Social enterprises are setting an example for other mainstream enterprises that things can be done differently. They also provide new business models that were not there before, offering alternative products and services to consumers with a unique value proposition.
For instance, if we look at sustainable fashion, there is a lot of learning there that corporates could take on or further explore to set new standards for doing business. For a long time, we have believed that consumers can make their own choices, and once there is a more sustainable product or service, they will ultimately choose that.
But it is not that simple, given the overload of information and the fact that these goods are still more expensive than the non-sustainable products. Now we can see the role of corporations through their supply chains and also the importance of having supportive legislation.
However, the lack of awareness is precisely one of the main barriers to changing business as usual, and that is one of our key focus areas. There are still many misleading assumptions around social entrepreneurship, and our job includes eliminating these assumptions and making sure that we have clear communication towards different stakeholders.
When we talk about social enterprise, we actually speak about many different shapes and sizes and even legal forms depending on the countries we are looking at. So what we rather talk about is their work, activities, and impacts.
One example of why representation is so critical became visible when governments worked on action plans for COVID recovery. Social enterprises were left out of these plans for simple reasons. Underrepresentation and the absence of clear legal structures to identifying social enterprises are not helping when it comes to high-level decision-making.
This is where we need to work hard for better recognition and creating a powerful unified voice that cannot be ignored. A few important and imminent opportunities would include better support from governments; more visibility for the sector; a better understanding of the ‘impact first’ social enterprise business model versus the traditional business model where financial returns come before social and environmental impact; a more supportive legal and policy environment; more aligned funding instruments.
That is what we want to do at Euclid Network, and that is what we are fighting to create more opportunities and allocate more available funding for this sector.