Welcome to the new environment
This article is a translated version of the article ‘Sociaal Ondernemerschap geeft toekomst aan de wereld-en je eigen bedrijf’ on Marketingfacts.nl
In a week where parts of the Netherlands and the rest of Europe we’re (literally) flooded and the weatherman Gerrit Hiemstra welcomed us to the ‘new environment’, it is not strange that we are looking to organizations that aim for sustainability and a better world. The NPO 3-tv show Keuringsdienst van Waarde spends some time every Thursday discussing the future of our food. Meat, fish, vegetables or insects; what will we eat in 50 years? I attended the Social Entrepeneurship Day in Utrecht and it soon became apparent that it is indeed possible to do something good for the world, while simultaneously having commercial motivations.
The central theme at this year’s Social Entrepeneurship Day was ‘building bridges’. The event was opened by Daan Weddepohl, founder of Peerby, a website that makes it possible to borrow stuff from people in your neighborhood. In this way Peerby tries to provide an alternative to the consumer culture, while simultaneously connecting people in the neighborhood. Weddepohl claims that “anything that can be shared, will be shared.”
I doubted whether Peerby’s model, which is based on sharing, was compatible with its newest model, Peerby GO, which focuses on the renting out of stuff to your neighbors. However, during his presentation, Weddepohl convinced me that this is, indeed, reconcilable. His vision and dream is that products will, in the (near) future, be valued based on their performance. This provides incentives for producers to make products that can be repaired, have longevity and can be easily recycled.
It is important to forge a bridge between the social and commercial organizations. Where, on the one hand, Airbnb seems to be going strong, Couchsurfing seems to be losing. This shows that the strongest business models always win, according to Weddepohl. This implies that one has to look for combinations of social and commercial activities.
Peerby is a B-corp, a concept that was often discussed throughout the day. A certified ‘B-Corporation’ implies that it is a new corporate form where they use their power to solve social and environmental issues. The ‘B Corp’ certification has the same standing for sustainable companies as the fair trade label has for coffee.
Every company has to go through a rigorous assessment procedure where they will determine the sustainability, social engagement and performance of the firm. The ‘B’ stands for ‘benefit’. In more than 30 out of the 50 US states this is an official legal entity, and in Italy a proposal has been submitted to give the label ‘B-Corp’ this special legal status.
With regards to ‘B-corps’ the Netherlands has always been a frontrunner in Europe: mid-2012 about half of Europe’s B-corps were located in the Netherlands, such as Tony Chocolonely, Triodos Bank, SnappCar, Seats2meet and Dopper. This trend is now catching on throughout other European countries.
Utrecht as the beating heart of social entrepreneurship
This day was also dedicated in part to the launch of the Social Impact Factory Utrecht, which will open its doors around autumn this year. The building situated on Vredenburg 40 (also referred to as ‘Staffhorstpand’), encompasses about 2.000m2, will function as a work-, meeting and serendipity hotspot for social entrepreneurs such as independent professionals, startups, businesses and organizations. Together they will work on innovative and entrepreneurial solutions for social issues.
Coupled with the available network organizations, service providers, investors and funds, this place will function as a national hotspot where all knowledge and expertise surrounding social entrepreneurship will be represented. There will be trainings, workshop and events for startups and established social entrepreneurs, but also for the larger corporations and governments that want to innovate and transform to a more social organization. The focus on creating social impact, the variety of entrepreneurs and organizations, the various activities, the historical building and the fact that the Social Impact Factory Utrecht will become part of the Seats2meet.com ecosystem all contribute to the uniqueness of this hotspot.
Just do it
Additionally there were numerous inspirational stories from established social entrepreneurs, such as Brouwerij de Prael. This brewery provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities, that are incapable of finding jobs elsewhere. This means the brewery has a strong social function as well. Their beautiful tasting room is packed every evening, so if you happen to be in the neighborhood be sure to check it out!
Max Wohlgemuth Kitslaar of Life is out there starting his journey in 2015 and drove from Chili to New York on his 40-year old Moto Guzzi. On his journey he visited 37 companies that work to create a better world. Now that he’s back he wants to spread the message that change towards a more social and sustainable world starts with yourself. During his journey he visited Laboratoria in Lima, an initiative that teaches girls from the slums to program and then helps them find jobs with big development projects in the neighborhood. This has been so successful so far that they received enough funding to educate another 800 girls!
Kitselaar is currently working on writing a new book, that (not so coincidentally) has been fully crowdfunded and has already been pre-sold in 9 countries. In this book he discusses innovative and lucrative social business models from South America. The book will be available in summer/autumn 2016 and by pre-ordering the book you contribute to his crowdfunding campaign!
What does a day like this teach you? First of all that there is a lot going on within this topic, but also that it is becoming more and more accepted and appreciated for companies to profile themselves in a more socially conscious way. This positively affects consumer choice and marketing departments often choose to be more transparent in this regard. An organization can therefore legitimately ask itself the question whether it is positively contributing to this world. If that is the case, and you’re able to back it up rationally with strong evidence, then that is great- both for the world, but also for your business!