole can now be found in bazaars, andthe company resides in its own permanent store in Cubao.

Though it may seem like such organizations are almost too good, there are some downfalls. Because some rely on social norms and trends, the company’s products could become undesirable once such trends change. Furthermore, the sustainable resources may also take longer than expected to develop, making it difficult to profit for the first few months or even years.

In the end, whether it’s to improve the means of transportation or give jobs to those in need, these social enterprises continue to inspire citizens to carry out their passions and make a sustainable difference in the local environment.