8 Trends That Will Impact Social Entrepreneurs in 2012

2011 was full of good news for social entrepreneurs. And 2012 promises to be even more exciting. Here is what I think social innovators will build upon in the New Year!

Co-operatives Are Making it Easy All the Way

One of the positive things that 2011 stood for was collaboration. Co-operatives, sharing models cropped up in all business areas whether it was cars or workspace, people found that working together made all the difference. It was fun, profitable and lowered costs and environmental impact. Successful collaborative design and crowd funding projects have laid the foundation for cool ventures that think outside the box. Several successful social enterprises were founded on this ideology and everything points to the direction that the sharing model will bring in a new wave of business possibilities in 2012.

Ownership Rules

The Occupy Movement demonstrated that when too much wealth is in the hands of a very few, there is unrest and a very unhappy situation. Social entrepreneurs must work towards a business model that involves employees with a meaningful stake in the company. When employees and stakeholders have meaningful contributions, the dynamics change. Like Jeffery Hollender says, “Owners perform better than employees. Every employee should be an owner.”

Responsible Companies Are More Profitable 

We are not going to get into the “why is sustainability better for my business” mantra again. If you did not believe that, you probably would not be reading this blog. We have covered plenty of stories on companies like Planet People, Janum, Conscious Box and Method doing good and making good money! How about I give your some facts?

Academics have spent decades studying in great detail whether responsible companies are also more profitable companies, and three decades of evidence suggest that betterness yields greater equity returns, asset returns, and profitability. Researchers Marc Orlitzky, Frank L. Schmidt, and Sara L. Rynes found that responsibility was significantly positively correlated with financial performance: “corporate virtue,” in their words, “is likely to pay off. Responsibility fuels outperformance because it is risk management: better insurance against adverse future events.

So you made a profit. Yawn. Did you actually have an impact? This realization is motivating entrepreneurs who are taking on the challenge of doing good and doing well. Enough said.

The Difference Between “For-Profits” and “Non-Profits” Will Blur

As the managing editor of an eco-business blog, I have seen like never before the surge of innovative social entrepreneurs with “doing good” as the focal reason they started their business. I have seen non-profits incorporate successful for-profit business models and succeed. Social entrepreneurs always have occupied the exciting middle field between for-profits and non-profits and are pushing the boundaries on both ends, blurring the edges. Soon social enterprises will encompass the very definition of business and 2012 will be an important year to herald that.

Capitalism as We Know is Changing

Richard Branson says, traditional capitalism has failed and just cannot survive in its current model.

Since the Industrial Age, businesses have built their wealth off the use of natural resources. And unless businesses start to value and protect these resources, this cycle will have a devastating impact on the lives of our children and grandchildren. Many people are beginning to realize that business as usual is no longer an option. What is an option is to reinvent capitalism to truly be a force for good in the world.

This changing economic scene provides unprecedented opportunity for innovation and success in unconventional settings. The sky is the limit as new ways to do better business are taking root everyday.

Realization: The Earth is Not Isolated

2011 was a year of persuasive evidence that all living things are connected and that the fallout from our mistakes travels faster than ever. Whether it was the arab spring or the economic crisis, their effects were far-reaching,

Scripps estimates it takes only five days for Chinese pollution to hit California, and we all know how fast Germany’s monetary policy helps or hurts global stock markets. Radioactive material from Japan’s Fukushima disaster has shown up all over the globe, much as pollution from its predecessor in Chernobyl has done.  The economic troubles of Greece have impacted the global economy in some of the same ways that the U.S. meltdown impacted them.

The realization that the earth is not isolated quickens the pace on real development and social entrepreneurs are fueling this change. Just as negative impacts travel fast, positive changes are replicated all over the world.

Cleantech is Mobilizing Tech Gurus Into Social Entrepreneurship

“CleanWeb” is a category of clean technology that leverages the capability of the internet, social media, and mobile technologies to address resource constraints. At the Green:Net conference in April Sunil Paul, the Spring Ventures founder said,

“The next big wave will be in the “CleanWeb,” which marries information technology enhancements — such as Twitter, Facebook and the social web — with green initiatives. Information technology is actually going to prove as valuable as the application of new materials and nano-technology and bio-technology have been for the environment.”

Mobile computing has opened up this explosive world of mobile apps that has a huge potential to make an impact on the go. Apps are being created for everything from saving energy at home to finding a ride-share, infusing responsible behavior into our everyday. More importantly, its engaging the best minds in technology to foster social and environmental betterment.

The ‘Go Local’ Movement is Going Places

2011 has seen the “locavore” movement swell and gather more supporters than ever before. It started off with a call to eat local and healthy food but has spread to other business and consumption areas as well. This was due to a lot of reasons – a bad economy, the occupy ideology and the fact that patronizing “local”- helps your dollars stay in the community and keep it unique.

Michael Shuman, author of Going Local and the Small-Mart Revolution, has written:

Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs.

The local movement has opened up many ways SME’s can help foster local buying and involvement through programs like CSA management and environmental cleanup.

So that’s that. These are my picks on the exciting directions social enterprises might go 2012 and beyond. What are your thoughts? Did I miss any unusual business trends? Let me know through a comment!

About the Author

Hi there! I am Priti and I specialize in strategy and communications for impact organizations that aim to create social, environmental and economic wealth for all stakeholders. Working from the ground up, I help these do-gooders craft effective programs for community engagement, outreach and profitability. Follow my work covering do-gooders, cleanweb, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses on Ecopreneurist and at Crowdsourcing Week. I enjoy traveling with my boys, cooking up a gourmet meal from scratch and entertaining! Join my community for Social Entrepreneurs on G+ Follow me on Twitter, on LinkedIn and Google+
  • Hi Priti, thanks for such a great post!
    As a startup owner, I can really vouch for all the points you’ve brought up. And I would also add, that when you think about it, all these points are connected.
    For example, we are moving to a more collaborative and local way to live and work because we are more and more aware of the environmental connections. Capitalism is changing because of the environmental issues and because of the unfairness it generates, which makes people want to be more local and collaborative…
    Anyway, the way I see it, it’s all connected.

    I feel that the more we realize that everything is connected and that every one of us is connected to every one else, we will really get some impressive and very positive work!

    Happy New Year! And thanks again!

    • Hi Sophie!
      Thanks for writing in! I so agree with your comments. Our actions, both positive and negative have far reaching impacts.

      Happy New Year!

  • Hi Priti,
    really interesting post!
    I would really like to see companies becoming responsible, not only for economic benefits, but also as a way to do things right.
    I have already retwitted it. I would also like to follow you on Twitter, but the link takes me to he home, not to you profile and I can’t find you. Can you tell me your twitter name so I can be updated on your writings? Thanks very much and a happy 2012!

    • Thanks for reading EP! My twitter handle is @envirotarian. TY again.

  • Hi Priti,

    happy new year!! thank you very much for your post!
    I feel very much aligned with most of your points, especially the collaborative idea, as I am now traveling the world (20 countries covered in a year) and have witnessed that trend almost everywhere; personally, I bet that coworking spaces and telecomuting will become mainstream in the 2020’s.
    However, your argument on the “local movement” do not reach me:
    – on the fact that “eating local food first” has become more popular, I would say it is also what I have perceived,
    – but regarding consumer products I really cannot see it happening. Brazil and Mexico still imported thousands of tons of China-produced Christmas & NYE decorations (one example among scores of others). If you consider the whole global population, consumers who have a choice of buying something local, though more expensive, are a tiny minority of middle-class in “Western” countries. For a majority of our 7 billions fellow humans, cheaper is still better, even if it was put together in China or cheap south-east Asia factories etc. This was explained brightly in an American’s paper tribune last fall: “going green but going nowhere”: the go-local movement may only gain inertia if a systemic incentive, affecting the price of goods, comes into place.

    Looking forward to hear your views, i’ll share ideas and initiatives if I find something connected through my travel!

    • Dear Jean-
      Thanks so much for reading EP and writing in. I do agree that with respect to consumer goods, the local movement is behind. Local manufacturing cannot compete on pricing with the mass production in China (and the fact that those prices do not accurately reflect all costs like environmental effects is another story), what I am hoping for the local movement is to build on all the other points listed like community and cooperatives. We we have a strong community base, you will find we depend less on “stuff” and consumer products – there is more emphasis on sharing and collaborative consumption. I am also hoping handmade movement will catch on (for a lot of goods -like decorations for instance), encouraging people to make and buy handmade.

      I also agree to make an impact we need regulatory action but again, community action is one way way lawmakers will take notice, take the occupy movement for instance. The beauty of the social trends I wrote about is that they are all interconnected, and when working together make us a more responsible society which in turn (hopefully) will churn the government in the right direction.

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  • S.Mohan

    Hi Priti
    Belated Happy New Year.
    I read through and liked the highlight of Branson saying Capitalism is a failure.
    I agree, time for a new model to save our planet and mankind.
    Best regards

  • So that’s that! That’s a great post Priti.

    I think these trends reflect a moment towards virtues and values. Unity is one awesome virtue that is reflected in the diversity of the “occupy” phenomena. Justice, sharing, respect are all very exciting trends!

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  • Archie Brown

    Hi Priti,

    I enjoyed the post. Just found out about ecopreneurist through the LOHAS website. I hope that the BOP/Base of the Pyramid will be apart of this global movement, since they will have the largest impact on our resources as we know it. I’m working on a project to include the BOP. Look forward to more great reading. Keep up the good work.

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